Due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the European Union is currently experiencing a massive increase in gas prices. This threatens the resilience of many supply chains. An analysis by the Halle Institute for Economic Research (IWH) now shows that a small group of just 300 products causes a large part of almost 90% of the gas consumption of German industry during their manufacture. The five products with the highest gas consumption per euro of sales belong to the basic chemical industry. The analysis also shows that rising gas prices mainly lead to production cutbacks in gas-intensive products that can easily be replaced by imports. Therefore, despite domestic production outages, no significant disruptions to the supply chains are to be expected. “German industry can save a lot of gas with a small drop in sales if gas-intensive products are no longer manufactured in-house but imported,” says Steffen Müller, one of the authors of the analysis.
This year Raconteur has once again put together a very readable report entitled Supply Chain Resilience 2022. The authors ask, “As disruption continues to plague international supply chains, what can organisations do to build resilience and ensure efficiency?” And they provide answers: “From reducing waste and cutting costs to onshoring and upgrading systems, our Supply Chain Resilience report explores the strategies making the difference”. The report contains short articles on very interesting topics including Brexit, predictive analytics, striking staff, supply chain tech investments, just-in-time vs. just-in-case, chip crisis, robotics, food waste, air cargo, and sustainable commerce. I particularly enjoyed an article that shows how global supply chains have been rocked by climate change, geopolitical instability and more, and that provides examples of different industries adapting to these challenges. It is not the first time that I am writing about Raconteur’s reports here. I am always amazed at the high quality of their work.
The International Energy Agency has just released a new special report entitled Solar PV Global Supply Chains. It examines solar PV (= photovoltaic) supply chains “from raw materials all the way to the finished product, spanning the five main segments of the manufacturing process: polysilicon, ingots, wafers, cells and modules”. The authors argue that “[p]utting the world on a path to reaching net zero emissions requires solar PV to expand globally on an even greater scale, raising concerns about security of manufacturing supply for achieving such rapid growth rates – but also offering new opportunities for diversification”. It becomes clear from the report that China currently dominates such supply chains and that diversification can reduce supply chain vulnerabilities and offer economic and environmental opportunities. According to the authors, policy makers need to aim for (1) diversifying manufacturing and raw material supplies, (2) de-risking investment, (3) ensuring environmental and social sustainability, (4) continuing to foster innovation, and (5) developing and strengthening recycling capabilities.
The year 2022 has been going on for quite a while. I see the following topics at the top of the agenda in both academia and business: First, the last few months have been characterized by a large number of supply chain hiccups. Missing chips in the automotive industry have become a symbol of this development. Therefore, supply chain resilience is more important than ever. Second, a lot is currently happening in the European Union in terms of supply chain laws. Stricter rules on supply chain liability are expected shortly, and several EU countries have recently pushed their legislation forward. Third, many companies are transforming their linear into circular supply chains, see the new DHL report entitled Delivering on Circularity. Finally, many companies are also concerned with net-zero goals – and more importantly with action plans for these goals. Many of these plans explicitly involve the supply chain. Although I am a bit late, I wish you a good supply chain year 2022.
In association with The Times, Raconteur has recently published a very insightful report, entitled Supply Chain Resilience 2021. It covers many interesting stories. For example, the report urges us to rethink just-in-time ordering, because “the global semiconductor shortage has highlighted the pitfalls of procuring parts right at the moment they’re needed”. Another interesting article in the report asks what the supply chain industry can learn from the Greensill Capital collapse: “Greensill Capital, the ill-fated provider of supply chain finance, claimed to be offering vital support for hard-pressed small firms, but is SCF all that good for SMEs?” A third article I would like to highlight is about net-zero logistics: “The decarbonisation of supply chains is as critical to [a country’s] net-zero ambitions as it is difficult to achieve, but innovations are emerging to address the problem areas of air freight, shipping and road haulage.” Much of the report is in line with my own view of resilience.
The Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released today. Bringing together the latest advances in climate science, it addresses the most updated physical understanding of the climate system. Even without this new IPCC report, it should be clear that our planet is in an existential crisis: The scale and intensity of the recent floods in Germany have broken all records and the ongoing fires in Greece have reached biblical proportions; Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said these fires showed “the reality of climate change”. Devastating fires are also raging in Russia, Italy, Turkey, and various other places. Attribution studies show that the recent record-breaking heatwaves in Siberia and Western North America would have been impossible without man-made climate effects (Ciavarella et al., 2020; Philip et al., 2021). Much of the greenhouse gas emissions are generated in global supply chains. Possible solutions to the climate crisis, thus, include new supply chain structures, processes, and business models. Yet, despite the existential threat to our species from this crisis, our discipline has so far been strangely silent. Therefore, I hope that as many SCM scholars as possible will now read the 42-page Summary for Policymakers of the new IPCC report from cover to cover. Our discipline simply cannot continue to ignore the elephant in the room.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2021): Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Geneva, Switzerland. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/#SPM
A new World Economic Forum report, entitled Net-Zero Challenge: The Supply Chain Opportunity and co-authored with Boston Consulting Group, showcases “the opportunity that all companies have for huge climate impact through action to decarbonize global supply chains”. This report argues that addressing supply-chain emissions enables many companies to impact “a volume of emissions several times higher than they could if they were to focus on decarbonizing their own direct operations and power consumption alone”. Among the major findings of the report: (1) Many companies can multiply their climate impact by decarbonizing supply chains; (2) Eight supply chains account for more than 50% of global emissions; (3) Net-zero supply chains would hardly increase end-consumer costs; (4) But: decarbonizing supply chains is hard. The report contains a step-by-step guide, which shows nine major initiatives every company can undertake. These initiatives were identified through interviews with a large number of global companies that, according to the authors, lead the way in reducing supply-chain emissions.
Our guest post today comes from Christoph Flöthmann, an expert in strategic and digital procurement, who has recently co-authored a new report.
Digitalization already has a major impact on procurement, as we write in our new report: 21st Century Procurement Skills. Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA), process-mining tools can be used to reshape and analyze all kinds of processes. Dashboards, governed by analytics bots, help to detect and prevent maverick buying in real-time without any human input. This is ultimately driving procurement effectiveness, efficiency and compliance. However, the digital transformation can only succeed if procurement has bright talents with the right skills in place who steer AI and manage the remaining high-value-adding tasks: First, digital fluency is a new meta-competency that enables managers to reach their targets by being in command of digital tools. Second, the ability for complex and collaborative problem-solving will be key to master the challenges posed by both digitalization and uncertain markets. Because AI and RPA take over tasks that are rather simple and require a low level of human collaboration, the procurement professionals’ scope is about to shift to highly complex and highly collaborative tasks such as developing and approving category strategies. Finally, procurement needs transformational leaders that are able to empower their teams to strive for developing and applying their new skill sets.
Dr. Christoph Flöthmann is a consultant in Roland Berger’s Operations Competence Center. In 2018, he and his project team were finalists at the World Procurement Awards in London for developing and implementing a digital procurement strategy platform. Before becoming a consultant, he completed his Ph.D. at Copenhagen Business School and Kühne Logistics University, specializing in research on competencies and careers in supply chain management.
“Accelerating technology and automation are resulting in wholesale transformation of the supply chain profession.” This is the key message of EY’s new report, titled Supply Chain: Skills for the Digital Era. It is not long, but definitely a good read. The report states that “[p]rocesses with repeatable elements such as planning, monitoring and forecasting can all be automated and enhanced by robotics, artificial intelligence and advanced analytics”. The authors observe that this leads to a transformation of supply chain management: “Where performance improvement in the past may have focused on the optimisation of individual operational areas, it now needs to harness a broader view that understands, for example, how supply chain impacts on profitability.” The report ends by identifying four future personas for the supply chain, based on their mindset (data-driven vs. vision-led) and style (investigative vs. collaborative): There are technologists, orchestrators, analysts and innovators. Does our research and teaching cover all of them?