Supply Chain Article

J. Stewart Black’s picture

By: J. Stewart Black

For growth-starved Western entrepreneurs, the Chinese market is appealing. Think about it: Since 1995, China’s economy has grown by a factor of 18.5, from $735 billion to $13.6 trillion (excluding Hong Kong). In terms of purchasing power parity, it is now the No. 1 economy in the world.

Accordingly, many foreign companies have gone out of their way to build supply chains within the country and go-to-market mechanisms in order to access its market. Across industries, U.S. firms have invested more than $276 billion in China since 1990. In 2018, foreign direct investments from all countries flowing into China reached $139 billion.

David Midgley’s picture

By: David Midgley

Ask any manager at a large organization why the purchasing department matters, and the first factor he will mention will probably be costs. But cost control, though a core competency, is far from the only way purchasing affects firm performance.

Every contract signed with a supplier represents a considerable amount of trust on the part of the buying firm. It’s the purchasing department’s job to ensure that trust is invested wisely, not squandered on the unworthy. Therefore, purchasing is obliged to be the organization’s eyes and ears within the supplier environment.

Krystle Morrison’s picture

By: Krystle Morrison

From carrying food in from the field, to shipping processed products, to assembling a supermarket display, packaging matters. As a follow-up to our exploration of emerging trends in food packaging, we’re taking a look at several innovative technologies that could change the future of packaging.

The search for sustainability

More than half of consumers say that environmental sustainability is at least somewhat important to their purchasing decisions, and 41 percent of those shoppers look for recyclable packaging. To benefit the environment and ultimately please consumers with sustainability practices, food brands, startups, and researchers are discovering new ways to package products with recyclable, reusable, or biodegradable materials. 

Søren Block Olsen’s picture

By: Søren Block Olsen

Manufacturers face constant challenges of rising expectations as customers and regulators demand better quality and greater traceability throughout the supply chain. Exacerbating matters are unpredictable tariffs, which necessitate faster responses to changing trade barriers and regulatory requirements. These factors must all be accomplished at lower costs while coping with already thin margins.

The solutions to these challenges already exist within current systems. Unlocking the value of data already in systems generates actionable insights from quality control and quality assurance for operations and plant-floor management.

Improving the entire manufacturing process allows manufacturers to optimally monitor costs, remaining within a range of profitability. If data (i.e., business intelligence) show information outside the acceptable range, it can be quickly adjusted.

Ekim Saribardak’s picture

By: Ekim Saribardak

Transporting cargo over long distances has always been a logistical nightmare, but when the goods are of a delicate nature, the whole operation becomes significantly more challenging. Perishable foods, chemicals, pharmaceutical products, and other delicate goods all need special treatment during transportation to keep them in optimal condition; in many cases, constant monitoring of the cargo’s temperature is necessary to ensure its integrity until delivery.

Luckily, thanks to the technological advances of the last two decades, logistics companies no longer have to rely on rudimentary methods such as manually inspecting the cargo hold, which used to be a cause of excess downtime and loss of productivity, and wasn’t particularly reliable.

Ziv Carmon’s picture

By: Ziv Carmon

Counterfeiting is widespread and rapidly expanding. In 2015, the value of fake and pirated products globally was estimated at $1.7 trillion, equivalent to the GDP of Canada. The scope of this phenomenon is vast. In both developing and developed countries, counterfeiting affects many sectors, including apparel, electronics, beverages, food, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, and even vehicle and airplane parts and heavy machinery.

Companies actively try to fight the trade. They seek damages for lost sales from other firms that rip off their designs and conduct major, aggressive outreach campaigns to deter potential buyers from purchasing fake products. They also band together to raise awareness about how counterfeiting funds organized crime and terrorism, and often involves child labor. The Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCP), under the International Chamber of Commerce, for instance, represents 25 companies at intergovernmental forums, formulates best practices in supply chains, as well as funds outreach campaigns such as ibuyreal.org to fight the flood of fakes.

ZEISS Industrial Quality Solutions’s picture

By: ZEISS Industrial Quality Solutions

Decanter centrifuges from Hiller GmbH, headquartered in Vilsbiburg, Germany, are in demand globally. These centrifuges separate solid and fluid materials, such as in the production of olive oil or wine, or for wastewater treatment. The multiton machines achieve high yields unmatched by competitors, thanks to Hiller’s unwavering commitment to precision. Recently, the company acquired a ZEISS ACCURA to help it deliver on this promise.

Dietmar Heller, Hiller’s plant manager, holds up a small bottle to the light and gently shakes the liquid inside back and forth. It has a golden yellow color with just a hint of green. Any gourmand would identify the substance immediately: olive oil, the best kind, even. A brief taste confirms this: the premium oil has a pronounced olive flavor, but there is no stinging aftertaste. “Extra virgin, extra natural” is written on the bottle, and Heller would swear this is true. He knows the producer of this outstanding olive oil from the south of Spain personally. Moreover, Heller knows a lot about the decanter centrifuge, in which the oil is separated from the solids and water found in the olive paste following the harvest.

Rob Matheson’s picture

By: Rob Matheson

In the Iron Man movies, Tony Stark uses a holographic computer to project 3D data into thin air, manipulate them with his hands, and find fixes to his superhero troubles. In the same vein, researchers from MIT and Brown University have now developed a system for interactive data analytics that runs on touchscreens and lets everyone—not just billionaire tech geniuses—tackle real-world issues.

For years, the researchers have been developing an interactive data-science system called Northstar, which runs in the cloud but has an interface that supports any touchscreen device, including smartphones and large interactive whiteboards. Users feed the system datasets, and manipulate, combine, and extract features on a user-friendly interface, using their fingers or a digital pen, to uncover trends and patterns.

Stephanie McArdle’s default image

By: Stephanie McArdle

The FDA has announced an end to the alternative summary reporting (ASR) program for medical device manufacturers and will make the data publicly accessible.

The ASR program originally launched in 2000 when device manufacturers sought an “alternative summary” reporting exemption. ASR permitted medical device manufacturers to send the FDA an accounting of device injuries and malfunctions on a periodic basis (e.g., quarterly or annually) in lieu of fulfilling their standard public reporting obligations. The ASR program actually ended in 2017, but evidence shows that device exemptions were still accepted by the FDA.

Venkatesh Shankar’s picture

By: Venkatesh Shankar

A quarter of a century ago, on July 5, 1994, a company that shared a name with the world’s largest river was incorporated. It sold books to customers who got to its website through a dial-up modem.

It wasn’t the first bookstore to sell online. (Books.com launched in 1992.) But it behaved like a local store, whose shopkeeper knew customers by name; a bell even rang in the company’s Seattle headquarters every time an order was placed.

Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, set his sights on making it an “everything store.” The company would go on to become not just an everything store, but an “everything company.”

Today, 25 years later, Amazon has reshaped retailing permanently. It is one of the top three most valuable companies in the world, with a market capitalization hovering around $1 trillion, greater than the GDP of nearly 200 countries.

If you had bought $100 worth of its IPO shares in 1997, it would be worth about $120,000 today.

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