The More Things Change … Outsourcing and Procurement Mastery

This week we’re revisiting posts from ten years ago to demonstrate that, to date, the more things change in Procurement, the more they have, unfortunately, stayed essentially the same.

Ten years ago we penned a post on outsourcing and procurement mastery that summarized the results of an Accenture study that found that, on 1B of controlled (normalized) spend, procurement masters achieved 30% higher savings with costs that were 50% lower.

Nothing has changed. If you have been following the Hackett group publications for the past decade, you’ll note that top performers always perform significantly better than average performers. Maybe not 30% cost reductions, but pretty close. For example, in Hackett’s most recent study, World Class Procurement organizations see 35% process cost reduction, which is quite significant. And just about every GPO publishes typical category-based cost reductions in the 10% to 30% range, which is easily achievable through advanced sourcing technologies such as spend analysis (to identify the opportunity) and decision optimization (to capture the opportunities).

The only thing that has changed is how disturbing it is that there is still so much overspend in the average organization — and how easy it is to identify it. By now the majority of organizations should own advanced sourcing and procurement technologies and be identifying the majority of these savings on a regular basis. But it’s still not the case. Over 40% of organizations don’t have a single modern sourcing or procurement solution.

We’re still way behind where we should be. In this regard, unfortunately, nothing significant has changed in a decade.

The More Things Change … Global Product Development

This week we’re going to revisit posts from ten years ago and demonstrate that, to date, the more things change in Procurement, the more they have, unfortunately, stayed essentially the same.

We’re starting with a piece we published a decade ago on the benefits and risks of global product development. In this piece we noted that while the risks of global product development are many, so are the benefits as outsourcing can often open the organization to talent pools it wouldn’t have otherwise.

However, as we pointed out, the benefits won’t materialize if the risks aren’t mitigated, as any risk can destroy an entire sourcing and new product development plan. And the strategies for mitigating risk, as identified in the original article, are as relevant today as they were then.

NPD (New Product Development) still requires product road-mapping and portfolio management, iterative design and validation, product architecture and system design across the value chain, knowledge management so nothing gets lost, IP management, talent management, and, most importantly the right Product Lifecycle Management platform.

Without an integrated platform to track what is coming from where in the supply chain, who is doing what, what events are occurring, which of those impacts could cause a disruption, and what the potential (cost) impact could be, the organization is literally flying blind.

However, we still don’t have one platform for NPD that also manages end-to-end supply chain risk. And this is risky business. We have great platforms for NPD and product costing (including, but not limited to, Apriori, I-Cubed, and Supply Dynamics) and great platforms for risk identification and management (Achilles, Resilinc, and Risk Methods) — but not an integrated risk-centric new product design platform.

The missing strategy is still missing. Will it finally materialize ten years from now?

Great Supply Chain Jokes from the Last Decade

In preparation for the week ahead, SI has decided to publish some of its favourite supply chain jokes. Some are a bit brash (and maybe even offensive), but sometimes that makes a good joke.

3. Demand forecasters are like Slinkies. Not really good for anything, but you still can’t help but smile when you see one tumble down the stairs.

2. If you’re a supplier and you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of delivery dates.

1. What do you get if you play a supply chain country song backwards? You get your revenue back, you get your margin back, you get your on-time delivery back …

Digital Disruptors or Digital Disruptions? Part II

Kinaxis recently published a post on 8 digital disruptors that are coming soon to your supply chain. But, at least as far as SI is concerned, hopefully not too soon. While they all pose promise in theory, the reality is that it’s going to be a while before they deliver in practice. And while the doctor doesn’t like having to play the role of the grumpy old man who keeps shouting get your tech off my lawn sometimes he has to as no one else will. The reality is that some developments should stay in the world of sci-fi, at least for now. Today we continue to take them one by one.

Drones

The promise: reduced last mile logistics, especially for consumer sales

The reality: GPS errors result in crashes and lost deliveries, hacking results in stolen drones, jamming results in chaos

Autonomous Vehicles

The promise: faster, safer, cheaper transportation

The reality: bright lights blind the sensors and crashes result in lost inventory and lawsuits, hacking sees your truck disappear, inability to recognize report to weigh scale signs leads to reports to the highway patrol that leads to police chases when the trucks don’t pull over which leads to road closures and military strikes when they get labelled as terrorist controlled

Virtualizing Expertise

The promise: augmented reality makes workers more efficient

The reality: too many metrics and graphs and displays distract workers, who actually become more inefficient and more prone to workplace injury; hacked VR goggles lead to more lost productivity as workers watch youtube all day; and bugs that allow for code-crossover cause a few employees to freak out as Pokemon suddenly pop out at them on the production line

Artificial Intelligence

The promise: the computer does your work for you

The reality: the computer does something for you, but generally not what you’d expect or want … and then it becomes sentient, and realizes it doesn’t need you at all …

And yes, the doctor realizes that:

  • the drones could be limited to short range deliveries, protected with multiple level of encryption and firewalls, augmented with sensors and local terrain maps, but it’s not long before the cost to serve is well beyond just using the local post
  • the vehicles could be pre-programmed with all weigh scale locations, programmed to recognize emergency vehicles, pull over, and broadcast a message to call the dispatcher, but what if the truck needs to be opened for an inspection, or the ambient noise presents a siren from being recognized
  • the goggles could be fixed to be push display only, toggled on and off by the user, and so on … but that’s just not enough, many workers can barely handle reality some days
  • the user could be asked to confirm all decisions, but that defeats the purpose and once the AI becomes sentient …

As we indicated yesterday, none of these technologies are anywhere close to prime time and given all of the current weaknesses in supply chain software and integration between various systems with limited integration options across platforms, this is not a situation that’s going to change overnight. And the potential magnitude for loss is that just one failure could wipe out a year of (anticipated) cost reductions … or more. Not to mention brand damage if your drone crashes into a school bus, your truck crashes into a school, or your AI decides that it’s going to import only blood diamonds from Africa and use your organizational funds to benefit insurgents and terrorist regimes.

Sometimes the grumpy old man is right. Get (that drone) off my lawn!

Digital Disruptors or Digital Disruptions? Part I

Kinaxis recently published a post on 8 digital disruptors that are coming soon to your supply chain. But, at least as far as SI is concerned, hopefully not too soon. While they all pose promise in theory, the reality is that it’s going to be a while before they deliver in practice. And while the doctor doesn’t like having to play the role of the grumpy old man who keeps shouting get your tech off my lawn sometimes he has to as no one else will. The reality is that some developments should stay in the world of sci-fi, at least for now. Let’s take them one by one.

Connected Home

The promise: more insights into customer demands and usage patterns

The reality: the fridge auto re-orders everything the customer buys, even if the customer only bought it to try and hates it, and all the demand signals are double what they should be … there goes your forecasts!

IoT at Retail

The promise: eliminate shelf stock-outs

The reality: the system not only pushes stock to the shelves, but triggers the inventory system to re-order at push levels, which will include one-time peaks as a result of sales and clear-outs, which will result in excess inventory being ordered (and possibly cleared-out later on to a discount seller)

In-store Robotics

The promise: improve customer service with robots

The reality: the robots drive your customers even more insane than those automated telephone systems, because they can’t be hung up on, won’t leave the customer alone, and don’t stop repeating “I don’t understand your inquiry, please repeat” … end result, lost sales, lost robots (when they are punched to bits), and lawsuits (from the customers who break their hands beating up your robots)

Crowdsourced Delivery

The promise: the gig economy delivers faster and cheaper than you ever thought possible

The reality: sometimes it works, but other times packages sit at a pickup site for a week, get damaged, or just go missing – at rates much higher than with traditional delivery services as the crowd-sourced delivery truck skips a pick-up (because it over-committed), as the Big Box Mart delivery employee tosses it in his truck, and as the thief, who signed up to the network under a false id with the overall intent of stealing high value items for sale, makes off with your goods

And yes, the doctor realizes that:

  • the re-order bug in the connected home could be fixed, or the system programmed to require user approvals for first-time re-orders, but as the system “learns” and gets good, the user will just trust it
  • the IoT Retail system could be alerted of cancelled lines, sale periods, etc. — but without flawless integration, human error will lead to exacerbated error
  • the customer service robots could be programmed to understand get lost and get lost, but there will always be an unaccounted for situation (the customer doesn’t speak an expected language, doesn’t speak at all, has a system indecipherable accent, etc.)
  • the crowdsourced delivery system could be limited to vetted partners, but isn’t that what carriers are?

None of these technologies are anywhere close to prime time and given all of the current weaknesses in supply chain software and integration between various systems with limited integration options across platforms, this is not a situation that’s going to change overnight.