A recent New York Times article demonstrated that supply chain management innovations can come from some unexpected places. In response to some challenges with provenance on their product, Boston-based seafood distributor Red’s Best created its own software to track where they get their fish, and where it goes once it leaves the warehouse.
This simple idea has transformed fishery end-to-end supply chain management, and other organizations are starting to follow suit. Lovers of fish and other seafood are starting to demand information on what they eat, very similar to other food industries, and that means opportunity is knocking for small fisheries who want to appeal to responsible consumers who are seeking quality product that is caught in a responsible way.
The software developed by Red’s Best removes the need for paperwork. As founder Jared Auerbach says:
“[The fisherman is] putting their catch data directly onto the internet, and our whole staff all over the country can see in real time as fish is being unloaded onto our truck.” This beats the paper-based system, and allows purchasers to track a fish-specific barcode so they know who caught it, where they caught it, and where that fish is going in the supply chain.
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Update on the Vinyl Record Supply Chain
In my first post on this subject, I discussed how the resurgence in vinyl record production has been a struggle. There are a limited number of producers all working 24-7, and it’s difficult to keep up with demand. The renewed interest in purchasing music in this physical medium has meant a massive increase in sales, year over year, but it has also meant slowed production, and availability delays.
The challenges are even greater for small independent record labels, as their orders often get pushed out in favour of large orders from bigger music companies.
In the 6 months since I wrote that post, the tides have begun to shift in the vinyl record supply chain. There are new vinyl pressing plants opening on a regular basis. The latest has made a lot of press in Canada, and it is poised to become the second-largest vinyl pressing plant in North America. Talk about a shakeup!
I got in touch with Gerald McGhee, who has been the President of Isotope music for two decades, but he is now also the Executive Vice President of Precision Record Pressing, based in Burlington Ontario. I asked him a few questions about their business plan, and their supply chain challenges.
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A recent article in Fleetowner shed some light on the human aspects of supply chain management. Featuring research by Arash Azadegan (Ph.D, Professor of Supply Chain Procurement at Rutgers University), the article discusses some key traits held by the best supply chain managers. But the article alludes to something more: the collaborative human efforts in the supply chain, especially in difficult times.
Relationships are often really tested in times of crisis. We see this in many aspects of our lives, but the same applies in your supply chain. When the storm clouds move in, you need to get your product moved out, and you’ll need help.
Azadegan talks about how the “dominoes of the supply chain are now very close together – and the closer they are, the faster they fall.”
Imagine a situation where you have 24 hours to analyze, plan, and execute supply chain changes on a massive scale. Would your planning tool be up to the challenge? Would your team be able to deliver? Would all the dominoes fall?
In the Fleetowner article, author Sean Kilcarr discusses a textbook example of a massive supply chain crisis: Hurricane Sandy, which devastated large parts of the United States back in October 2012.
As Anne Strauss-Weider (from A. Strauss-Weider Inc., a management consulting firm) explains in the article, things had to move quickly as Sandy literally loomed on the horizon. The Port of New York and New Jersey was hit hard, and they “had about 24 hours’ notice before Sandy hit,” she said.
In a crisis like this, Azadegan says “jobs, inventory, and profits are at stake, and beyond that, suppliers, customers, communities, and families of employees etc. are at risk as well.” There is no time to panic, “there is only a short time that [a manager] can be visionary and academic. [These situations] are unforgiving.”
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If you read any of the articles about the “vinyl resurgence” in the music industry, it’s easy to understand why record companies, artists, and fans are getting so excited. The pendulum has swung ever so slightly from music fans streaming music on their phones and tablets to buying an actual physical object — a 12” slab of vinyl. It’s revolutionary (pun intended).
If you’re a music fan of a certain age, you will remember the LP being the dominant music format for a few decades. That lasted until the mid-1980s, when cassettes had a brief boom. Then, by the early 1990s, CDs moved in, which led inevitably to MP3s, file sharing, and now streaming.
But LPs have always had a certain level of credibility amongst audiophiles and many hardcore music fans. One can, and many do, argue about their sound quality, artistic integrity, and associated snobbery. However, one thing that we need to really think about is this:
If people want to buy LPs, what is the established supply chain to get the LPs produced, packaged, and shipped to these listeners?
And also, if more and more people want to buy these new LPs, how can the supply chain change to accommodate the increased demand?
The vinyl resurgence surprised many, and the industry has been slow to react in many ways. The main reason they have been slow is understandable. In the United States of America, in 2015, 12,000,000 new LPs were sold, up from 1,000,000 in 2007 (Source: Wikipedia). How many plants actually produce the LPs — cut the master, press and package all those vinyl discs? The answer will surprise you: 20.
There are 20 independent companies in the United States who make these LPs. 20. Twenty. Just 20.
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