CSX, one of the only two railroad operators in the USA that handles nearly all the shipments that move by train east of the Mississippi River has been experiencing serious challenges since the month of May. The reasons behind this were well chronicled in a recent Wall Street Journal article. To sum it up, an activist investor caused a major shakeup in the company earlier this year and a new CEO took over in March. The new CEO embarked on several cost reduction initiatives in conjunction with a number of changes (some may argue too fast and too soon) on how the company operates its freight-trains. This has resulted in significant delays and disruptions in shipment deliveries. An extreme example of this is a ride from Chicago to Colesburg, Tennessee taking 18 days, 13 hours, and 57 minutes!
The effects of these delays are being felt by many companies including McDonalds, Kellogg, Kraft-Heinz, and PepsiCo, as the article cites. These companies had to haul expedited shipments by truck so they could keep their production lines running and, in turn, meet the commitments to their customers. This has led to increased costs, not to mention all the inventory stuck in-transit.
Needless to say, such major challenges are visible enough and have significant enough disruptive power that considerable energy gets spent on addressing them, including executive engagement. However, did you know there are enough lead time problems lurking in your current supply chain operations that go completely unnoticed? These are the “knowable unknowns” that can hurt your supply chain performance.
This guest post comes to us from Jim Fulcher, Blogger on the Supply Chain Expert Community.
Last week, Toyota and Mazda signed an agreement to enter a business and capital alliance to further strength their partnership. The outcome is expected to either significantly impact an existing automotive supplier network or prompt manufacturers and suppliers to move or begin operations.
Specifically, the companies agreed to establish a joint-venture plant which produces vehicles in the U.S., jointly develop technologies for electric vehicles, jointly develop connected-car technology, collaborate on advanced safety technologies, and expand complementary products. As might be expected, it’s news of the joint-venture plant that is attracting attention, especially since the companies announced the plant would have an estimated annual production capacity of approximately 300,000 units, will require a total investment of approximately 1.6 billion U.S. dollars, and will create up to 4,000 jobs.
At the new plant, Mazda expects to produce cross-over models which Mazda will introduce to the North American market, and Toyota plans to produce the Corolla for the North American market. By producing vehicles in the U.S., Mazda aims to build a production structure to further grow in North America, allowing the company to more quickly respond to its customers’ needs depending on the region and model. By further increasing its production capacity in the U.S., Toyota will be better positioned to respond to the growing North American market.
Financial crisis. Check. Environmental catastrophes. Check. What’s next? Is this the year of political disruption?
Working in supply chain is like starring in a Rocky movie. You keep getting knocked down and you have to keep getting back up.
You don’t need to go back any further than a decade to understand the many challenges supply chains have endured over the years. Interestingly enough, the first episode of Breaking Bad that aired in 2008 reflected what it was like being in supply chain risk management at the time: “Hey, a science teacher is cooking meth, how much worse could it get?”
If you were a fan of the series, you were on the edge of your seat amazed at the plot’s crazy twists and turns. My guess is people who didn’t see the show were the supply chain practitioners too busy trying to ride the storm of the 2008 financial crash.
Supply chains had to deal with squeezing margins and dramatically cut costs, which included significant downsizing. Doing more with less wasn’t an option; it was a necessity. Maybe the one good thing to come out of it was some companies figured out how they could survive with lower inventories. Some suppliers weren’t so lucky. In 2009, I’m sure most we’re thinking, “How much worse could it get?”
Well, it got a lot worse.
In a world where everything is changing, staying in one place is the fastest way to find yourself falling further behind. The same is true when it comes to your supply chain. Remaining stationary in your processes, relying on inefficient technology, and refusing to keep pace is how successful companies find themselves lagging behind the competition.
It’s not just about who does it better anymore. It’s about doing things differently. That’s when breakthroughs happen. Unfortunately, many companies are still looking at their supply chains with a lens focused solely on efficiency and the bottom line. That strategy alone won’t yield long-term success. There has to be the opportunity for innovation, as well. It’s what drives new products and pushes companies into new markets.
Hence the industry’s latest buzzword – bimodal. Most often credited with coining the term ‘bimodal supply chain’, research firm Gartner describes it as a supply chain made up of two distinct modes. Mode one is about cost-saving measures and efficiency and appeals to a need for predictability, accuracy and reliability. It’s focused on maintaining the status quo and managing day-to-day operations.
Mode two is all about experimentation and driving revolutionary changes in how supply chains adapt to new risks and opportunities.
With Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful storm to threaten the Atlantic Coast in over 10 years that has already brought severe damage to Haiti, the Bahamas and several Southeastern U.S. states, obvious disruptions to supply chains and supply chain risk management were a given. Many of the states affected contained key ports and supply destinations, as well as transportation and logistics hubs. These ports accounted for 18.3% of U.S. container import shipments and 49.8% of east coast and Gulf of Mexico imports in September, according to an article from the Business Information Industry Association.
- Starting with Miami, this port primarily handles containerized cargo with small amounts of breakbulk, vehicles and industrial equipment. It is the largest container port in the state of Florida and ninth in the United States.
- Going up the coast in Jacksonville, FL, there is a huge port that receives the second-most automobiles in the US along with all types of cargo.
- Heading further north along the coast is Savannah, GA, home to the largest single container terminal in the United States. In 2015, the Port of Savannah moved 8.2% of total U.S. containerized loaded cargo volume and more than 18% of the East Coast container trade.
- A little more northward up the coast is the port of Charleston, SC. In 2016, this port handled 1.1 million containers, moved 1.2 million tons of non-containerized cargo and had the most productive crane moves in the U.S.
Supply chain risk management in the spotlight
A few days ago, the world’s seventh largest container shipping company by volume, Hanjin Shipping, filed for bankruptcy protection. A lot of the products being shipped by Hanjin are headed to U.S. and European retailers (toys, electronics, clothing, furniture, etc) getting ready for the holiday season. However, many ports are not allowing these ships to dock due to the risk of creditors seizing the ships, and any such event will cause congestion in the ports.
According to sources, Stevedores are demanding advance payment in cash. As Hanjin is fighting to prevent seizure by creditors, several ships remain marooned in the sea. A contact of mine with firsthand knowledge of the matter commented that it is a nightmare to claim containers from a bankrupt shipper. In short, it is a mess!
Such risks are on the rise. Companies are spending more on outsourced products and services than in the past. There is a constant push to free up working capital by leaning down on the inventories. Lead times are in weeks and months in cases where manufacturing is outsourced to firms on the other side of the earth. Linear supply chains as we know them are turning into supply networks with more players and parties than ever before. To understand the geopolitical risks, all you need to do is to turn on network news. Given all this, one would think that supply chain risk management is more prominent now. However, a 2014 report by University of Tennessee on managing risk in global supply chains points out that 90% of the firms surveyed do not quantify risk when outsourcing production!
Hi, my name is Alexa and I am a chocoholic. It’s been less than a day since my last indulgence.
There’s no two ways about it. When it comes to the cocoa-laden confectionery, I’m hooked. It doesn’t matter if it’s milk, dark or white. Anything with even a hint of chocolatey goodness will suffice – and sadly for my waist line, one little taste is never enough.
What’s even more unfortunate than the effect on my figure is that it’s about to get a whole lot more difficult to feed my addiction thanks to a lack of insight into supply chain risk. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently posted an article about the huge shortfall in the cocoa crop in Ghana. Dry weather coupled with the late application of vital pesticides to cocoa trees has caused the crop to shrink significantly, and sparked fears growers may not be able to deliver enough cocoa to fulfill their contracts. That means manufacturers will likely be scrambling to find enough cocoa to satisfy their chocolate producing needs.
Skyrocketing prices aside, this latest news is enough to send any chocolate lover to the store to stock up, and really puts the spotlight on a major supply chain risk in the $7 billion cocoa-futures market. As the WSJ points out, there is a drastic over reliance on the Ivory Coast and Ghana when it comes to the global cocoa supply chain. Together they account for more than half of the world’s cocoa supplies!
With that much of the world’s supply coming from one region, it’s no wonder the price and availability of chocolate fluctuates as wildly as it does. Natural disasters, poor growing conditions, pandemics, war, political and social unrest, terrorism and accidents can all have huge consequences on supply chains relying on either a single supplier, or suppliers who are all in the same geographic region.
I suspect that few folks in the supply chain management world would argue with the fact that supply chain management is risky business.
The reality is that risk comes in many forms (including anticipated risk, uncontrollable risk and unanticipated risk). It’s constantly changing. And the amount of risk being faced by supply chain professionals has been on the rise for the past 20 years.
When we talk risk, we’re not just talking about headline-making tsunamis, floods and earthquakes. We’re talking everyday risks as well. (Some might even argue that risk in daily business activities and decision making can be just as, if not more, impactful than exceptional risk events.) Ensuring success in ‘normal’ operating conditions and when faced with catastrophic supply chain disruptions is why developing risk management strategies should be a top priority.