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The Story of Three Arrows

three arrows

As we all know that the Global Economy is not heading in the right direction.  One of the best indicators of global growth is oil prices.  Oil prices (Brent) are assumed to average about $105 per barrel (pb) in 2013-2014, compared to $110 pb in 2012.  Unemployment remains elevated in many developed economies, with the situation in Europe being the most challenging. A double-dip recession in several European economies has taken a heavy toll on labor markets. The unemployment rate continued to climb to a record high in the euro area during 2012, up by more than one percentage point from one year ago. Conditions are worse in Spain and Greece, where more than a quarter of the working population is without a job and more than half of the youth is unemployed.

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF), described the global economy recovery in 2013 as “fragile and timid” because the Eurozone is prone to political crisis and slow decision-making processes.

Some believe that China is the engine that propels global economy growth in the right direction.  There is a belief that China is recovering and that signals global recovery.  However, the statistics reveal a mixed result according transport intelligence.com.  The February figures from Container Trade Statistics (CTS) show that, if anything, container trades are heading downwards. Overall, Asian exports – including on intra-Asian trades – fell by 26.4% as compared to January and by 8% as compared to February last year. In addition, import activity for Asia fell by 10% compared to January 2012, whilst on a year-on-year it was down by 12%. The export traffic indicates a twelve month low.  This is confusing and one thing is certain and that is economic downturn is here to stay some more time.  When we look at the major air cargo carrier performance during the first quarter, the results are no different.  Lufthansa Cargo has reported a 1% increase in its aircraft utilisation in the first quarter of 2013. In a difficult market environment, the cargo carrier scaled back capacity by 7.4%. Due to a smaller decline in sales, by 5.9%, the company was able to increase its load factor to 71.4%.  Overall, Lufthansa Cargo carried approximately 400,000 tonnes of freight and mail in the first quarter of the year – a decline of 7.2% compared with the same period in 2012.

Keeping in view of the global financial trend, business houses have to develop strategies that will take them through the tough financial conditions.  Any organisation will target three different improvements and they are, top line revenue growth, bottom-line improvement and increase satisfied customer base.  In order to meet the above, organisations will develop number of objectives, each describing a desired future condition toward which efforts are directed. An objective is a statement that clearly explains actions to be taken or tasks to be achieved by an organisation. If the objectives are accomplished, then the business should be a success.

Research reveals that most of the business organisation will have two types of business objectives and they are Economic and Socio-human objectives.  However, the organisation can focus on socio-human objective only when they are financially successful.  Hence, the focus is on economic objectives and they are mainly three objectives targeted by most of the entrepreneurs.  They are (1) Business prosperity through improved margins and increased sales volume (the upward arrow); (2) Speed to the market place to maximise product availability (the side way arrow) and (3) Cost reduction/optimization to make the product competitive to sustain in the market place (the downward arrow).  In fact all three objectives are inter-related and driven by cost trade-off decisions within supply chain.

The purposes of objective setting are, to establish a standard for evaluating the success of the business and set priorities for its management and staff. Objectives help keep management and staff focused on achieving set targets and keep them away from distractive activities that drain business resources.  The appropriate organisational goals will also to address the challenges of global economy.

The risks of doing business and competing in a global economy seemingly change by the day. At the same time, risk management and cost seem to go hand in hand, leaving many executives to wonder: Is it possible to reduce risks and still grow the top line? The answer is yes, and there are stories to prove it. A key ingredient is a “conscious” approach to managing risks in your organization’s supply chain. Every business that depends on goods and services in a global supply chain is at risk for various supply chain disruptions, or worse: contamination or product failure.

It is evident that the key to the success of any organisation lies in Supply Chain efficiency.  The industry has realised that if one manages the supply chain efficiently aligns it to the business dynamics; the success of the organisation is assured.  The optimisation of Supply Chain was handled by different section of experts in different ways.  Some think that technology is the solution to the supply chain efficiency some believe that the strategy is the key to the success. And some believe that people (the right team) are responsible for supply chain innovation through thought leadership.

Supply chain performance has never been as critical as it is today. In today’s dynamic world what is good today can turn into ugly tomorrow in market place.  At some stage buffer inventory was recommended to meet the demand fluctuations (JIC) and now carrying inventory more than required levels is undesirable and JIT is the favoured option. Under these ever changing circumstances, supply chain efficiency plays a very vital role in keeping the organisations alive. In order to achieve maximum benefit from a supply chain and creating competitive advantage in the supply chain wars, a supply chain must be performing at its best and continue to perform that way.  We have seen organisations flourishing through the product innovation and we are today witnessing organisational superiority in the market place through innovative supply chains.

If we take a hard look at the IT hardware industry, most of the big brands and your local assembler provide more or less same product.  However, there is huge price variation which is possible due to supply chain innovations.  When we look at the retailers, the product range is the same, origin of supply is the same and the quality of the product is almost the same.  However, there is huge price variation.  The reason is supply chain efficiency.  The procurement strategy, the distribution strategy and the organisational objectives make the difference.

Supply Chain efficiencies cannot be ignored by any industry in today’s economic downturn.  However, the truth is that some of the organisations do not recognise what is appropriate for their supply chain and pursue inappropriate policies and concepts.  Fortunately, we have only two supply chain processes and they are known as Pull and Push. The failure and success of the business model mainly depends upon selecting the appropriate process.  If a retailer who predominantly follows push process decides to use pull process, the end result would be a catastrophe.  At the same time if an IT hardware manufacturer decides to use push process, will end up with high inventories and obsolete stock in the warehouse.  If one can align the supply chain with the business dynamics, it is truly possible to register revenue growth and improve velocity and also reduce costs.

In today’s world what is critical to the business success is the right supply chain strategy that could meet customer expectations and the last but not least is the right team with the ability to think outside the box and innovate with thought leadership.

save costs

Image credit: San Francisco Sentinel

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