In the Mexican coastal town of Puerto Vallarta, where the weather is hot and the tequila flows like wine, a new trend is emerging from an old Mexican delicacy...chocolate. The town is host to a chocolate museum, chocolate tour and fancy tequila/chocolate-paired tasting. Last week I had the opportunity to attend to one of these tastings where I learned about the different types of tequila and how the chocolates amplify their flavors when properly paired.
This unique experience also came with a crash course on the history of Mexican cocoa, the main ingredient used to make chocolate. Cocoa was once only consumed by ancient Mexican royalty. According to my tequila sommelier and a report by the World Agroforestry Centre, the Olmecs – an ancient tribe in Mexico – were thought to be the first people to consume chocolate. These indigenous people crushed the beans, added water, spices and chilies and drank the delicious elixir.
Ironically, last week an article came across my desk about cocoa. What were the odds that in the same week that I learned about the origins and use of this delicious nut, I’d also circumstantially run across an article about its production? I found the correlation too good to be true until I read the article and discovered the unfortunate state of cocoa production. Sadly, this article did not come with tequila, but the bitter reality of a lack of ethics in the cocoa industry’s supply chain.
As supply chain practitioners know, it is critical to know where and how your products are being sourced, but the farther you are geographically from the beginning of the supply chain, the harder it is to control…and in countries where labor laws are lax, it becomes even more tragic. This gets tricky with products that can only be produced in very specific environments. Cocoa is one such product that can only be grown 10 degrees north or south of the equator with the majority of its production in West Africa, the Ivory Coast and Ghana.
Hailey Corr, Junior Editor and Marketing Associate, Outsource and SIG
It was Made in America Showcase Week recently, according to the current administration (funny that it also coincided with Russia Week on Stephen Colbert). Anyone, wherever they live, likes to see local people employed. Whether it is an American who likes to see products marked with “Made in America,” a Canadian who swells with pride for “Made in Canada” or a British person seeing “Made in the UK.” The fact of the matter is that very few people are willing to pay more for those items. According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, 70 percent of Americans think it is “very important” or “somewhat important” to buy U.S.-made products.
Despite that sentiment, 37 percent said they would refuse to pay more for U.S. made goods versus imports. Twenty-six percent said they would only pay up to 5 percent more to buy American and 21 percent capped the premium price at 10 percent.
In addition, it is the lowest of wage earners who like “Made in America” and yet they are the least likely to be able to pay the premium. The reality is that most of us feel a patriotism to our own country and kinfolk, yet we are actually beholden to our wallets. The same lower wage earners who say they prefer made in America, and per the Reuters article said, “Indeed, the biggest U.S. retailer is well aware of the priority buyers place on price above all else.” A spokesman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said customers are telling them that “…where products are made is most important second only to price.”
Disruption. Until recently that word meant something negative. It was a nuisance…a disturbance…an interruption…it meant trouble. In fact, if you look at synonyms for disruption, every one of them paints it negatively. But lately when you hear the word “disruption,” it generally means change—and even positive change. Disruptive technologies are in essence solutions that are changing the future of work. They are challenging the status quo.
I was recently reading an article about Amazon potentially purchasing Slack. (Ironically one of my colleagues sent it over in a “Slack” which we use for internal communications at SIG.) As my colleagues and I reminisced about our first use of Amazon, it made me realize what a pioneer they were in disruptive technologies. The term may not have been widely known, but they certainly paved the way for it to be put into ubiquitous use.
I can’t really remember when or how Amazon disrupted my life…but it did. Somewhere along the way I went from being skeptical about purchasing things online to almost exclusively shopping with Amazon—and Prime no less because I want the immediacy of it. Don’t get me wrong—there are certain items I will never purchase on the Internet, but if I am going to shop online, I ALWAYS check Amazon first.
Let’s discuss accretive manufacturing. What? Haven’t heard that term yet? That’s because accretive manufacturing is just a fancier name for 3D printing. You may never hear it referred to as accretive manufacturing, but mark my words…the supply chain industry is about to be disrupted to an unrecognizable extent by it. In 2016, Honda released a single-seat “micro-commuter” vehicle with the body and majority of the panels having been 3D printed. In the meantime, Boeing expects to shave $2 to $3 million off each 787 Dreamliner's manufacturing costs by 2018, thanks in part to 3D-printed titanium. So if Boeing can now 3D print parts to an airplane and auto manufacturers are now 3D printing dashboards—and even entire vehicles—how long do you think it will be until we require almost no inventory because we can 3D print on demand any item we desire?
At home if I break a spatula, I can now 3D print a replacement. Granted, I am only printing with plastic and lack the tools to print an exact replica, but when it only takes an hour to print with specifications that are available for free online at a cost of only 15 cents (plus a little electricity)…isn’t it worth considering? Even Amazon Prime same day delivery (not available where I live) can’t beat that timeline and price.
A recent episode of 60 Minutes investigating outsourcing and the increasingly under-fire H-1B visa program in the USA has prompted a good degree of debate on social media and elsewhere, about this always-controversial practice. As readers of SIG blogs (and indeed members of the sourcing and outsourcing community globally) will need little reminding, outsourcing and its practitioners present an easy target for anyone with an economic axe to grind looking for someone or something to blame for the perceived ailments of the American (or any other) economy, especially unemployment: those giving voice to the old lament that outsourcing (conflated, of course, with offshoring) "sends our jobs overseas" now also point to the H-1B visa and charge those companies not "guilty" of exporting jobs with the equally heinous crime of keeping them onshore but giving them to foreign workers instead.
Yet despite decades of such negative PR the model continues to prove an indispensable tool for organizations large and small. Earlier this month, to take just one recent example, Lloyds Banking Group in the UK announced plans for a £1.3bn ($1.6 bn) ITO deal with IBM which will see over 1,900 jobs transferred to the latter; the deal is intended to save approximately £760m ($948 bn) in costs, according to the Financial Times (which, incidentally, quoted the Lloyds Trade Union - "which is no longer recognized by the bank" - as writing to its members that "staff transferred to IBM will be kept on for a year but most would be laid off within four years and replaced by cheaper, offshore workers").
Of the many laws that affect the international outsourcing space, one of the most important must be that of diminishing returns. At its heart outsourcing is about efficiency – a provider can only offer a decent value proposition, and turn a profit, if it can achieve a desired output more efficiently than can a would-be buyer of its services – and yet there’s only so much money in the hypothetical pot to invest in driving efficiencies: as a very basic example, if one can spend $x to achieve 10% savings, by the fifth investment of $x the savings made are only around 60% of what was achieved with the first tranche. The returns diminish. After a while, it becomes less and less worthwhile to invest $x in that project, when the same amount put into another deal can yield significantly more.
Finding the right balance between investment and returns (and knowing where is the line beyond which further investment will yield returns too paltry to justify) is vital in any business, but especially one as efficiency-based as outsourcing, where relationships have historically often featured buyers demanding constant and consistent efficiency gains and savings – and, moreover, where the necessary investments in technology and people can be gigantic. Hence the desire on the part of providers to share the value gained by any given investment across as many clients as possible – and the complications resulting from buy-side demands for bespoke work and customisation without a simultaneous understanding of why this of necessity means higher costs, which need to be passed on somewhere, somehow…
As February started, an important conversation got underway: SIG was back in the City of London with a highly engaged group of procurement professionals to explore the latest trends and topics that are shaping their world.
The role of the CPO has come a long way over the last 20 years and change is exponential; happening across the what, how and who of procurement
What: organizations are buying new products and services (everything "As A Service," digital and digital-enablers, RPA and other automation tools and services)
How: new tools and techniques are being deployed in procurement both because these new products and services need to be acquired in new ways and to drive productivity and effectiveness through analytics and better insight
Who: a growing millennial workforce and digital workforce presents new opportunities and challenges for operational management of services
A recent study from IBM shows that the highest priorities for the CPO are to contribute to revenue growth, to drive innovation across the supply chain and to protect the enterprise brand. Cost is mentioned nowhere, but more because it goes without saying and not because it is no longer a priority.
So, the CPO and their teams are making a strategic contribution to the organization but still find themselves a step removed from the centers of power as they report in through another function and are rarely represented on the board. In a period of exponential change is this procurement’s opportunity to rise to the challenge and enable safe, profitable, innovative growth to earn their place on the top floor?
With so much attention currently focused on the political arena (most obviously, of course, in the USA with the inauguration of President Trump) it’s easy to become carried away in one’s assessments of the extent to which “politics” drives actual change. Of course, there’s no doubting the scale of the significance of the Trump election, or the Brexit vote, or similar “watershed moments” – but the nature of that significance is somewhat less clear, especially when it comes to the impacts on specific aspects of our lives. It’s somewhat comforting (or perhaps not, depending on one’s affiliation) to think that the person nominally in charge of a country is indeed that – it plays to our natural human desire for order, comprehensibility, justice – but in a world as interconnected and complex as this one, is it not a serious error to overstate the ability of a President Trump, a Prime Minister May and others in similar positions around the world truly to steer a course, rather than simply to keep their ships of state upright in the storm?
Look at the sourcing and outsourcing space specifically. In a number of particular areas President Trump could well have a huge impact: a crackdown on immigration and the offshoring of work, changes to NAFTA, the reversal of the ACA and other policies would affect very substantially certain tranches of the space and those working within them. Likewise, in the UK the way Theresa May is approaching the exit from the EU and the Single Market has deep significance for businesses working in and with the United Kingdom for data protection, for accounting and a host of other areas.
And like that, another one is behind us. For months we plan every little detail to make our Summit a memorable event for our delegates. We coach speakers, edit session presentations, order matching linens, create signage and think through every thing that can go wrong to make sure that it doesn’t. And then it’s over. Just like that. The delegates have gone home, the sessions have been evaluated and everything has been shipped. But the memories of the event linger and one thing has become more and more clear with each passing event…the sourcing function is no longer back-office. It has not just gone from tactical to strategic, but is also leading companies in tackling some of the biggest issues facing our members today. Sourcing has gone mainstream. These observations from the most recent SIG Global Executive Summit highlight these points.
Data is the word of the day. And I don’t just mean “Big Data” although that is certainly a “big” part of it. Data is the key to better understanding customers. It is the way we can predict future supply needs. And yes—using “Big Data” we can teach computers to replace even complex procurement functions with little to no errors. But now Procurement groups are also hiring Data Scientists to turn that data into tangible outcomes. The baseline for smart systems is getting the data right, so pay attention…you will see the Data Scientist trend on the rise.
As the editor of Outsource (a member of the SIG family, of course, since January this year) it’s my great privilege to publish articles by some of the best-known figures in the space: authors whose very names have become synonymous with cutting-edge thought leadership and the kind of insight which itself drives change within this dynamic, fascinating industry. However, it’s also always crucial for me to remember that great insight and high-quality communication are not the sole preserve of the established sourcing superstar; that right now, out there scattered across the wide, wild world are a host of undiscovered B2B literary marvels – as-yet-unsung thought leaders whose talents lie like diamonds, buried but waiting only for the miner’s pick to swing in the right direction.
Well, it’s time for Outsource to go mining…we’re launching a writing competition aimed at discovering those diamonds and bringing them out into the light – and, what’s more, thanks to our excellent colleagues at SIG University we’ve got the perfect prize with which to tempt the next generation of outsourcing authors to sharpen their quills: a place in the next semester of the Certified Sourcing Professional course! (And if the winner doesn’t meet SIG U’s entry criteria he or she can transfer the prize to a colleague who does; how’s that for a way to grab the attention of the top brass?)
Jamie Liddell, Editor, Outsource and Co-Head of EMEA, SIG