May 17, 2020

Develop risk management through an adaptable supply chain

Supply Chain
Freddie Pierce
4 min
Procurement execs expect supplier risks to increase
Written by Douglas Macdonald, IBM Procurement Portfolio Product Marketing Leader CPOs continually face challenges related to understanding the state of...

Written by Douglas Macdonald, IBM Procurement Portfolio Product Marketing Leader

CPO’s continually face challenges related to understanding the state of the global and regional economies, and managing the procurement organization and suppliers within that environment. With 50 percent of the value (and costs) of a company’s products or services, on average, in the hands of outside suppliers, changes in the economies those suppliers operate in can have a significant impact on meeting customer demand.  With frequent change there is one constant – the need for adaptability. 

Procurement organizations can meet that need by building adaptability into supplier risk and performance management programs.  One analysis of procurement operations at global companies found that most (70%) of those companies rated as procurement leaders had structured supplier risk and supplier performance management programs in place; as compared to just 5% of the companies who were rated as “laggards” in procurement operations. The same study found that a majority of procurement executives expect supplier risks to increase significantly over the next three years.

Best-in-class procurement organizations see risk management differently. They understand that risk management is not just part of doing business, but that actively managing and mitigating risks produces operational improvements and boosts the bottom line.  Best-in-class procurement organizations typically use a comprehensive, technology-enabled framework to effectively manage and reduce their risks. Such a program usually incorporates the following components:

Risk Identification: Best-in-class procurement organizations use technology and information services as a starting point to identify sources of risk. Examples include:

•       Identifying components sourced from either suppliers that are at financial risk or are concentrated in a specific geographic region more vulnerable to political conflicts or currency fluctuations.

•       Identifying components of production that are either sole sourced or come from very specialized suppliers, thus increasing the company’s dependence on them.

Risk Prioritization: Best-in-class procurement organizations perform “what if” analysis and quantify the impact of supply risk for specific components and commodities. Armed with such analysis, they prioritize actions on those components and commodities that have the greatest potential impact on the business.

Risk Mitigation: Best-in-class procurement organizations also go beyond mere risk identification, to actively manage and mitigate supply base risks.

A Global 2000 engineering and manufacturing company serving the automotive industry provides an illustration, and motivation for applying these practices.  The company specializes in developing technologies and components for the world’s leading automakers.  During the global financial crisis, although the company itself remained on strong financial footing, the financial instability of some of its key suppliers threatened the company’s production.

The company relies on more than 1,500 suppliers that contribute components to its manufacturing process and products. Some of these suppliers are the only manufacturer in the market for a particular part or component.  From the outset of the crisis, many of these suppliers suffered cash flow problems or problems re-financing their investments.  More than 30 of these suppliers actually became insolvent and filed for restructuring, with most of these insolvencies directly impacted the company’s production.

There was one particular supplier insolvency that became a catalyst for change for the company.  This supplier worked with the company for for more than 25 years; and globally, there were only a handful of suppliers who manufactured these same components.  As a result, the company was forced to jump in and try to financially rescue the supplier. 

From that point forward, the company determined to put in place a systematic process for managing supplier risk and any supplier crisis situations.  This included (1) the proactive identification and analysis of risk, (2) the development of strategies to mitigate risk, as well as (3) the development of standing plans to deal with disruptions within the supply chain.

Best-in-class companies use deep supplier intelligence and robust risk modeling to proactively identify and mitigate risks before they develop.  They elevate risk mitigation with a systematic approach that ensures early risk identification across various pillars of exposure including financial, quality, logistics and geography.

A best-in-class risk program is one that is highly-automated and highly-proactive. A supplier risk or supplier management technology platform can provide broad visibility into potential supplier risks; the ability to mitigate risks before they develop by leveraging intelligence and risk modeling; and support the establishment of plans to react quickly and flexibly in the event of a supplier disruption to reduce its impact. It not only reduces the company’s risk profile, it can deliver broader value to the organization.

After all, the hallmark of success in supplier risk management – and in building an adaptable supply chain – comes when a company works with its core supply base over time to identify opportunities and metrics for improvement.  

Share article

Jun 21, 2021

Elon Musk's Boring Co. planning wider tunnels for freight

2 min
Elon Musk’s tunnelling firm plans underground freight tunnels with shipping containers moved on “battery-powered freight carriers”, according to reports

Elon Musk’s drilling outfit The Boring Company could be shifting its focus towards subterranean freight and logistics solutions, according to reports. 

A Boring Co. pitch deck seen and shared by Bloomberg depicts plans to construct wider tunnels designed to accommodate shipping containers. 

Founded by Tesla CEO Musk in 2016, the company initially stated its mission was to offer safer, faster point-to-point transport for people, particularly in cities plagued by traffic congestion. It also planned longer tunnels to ferry passengers between popular destinations across the US. 

The Boring Co. completed its first commercial project earlier this year in April. The 1.7m tunnel system is designed to move professionals between convention centres in Las Vegas using Tesla EVs. It says the Las Vegas Convention Centre Loop can cut travel time between venues from 45 minutes to just two. 


Boring Co.'s new freight tunnels

The Boring Co.'s new tunnel designs would allow freight to be transported on purpose built platforms, labelled as “battery-powered freight carriers”. The document shows that, though the containers could technically fit within its current 12-foot tunnels, wider tunnels would be more efficient. Designs for a new tunnel, 21 feet in diameter, show that they can comfortably accommodate two containers side-by-side, with a one-foot gap between them.

The Boring Co.’s new drilling machine, dubbed Prufrock, can tunnel at a rate of one mile per week, which is six times faster than its previous machine, and is designed to ‘porpoise’ - mimicking the marine animal by ‘diving’ below ground and reemerging once the tunnel is complete. 

Tesla’s supply chain woes 

Tesla is facing its own supply chain and logistic issues. The EV manufacturer has raised the price of its vehicles, with CEO Musk confirming the incremental hike was a result of “major supply chain pressure”. Musk replied to a disgruntled Twitter user, confused as to why prices were rising while features were being removed from the cars, saying the “raw materials especially” were a big issue. 

Elon Musk Tweet

Car manufacturing continues to be one of the industries hit hardest by a global shortage in semiconductor chips. While China’s chip manufacturing levels hit an all-time high in May, and the US is proposing a 25% tax credit for chip manufacturers, demand still outstrips supply. Automakers including Volkswagen and Audi have again said they expect reduced vehicle output in the next quarter due to a lack of semiconductors, with more factory downtime likely

Top Image credit: The Boring Company / @boringcompany

Share article