Supply Chain Article

Drew Calvert’s picture

By: Drew Calvert

For the past decade, policymakers and nongovernmental organizations have pushed for greater transparency in supply chains, with the goal of encouraging more responsible sourcing practices. The Dodd-Frank Act, for example, required firms to disclose their suppliers’ involvement with any “conflict minerals” such as gold, tin, or tantalum, a metal used in phones and computers. More recently, France passed legislation to ensure carbon emissions reporting.

At the same time, many companies have pledged to be more vigilant and open about protecting the people who manufacture their products. After the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in 2013—a building collapse that killed more than a thousand garment and textile workers—a number of brands joined a coalition to hold their suppliers accountable.

Alena Komaromi’s picture

By: Alena Komaromi

When your own inbox is overflowing with unread messages, it may not seem like the best tactic, but with the right approach, email can be a powerful negotiation tool, not least in the B2B realm. According to 2019 research by IACCM, a global contract management association, about 75 percent of contract negotiations are completely virtual. 

Nowadays, many B2B sales negotiations involve an open-bid process with a standardized communication where relationship bonds are less important. In that context, emails offer a number of advantages. For instance, they can be instantly accessed, often by many parties in an organization, thus creating transparency. Emails also allow a rich diversity of materials to be used as attachments.

Negotiations via email can be particularly suitable when gender, age, or racial biases—or linguistic issues such as a strong accent—could mar the process. It can also help when there is a power distance between parties, or when some voices risk being unheard.

David Chandler’s picture

By: David Chandler

Advanced metal alloys are essential in key parts of modern life, from cars to satellites, from construction materials to electronics. But creating new alloys for specific uses, with optimized strength, hardness, corrosion resistance, conductivity, and so on, has been limited by researchers’ fuzzy understanding of what happens at the boundaries between the tiny crystalline grains that make up most metals.

When two metals are mixed together, the atoms of the secondary metal might collect along these grain boundaries, or they might spread out through the lattice of atoms within the grains. The material’s overall properties are determined largely by the behavior of these atoms, but until now there has been no systematic way to predict what they will do.

Researchers at MIT have now found a way, using a combination of computer simulations and a machine-learning process, to produce the kinds of detailed predictions of these properties that could guide the development of new alloys for a wide variety of applications. The findings are described today in the journal Nature Communications, in a paper by graduate student Malik Wagih, postdoc Peter Larsen, and professor of materials science and engineering Christopher Schuh.

Bahar Aliakbarian’s picture

By: Bahar Aliakbarian

The two major U.S. developers of the early Covid-19 vaccines are Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. They both developed mRNA vaccines, a relatively new type of vaccine. A major supply-chain issue is the temperature requirement for these vaccines.

The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at between –112° F (–80° C) and –94° F (–70° C), and the Moderna vaccine needs temperatures around –4° F (–20° C), which is close to the temperature of commercial-grade freezers. A third company developing vaccines, AstraZeneca, says it needs regular refrigeration temperature of 36° F to 46° F, or 2° to 8° C.

Amitava Chattopadhyay’s picture

By: Amitava Chattopadhyay

For conventional, profit-seeking companies, moving into social impact carries huge contradictions. An ad hoc, small-scale initiative is an inexpensive way to do a bit of good and receive a nice warm glow in the process. But any attempt to achieve more serious impact through scaling the initiative will likely trigger awkward discussions about how much that warm glow is worth to the firm.

Thus, the ceiling remains low on social impact unless it can be justified in “win-win” terms. Needless to say, this is no easy feat.

Victor Piedrafita’s picture

By: Victor Piedrafita

During the last decade, we’ve witnessed the emergence of sustainability issues among the most important business concerns in a firm’s supply chain. An increasing number of firms have reexamined their relations with suppliers and moved forward to build a more sustainable supply network, by not only monitoring their suppliers’ compliance, but also fostering their capabilities to properly address various environmental and social challenges.

FIBS, a Finnish organization that fosters sustainability, states as one of the key results of its Corporate Responsibility Survey 2017 Summary that sustainable and responsible supply chains have become strategic goals for Finnish companies. However, implementing this remains a challenging issue, as does the need for resources, systematic training, and learning from the best practices developed by others.

What is ‘sustainability?’

The most extended and accepted definition of sustainability was put forward in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development. According to the commission, sustainability is ‘‘a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’’

Multiple Authors
By: Erik Fogelman, Jeff Orszak

With the increasing power of digital technology, the idea of a connected manufacturing system that can sense, analyze, and respond will soon be a reality. This idea—called “intelligent edge”—combines computing power, data analytics, and advanced connectivity to allow responses to be made much closer to where the data are captured. It takes emerging internet of things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 capabilities to the next level.

Cybersecurity plays a complex role in this vision. On one hand, technological advances can lead to improved cybersecurity capabilities. On the other hand, when built without a consideration for privacy, data integrity, or network resilience, such technological advances can instead increase cyber risks dramatically.

The capabilities that enable the intelligent edge include artificial intelligence (AI), computing hardware, networking capabilities, and standard protocols. Advances in these capabilities have converged to help tie together components that accelerate the realization of Industry 4.0. Here are the key components that enable new ways of working, new products and services, and new value creation.

John Keogh’s picture

By: John Keogh

Almost all businesses involved in the food supply chain have experienced effects ranging from a mild shock to severe disruptions during the Covid-19 pandemic, and further disruptions may be ahead this winter.

Yet not all organizations have learned critical lessons, and history shows us some companies are destined to remain unprepared for the next wave.

Many companies have taken decisive action to survive the pandemic and enhance their supply chain resilience. In doing so, they are protecting their interests and those of their business customers or consumers. We believe that successful firms are taking what’s known as a systems thinking approach to enhance food supply-chain resilience.

In the systems engineering world, systems represent the interconnected complexity of ecosystems that are connected both internally and externally.

For example, a food production business is connected to numerous ecosystems internally and to those of its suppliers, business partners, and customers.

Zach Winn’s picture

By: Zach Winn

Millions of cocoa farmers live in poverty across western Africa. Over the years, these farmers have been forced to contend with geopolitical instability, predatory loan practices, and a general lack of information that hampers their ability to maximize yields and sell crops at fair prices. Other problems, such as deforestation and child labor, also plague the cocoa industry.

For the last five years, however, cocoa supply chains in villages around the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and Ghana have been transformed. A suite of digital solutions have improved profitability for more than 200,000 farmers, encouraged sustainable and ethical production practices, and made cocoa supply chains more traceable and efficient.

The progress was enabled by SourceTrace, a company that helps improve agricultural supply chains around the world. SourceTrace offers tools to help manage and sell crops, buy and track goods, and trace products back to the farms where they were made.

Multiple Authors
By: Tinglong Dai, Guihua Wang, Ronghuo Zheng

The Covid-19 pandemic has crippled the airline industry. Passenger numbers are down more than two-thirds from last year, and airlines have been canceling flights and shutting down routes.

It’s frustrating for travelers, but for patients on organ transplant waiting lists, the loss of flights can put a life-saving kidney or heart out of reach.

Our research shows just how valuable each flight route can be for connecting donor organs with people in need of transplants. It also suggests that the industry’s great rebooting in the coming years can be an opportunity to help make the U.S. organ transplantation system more equitable.

As business scholars specializing in the fields of healthcare operations management, business analytics, and economics of information, we believe policymakers need to understand the potential impacts of the airline network on organ transplantation as they guide the post-pandemic recovery of the airline industry.

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