May 5, 2011

WERC puts the Pro in the Know

With less than two weeks to go until WERC's Annual Conference, it's time for us to be bold. You do your part, and we'll do ours. Stop procrastinating! If you haven't already done so, sign up for the conference, and we'll make sure you have an educational experience that will justify your travel to the "bean counters." See who's already registered! WE GUARANTEE IT! (When was the last time a conference did that?) Register Now!More

Could bin Laden's death affect the global supply chain?
Supply Chain Digital
Citizens of humanity are celebrating around the world following the news U.S. President Barrack Obama announced late last night, that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was reportedly killed in Pakistan. But when this mixture of celebration and relief of bin Laden's death wears off, where will that leave the global supply chain? Whether it's a direct result of bin Laden's death in Pakistan, global markets are up, and oil prices are down. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 25 points after ending April at multi-year highs, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq reported moderate gains. JP Morgan analysts wrote in a note to clients that the news of bin Laden's death also should be a positive for stocks, as more investors are expected to buy into the market. Crude oil prices also fell as much as 3 percent overnight before making a modest recovery on Monday morning.More

Logistics effort helps US track down bin Laden
Material Handling & Logistics
Citizens of the United States woke up May 2 with the news that Osama bin Laden finally had been tracked down to a massive suburban compound outside of Islamabad, capital city of Pakistan, and not to the caves where he had long been rumored to be hiding. As details of the mission have been revealed, it's becoming clear that the military logistics effort, in tandem with the intelligence gathering capabilities of the various agencies participating in the hunt, directly led to the pursuit, capture and ultimately, the death of bin Laden.More

Companies increasing focus on supply chain visibility
Supply chain visibility is growing increasingly important as companies struggle to rebound from the recession and better manage global supplier networks that are becoming progressively more unwieldy. In fact, the Aberdeen Group recently surveyed 183 companies and found that supply chain visibility is now a top concern for firms looking to cut costs and improve response times to changing customer demands. The survey results, compiled in Supply Chain Visibility Excellence: Fostering Security, Resiliency, and Efficiency, revealed the following.More

Fighting back: As fuel prices rise and truck capacity shrinks, shippers face the battle of their professional lives
DC Velocity
The nation's leading shipper executives didn't rise to the top of their profession by accident. It took resourcefulness and determination, honed by decades of experience and results, to get to where they are. They will need all of those qualities, and then some, to cope with what is coming at them. However, underestimating their cat-skinning abilities could be a mistake. To be sure, the obstacles are daunting. To begin with, there's the run-up in fuel costs. The average national price of diesel fuel rose to more than $4.10 a gallon as of April 18, according to the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration. In California, diesel prices reached a near-punitive $4.44 a gallon.More

How to optimize packaging
Healthcare Packaging
Sponsored by Packaging World and Automation World magazines, this year's Packaging Automation Forum drew a crowd of 119 that was nearly evenly split among packaging machinery buyers, packaging machinery builders and technology providers. The presentation leading off the PAF was delivered by Bill Akins, president of Genofish, an agency that engineered and manages SupplierHub, Walmart's Private Brand internet portal. Akins gave attendees an insightful look into how important it is that people in operations, manufacturing and packaging stay in close communication with marketing. Marketing people at CPG companies have lots of data on retailer preferences and consumer behavior. But the organization can't act on that data if it can't be shared with operations people, including packaging. As Akins put it, "Insight without action is nothing but overhead."More

Fuel cells powered by grass roots
Material Flows
The last time I spoke with Ruth Cox, she was furious. As president and executive director of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association, she told me how frustrated she was that the Obama administration wasn't taking fuel cells seriously as a viable alternative source of clean energy. "It has been politicized based on preferences that some people in the White House had for other technologies and they don't want competition for what they believe is the answer to the problem," she told me. "That's why Congress is getting behind our movement. They want the market to decide. It is not the responsibility of this administration to pick the winners and losers. ... We need every clean energy option to reach our goals."More

Simple steps to tackle complex supply chain sustainability issues
Philips-Van Heusen has what Kiku Loomis, its director of Operations & Licensee Compliance, Global Human Rights and Social Responsibility, calls a "medium-sized supply chain." This despite the fact that, as the world's third-largest apparel company, parent of brands like Calvin Klein, Van Heusen, Izod, Tommy Hilfiger and many others, PVH has 750 active vendors, 1,750 active factories, and conducts around 3,000 audits per year. It can, as you might imagine, become quite a burden to manage the daily activities of this supply chain, but whether your supply chain is significantly larger or significantly smaller than PVH's, the same challenges persist: Gathering all the relevant data from suppliers, auditing suppliers' performance, and working with stragglers to protect a company from operational and reputational risks.More

Visibility: Antidote to supply chain opacity
The 21st Century Supply Chain
David Manners wrote a blog April 28 titled "Why is the supply chain so opaque?" on his Mannerisms blog, in which he states: "The complexity of the electronics supply chain is such that, six weeks on from the earthquake, no one is sure what its effects will be on their businesses. ... For an industry that manufactures to tolerances measured in billionths of a meter, in which the researchers win Nobel Prizes and the salesmen have Ph.D.s, it's anomalous that it can't forecast, plan, locate, track and measure its output. The cause of the supply chain opacity referred to by Manners is the degree of outsourcing, coupled with ever-increasing product portfolio complexity, which is due to mass customization and shortening product life cycles.More

Adrian Gonzalez: Supply chain in high school (trying to sell)
Logistics Viewpoints
"What are you trying to sell?" That was the question the business teacher at my local high school asked me on the phone, midway through my explanation of why I had emailed her earlier in the day. I'm not trying to sell anything, I told her; I'm just a parent who's interested in knowing what, if anything, is being taught at the school about supply chain management, and I'd like to start a conversation about how the curriculum could be enhanced.More

AGVs seen as ergonomic tools
Material Handling & Logistics
Although improved efficiency is still the primary justification for investing in automatic guided vehicles, the aging workforce is adding weight to ergonomics as a purchasing criterion. This is the message conveyed in the Spring 2011 Quarterly Report of The Automatic Guided Vehicle Systems Industry Group of Material Handling Industry of America. This report asserts that today automatic guided vehicles can reduce worker strain while increasing operational efficiency.More

Hungary: Latest supply chain victim
Financial Times
It's been nearly two months since Japan was hit by devastating earthquake and tsunami. Yet the fallout is only being felt now 9,000 kilometers away in Hungary. In another example of how increasingly complex and fragile the global supply chain has become, Magyar Suzuki, the Hungarian arm of the Japanese automaker, said it has had to move from double- to single-shift working as the supply of parts — including key electronics components — from factories in Japan affected by the disaster dries up. As a result, production of vehicles at the Suzuki plant in Esztergom, 30 miles north of Budapest, has fallen by roughly half, to between 400 to 420 vehicles per day, Viktoria Ruska, Magyar Suzuki communications director, told beyondbrics.More

Improving supply chain flexibility in a bipolar world
Bangkok Post
Today's bipolar world is characterized by high incomes but slow economic growth of 1 to 4 percent in the developed countries of Western Europe, the U.S. and Japan; and explosive GDP growth of 8 to 12 percent but low household incomes in rapidly developing economies with some 2.6 billion people, most notably in China, India and Brazil. This parallel dynamic is likely to continue for years and will force companies to design flexible supply chains to operate in two very different business environments, each with different needs and challenges. To compete successfully, companies must understand the needs of each market and create a strategy for meeting those needs cost effectively, all while differentiating themselves from their competitors — both local players and multinationals.More