zondag 19 januari 2014

A future of 3D printing for the consumer market

Existing for more than 20 years for specific industries and prototyping, 3D printing (additive manufacturing) is crawling out the shadow.  It’s getting more and more attention and according to some people a revolution is started. Whether a revolution or maybe an evolution, it sure is more than just a trend. The past two decennia, the techniques of 3D printing have proven their value, and the growing attention of media and business (in very different industries) will function as an accelerator for the 3D printing market. The rising stocks of 3D printing manufacturers show this clearly.

It is difficult to point out what exactly can be expected from 3D printing, that’s why the title of this blog is ‘A’ future of 3D printing instead of ‘The’ future of 3D printing. Nevertheless, I like to share some of my thoughts (and questions) what effect this technology might have on the near future if the present high rate of developments in the 3D market is continuing. And because it’s a Saturday night, I’ll stick to thoughts and will save the analyses and calculation maybe for other posts…

3D printing consumer market
As the 3D printers are getting more advanced the products which are manufactured are getting also more and more advanced and are used in several high-tech end products like airplanes and cars. But also in other areas like the dentistry and food markets 3D printed products are used.
Besides the attention of the industry, the attention of 3D printing for the consumer market is increasing, as prices of printers are starting to decrease. Nevertheless, there is still some work to do before this market potential can be captured as todays’ consumers will only be satisfied when products or services are user-friendly (easy in use, ready for use, plug and play)  and not too expensive.
Some of these hurdles still have to be taken are in the areas of costs/price, materials (availability and types of-) and quality of the ‘output’ of the ‘low-budget’ printers. Besides that, manufacturers must be ready to sell products by ‘sending’ the printorder and software will need to be developed such that consumers can design (program) their own products in an easy way (Or better: ‘printing the picture I just made with my tablet or smartphone’).

Currently we see that companies are indeed taking steps to develop and enter the consumer market. For example we see do-it-yourself kits ‘ of 3D-printers’ far below the €1000, the type of materials which can be used for 3D printing are increasing (metals, plastics, even food), 3D Systems (3D printer manufacturer) has announced a collaboration with Intel which is developing 3D scanners for tablets, and so on.

Besides the hurdles mentioned above which have to be taken in order to reach the crossover point where consumers are widely accepting the 3D printing technology, it is also important for organizations to look for collaboration. Collaboration between larger brands (who are prepared  to sell their product via this new ‘sales -channel’), 3D manufacturing companies and software-suppliers is a necessity for bringing 3D printing to a wider public. Companies which are willing to capture a significant market share in the 3D printer market for consumers will need to start now with making investments,  to enjoy benefits when that crossover point is reached.

3D printing in practice

How this might look like in practice? I don’t know, but as I see it, there are multiple (no, even more than multiple) scenario’s how and where 3D printing can be used. Will 3D printing at home be the next normal? Or will there be a sort of ‘printshops’ or ‘print-houses’ on each corner of the street where you can collect your 3D printed items which you just ordered on Amazon or programmed at home with your tablet?

3D printing will have a significant impact on logistics. Without getting into detail, think about  inventory management. Some products aren’t  necessary to have in inventory if you have 3D printing technologies in house (though you still have to have the raw material in stock, but with the same material you may be able to make multiple type of products, so in the end you have less inventory). Furthermore the decoupling point will be more flexible, it’s a complete new sales channel for companies. Production costs might decrease as well as transportation costs. And so on.

But as all innovations do, 3D printing will bring new challenges. Think about plagiarism of ‘print orders’ of products? And how often are you allowed to print your newly bought product via de 3D printing channel?
Can it be copied? Can the printer be hacked?

Another challenge will be responsibility? Who do you account for malfunctions during the printing process? Is it the owner of the printer? The manufacturer? Or the ‘Amazon’ who is sending you the print order?

What about Ethics? Are there any guidelines for this? Are you allowed to print guns? Will the current regulations of the government do, or are new regulations necessary?

These are just some of the many questions which will rise when getting closer to the aforementioned crossover point.

New businesses
In order to cope with these challenges, new (types of) organization will come into being to fill the gaps created by the new 3D printing market. Thinks about 3D printer services who provide maintenance to 3D printers, brokers who will take responsibility for the quality of printing jobs send from ‘Amazon’ to the consumer.

If you took the time to read the article, you know it was just to share some of my thoughts on 3D printing which was certainly not exhaustive. Nevertheless, I hope you liked it and made you think about 3D printing for the consumer market.

donderdag 18 april 2013

The future frontier of Procurement: Realtime insights and predictive analytics

I’ve just read two interesting blogpost of Joe Payne about predictive analytics in procurement.

Although I definitely see the value of  'predictive analytics', I think the definition itself for the content of his blogposts is to narrow. It’s just scenario 3 in which there is something about 'predictive analytics': ‘provides a forecast out for the year based on’.  

I think 'predictive analytics' is (a very important) part of a greater whole. At the same time I must admit I haven’t got the right label for that ‘whole’, but it could be something like: ‘Real time insights and Predictive analytics in Procurement’, ‘Procurement Excellence 2.0’, ‘Managing the now and the future of spend’, ‘Insights based decision making for now and the future’, and then probably a somewhat catchier name…

But as you see, the key elements are mainly now, future, decision making, realtime insights and predictive. What I want to make clear with those non-catchy names is that a new version of procurement is around in which Operational decision making in procurement is based on realtime information and strategic decision making is based on predictive analytics.

I named it a ‘new version’, but ‘upgrade’ is perhaps a better word, because most traditional procurement parts are still necessary, or better: they are the building blocks for the upgrade (sourcing strategy, purchase to pay, spend analysis, category tree, master data management).

The change for the procurement department will mainly be in their way of working: how to interpret the information and how to use it to make better decisions. Cooperation with IT experts, content expert (to define which information is useful) and analytic experts to assure the right input/output, software selection and maintenance, master data management is a prerequisite in order to succeed.

It is something new (at least for procurement) and it will cost some time and money to implement it, but it will become the new frontier in procurement. And as Joe Payne mentions in his blogpost: The investment will be substantial, but so is the payback.’

zaterdag 16 maart 2013

Video: Should Cost Analysis Webinar

I found an interesting video on youtube about a webinar on Should Cost Analysis which I wanted to share with you. The webinar is organized by Supply Chain Brain and the content is deliverd by Genpact.

Click here for the video

donderdag 10 januari 2013

Information sharing in the supply chain. Part 3: Understanding the vertical information exchange process

In the part 1 of this series, I highlighted the importance of the IT-infrastructure. In the second part I zoomed in on types of information that can be exchanged and why it is beneficial to share those types of information. This post I will discuss the process of information sharing, clarifying why information may be shared or not.

The information exchange process is a complex process which is influenced by many interacting determinants. Information will only be disclosed if it is likely to serve certain benefits. If it is more certain that disclosing a piece of information would lead to benefits, organizations are more eager to share that information. However, often it is difficult to know upfront whether benefits will increase, there is always a level of uncertainty. Closely related to the expected benefits by sharing certain information, is thedivision of the benefits. It is important to have a fair division of the costs and revenues upfront in order to maintain or improve the information exchange.

Trust is another important determinant of the information exchange process. If trust exists between (the people of) two parties, one is more willing to disclose information because it is expected the other party will handle the information in a proper way.

Then there are control mechanisms (like NDA’s and penalties for misuse). The more control mechanisms are in place, the more information is expected to be exchanged. The level of control is highly dependent on the level of secrecy and uniqueness of the disclosed information. Nevertheless, for some types of information it is difficult to establish reliable control mechanisms. It may also be the case that increasing control mechanisms is seen as an act of distrust. A optimum balance should be established between trust and control in order to increase information exchange.

Another determinant of the information exchange process is dependency. The lessdependent a party is on its buyer (or supplier), the more power it has in the relationship. An organization can exert its power to force the other party to disclose information. Although question marks can be placed at the reliability of the information, because the information can be incomplete or distorted by the weaker party in order to avoid an even higher level of dependency. Other way around, dependency in a buyer-supplier relationship is a mutual phenomenon. An equal and high level of mutual dependency increases the level of information exchange because both are equally dependent on each other and have no interest in a damaged relationship caused by the misuse of information.

With respect to information disclosure, the level of vulnerability is determined by the impact and the chance of misusing the disclosed information by the receiving party. The impact is determined by the type and importance of information. The closer the information to the core of the organization, the higher the impact and by that the vulnerability of the disclosing organization, because if this information is misused, the competitive advantage may be at stake. The impact cannot be seen apart from the chance that information is misused, or in other words the chance of opportunistic behavior. Opportunism is often referred to as the opposite of trust. If trust is present in the relationship, the chance of misuse of disclosed information (opportunism) is expected to be low, resulting in a lower level of vulnerability. The higher the impact of misusing disclosed information and the higher the chance of disclosing that information (opportunism), the higher the level of vulnerability will be. Generally speaking, less information is exchanged if a higher level of vulnerability is present.

Exchanging information is a process of giving and receiving, and not just giving or receiving. Therefore reciprocity, which can be explained as the process in which both parties in a relationship send and receive information, is important in the information exchange process. If just one party discloses information, the information flow will soon stop, because the disclosing party is not getting anything in return; the relationship will be damaged.

Furthermore, the flow of information between organizations with the same culture will be more fluent than if they have different cultural backgrounds. Though, if a buyer and supplier have different cultures, it does not imply that an organization never gets the information asked for, but they may encounter some communicational barriers.

When trying to understand the information exchange with a specific supplier, it is important not to focus exclusively on a single determinant, because all other determinants will influence each other and the information exchange process at the same time. The different determinants and the interaction among them, make the vertical exchange of information a complex process. This may clarify the gap between acknowledging the benefits of exchanging information on the one hand and not exchanging the information on the other hand.
In the next post I'll will discuss some tools which can be useful for getting grip on the information flow of your relationship with buyers and suppliers.

dinsdag 8 januari 2013

Information sharing in the supply chain – Part 2: Types of information and their related benefits

In the previous post of this series, I highlighted the importance of the IT-infrastructure. In this post, the focus is on the types of information that can be exchanged and why it is beneficial to share these types of information.

Although buyers and suppliers may have contradicting goals (especially seen from a conservative perspective), they have at least one goal in common: making profit[1]. Dependent on contextual characteristics, buyers and suppliers will (try) to interact in a certain way with each other (varying from transactional exchange to close partnerships) to make as much profit as possible. In a pure transactional exchange, both parties will only care about their own profit. In close partnerships on the contrary, organizations try to create as much profit as possible for the buyer-supplier relationship (inter-firm profitability) and divide the additional profit as a result of the alliance in a fair way. The increase in inter-firm profitability can be realized by increasing revenue and/or decreasing costs at the buyer and/or supplier their processes. The exchange of information between the two parties is an important prerequisite in order to increase the inter-firm profitability. Examples of this may be the possibility to align and coordinate processes across organizational boundaries  or joint development of new products as a result of sharing information.

Types of information
Dependent on the type of relationship and contextual characteristics (in its broadest sense) the exchange of certain types of information, varying from operational data to strategic knowledge, may result in an increase in inter-firm profitability.
The table below reflects a selection of information types which may affect the inter-firm profitability. The table provides also information about how the exchange of it may affect the inter-firm profitability and the direction of the flow of the information.

Note: the table is meant as an impression of the different types of information which can be used for increasing benefits, the goal of the table is not to be exhaustive.
While sharing several types of information will obviously contribute to an increase in profit, both parties are often reluctant to disclose information. Although the level of information exchange will definitely be a result of the type of relationship (transactional – cooperative) it surely is not the single factor clarifying the lower level of information exchange than would be expected based on the prospects of  increasing profits when increase sharing.

Which reasons then are in place why information is not disclosed? In order to find those reasons, we have to understand the process of information exchange by revealing underlying determinants. This will be the subject in the next post of this series.

[1] Not taking non-profit organisations into account

woensdag 2 januari 2013

Information sharing in the supply chain – Part 1: The IT infrastructure

Due to a combination of recent technological developments (such as smartphones/tablets, wireless internet -WIFI, 4G-, social media, cloud computing and less expensive storage capacity) access to information has increased and sharing of information has been simplified. This has lead to an enormous increase in worldwide information flows over the past few years – a trend that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

However, without a well-organized informational infrastructure (informational processes, policies concerning information sharing, information systems and governance structure), the ever increasing flow of information will either result in organizations suffering from leakage of valuable information or an overload of information. On the other hand, organizations that proactively organize their informational infrastructure in alignment with their corporate governance and strategy may be able to capture the many benefits of the increased access to and sharing of information.

For many organizations, the technological developments mentioned above have opened doors to new levels of internal and external collaboration through the greater exchange of information. An example of this is the so-called Control Tower. Control Towers are cross-divisional organizations with system integrated “information hubs” that provide increased visibility into the supply chain. In such a cross-divisional organization, individuals continuously monitor and distribute filtered and integrated real-time information, which is collected internally from several systems within their own organizations and externally from organizations throughout the supply chain. This information enables individuals to detect and act on risks or opportunities more quickly. In addition to the flow of information, many organizations store a lot of this (partly publicly available) information. Smart use of this ‘Big Data’ may lead to competitive advantages for organizations. Of course, to realize these benefits, organizations will need individuals with the right analytical skill set. A rise in the prevalence of technology enabled systems and big data will therefore lead to a rise in the demand for individuals with the right analytical skills to leverage these trends.

The Control Tower is only one example of an initiative that an organization can undertake to integrate information from multiple sources - there are many more. However, any initiative must first overcome several technical barriers that exist due to the fact that most organizations have their own enterprise applications and data. The figure below depicts a simplified, high-level view of an organization’s IT-infrastructure. In the center you can see the orchestration of services which is responsible for integration of front-end services and ERP systems, such as SAP and Oracle. The pillar on the left represents security services like authentication and system security. On the right, another pillar represents the equally important governance services. This category includes services such as user support and supplier services.

The high number of different software packages used within many organizations today makes aligning these systems a complex task. This becomes even more difficult when organizations want to integrate the systems of their supply chain partners into their own IT-infrastructure. In general terms, there are two basic approaches to handling the problem of integrations of multiple systems:

1)      New organizations (or departments within an organization) are created that are specialized in interfacing. These organizations integrate several systems by using middleware and display all relevant information for the end-user in one portal.

2)      Software vendors provide solutions by extending their software packages. For example, a vendor that is specialized in S2P software extends its software package with modules such as planning and inventory management.

Over the coming years, the first approach is likely to outgrow the second because most software vendors are specialized in certain modules and lack the expertise to develop other modules (especially over the short term). Additionally, many organizations prefer the relatively easy implementation of middleware over implementing a complete new software package throughout the whole organization. This is mostly because the former has less impact on departments while the latter presents many challenges. This is especially true when organization’s current software packages are working properly and individuals are comfortable with the current state.

Finally, a possible third approach may develop over time: software vendors may collaborate or even merge in order to offer a more complete solution offering. Examples of this approach include SAP, which acquired Ariba, and IBM which acquired Emptoris. By doing so, these vendors offer a more extensive solution set for organizations while at the same time overcome any knowledge gaps that may exist.

Information sharing process

IT-infrastructure is very important but it is merely an enabler for information exchange. Assuming that the technical solution is in place, several other hurdles may appear in sharing information. These problems may show up when internally sharing information, but especially appear when information sharing takes place outside the boundaries of the organization.

Taking a closer look at externally exchanged information, it is easy to identify two distinct types: horizontal and vertical information sharing. Horizontal means sharing information with other organizations that are complementing each other (e.g., Philips and Douwe Egberts) or with competitors. Vertical sharing means sharing with your suppliers and /or customers. Although there are many advantages to exchanging information with buyers and suppliers, organizations are often hesitant to exchange certain types of information.

The remainder of this series of posts concerns the vertical information sharing process. What types of information is exchanged between buyers and suppliers? Which goals serve the exchange of certain types of information? Why is information sometimes not shared even though it obviously will result in an increase in profitability? And last but not least, what can we do to control the information sharing process in order to maximize profit? In the second part of this series, we will focus on the types of information that can be exchanged and how this may lead to benefits for organizations. The third post of this series elaborates on understanding the information exchange process itself. Here we take a closer look at the factors that drive information sharing and try to understand why or why not organizations choose to share information. Finally, in the fourth and final post of this series, we’ll share some advice for optimizing the exchange of information as well as some of the pitfalls that organizations often face.

zondag 30 december 2012

Information exchange between buyers and suppliers

Herewith an announcement of a series of post concerning the information exchange between buyers and suppliers. In this series answer are given on questions like: What types of information are exchanged between buyers and suppliers? Which goals serve the exchange of certain types of information? Why is information sometimes not shared even though it obviously will result in an increase in profitability? And last but not least, what can we do to control the information sharing process in order to maximize profit?
Before trying to answer these questions I start with a post on the IT (infrastructure) of organizations because it is an important enabler and accelerator for information exchange these days and therefore cannot be neglected. It shapes the context in which it takes place.
In the second part of this series, I will focus on the types of information that can be exchanged and how this may lead to benefits for organizations. The third post of this series elaborates on understanding the information exchange process itself. Here we take a closer look at the factors that drive information sharing and try to understand why or why not organizations choose to share information. Finally, in the fourth and final post of this series, I’ll share some advice for optimizing the exchange of information as well as some of the pitfalls that organizations often face.

I’ll hope you will like this series and I want to invite you all to comment on it. Stay tuned as the coming week the first post will appear.


vrijdag 28 december 2012

Book: Should cost models

This morning I was reading some blogs and websites on procurement, and suddenly I found an article about should cost models.

For those of you who followed my blogposts in 2010 and 2011, the content may sound familiar only somewhat less detailed than mine. In the blogpost I found a link to another article about should cost model on which the post was based. It is a very interesting article which the authors have based on a chapter of their book about (several) cost models (Victor Sower and Christopher Sower).

Although I get several requests a month from people who have read my blogpost on should cost modeling for more information or the examples it seems that there was some radio silence last year on should cost modeling (also from my side due to a busy time at my work with other procurement and scm related topics). But it is good to hear that the should cost modeling philosophy is still there. Every now and then a blogpost or book (or chapter in a book about it) appears and for me personally, it is good to read that the greater part of my blogposts are reflected in those messages, I guess it means that my philosophy back in 2010 made some sense.

I've just ordered the book, and I'm very curious about the detailed content!

Title:  Better Business Decisions Using Cost Modeling: For Procurement, Operations, and Supply Chain Professionals
Authors: Victor Sower and Christopher Sower

woensdag 7 maart 2012

Shift towards The Cloud

Many organizations (plan to) transfer their traditional arranged IT towards cloud-based solutions. Procurement IT solutions are not an exception here.

There are many advantages of cloud-based solutions, ranging from financial advantages to the quality of information sharing and planning, but what exactly is meant by the cloud? What are the pro’s and con’s? How is the security arranged?  What are the difference among, SaaS, PaaS and IaaS? How can I assure a solid and safe migration to the cloud? And so on...
Instead of writing a complete paper about ‘the cloud’ (because 'cloud-experts' will do a better job on this than I do) I provide some links to interesting papers which are easy accessible, may answer your questions and can provide you with some guidance for migration into the cloud.

Trends in Cloud computing report: Security in the cloud, a matter of orchestration (Dutch)

Trends in Cloud computing report: Security in the cloud, a matter of Control (English)

Cloud wheel - practical guide for a succesfull migration to the cloud (Dutch)

dinsdag 6 december 2011

The determinants of the vertical information exchange process

Why information exchange between buying organizations and suppliers is limited while both parties know it is beneficial to share information.

Although buyers and suppliers may have contradicting goals, they have at least one goal in common: Making profit.
When they (buyer and supplier) decide to cooperate they can increase their profitability. However, in order to increase the profitability and grasp the benefits of cooperation, information sharing between the buyer and supplier is a prerequisite.
They need to exchange information about their activities, processes, costs and value in order to map the overall picture of their relationship to come to a higher inter-firm profitability by aligning processes and activities on each other.
While it is widely acknowledged by buying companies and suppliers that sharing information is profitable for both of them, they are very hesitant to exchange any information. Although some reasons are obvious why certain information is not shared, those reasons do not clarify the complete behavior of the buyer and the supplier with respect to information exchange at all. This made me curious, I wanted to know why information is not exchanged, while both parties know it is profitable for them. And even more important what can buyers and/or suppliers do about it to improve the information exchange? What buttons do they have to switch in order to exchange more information and increase the profit of the buyer and the supplier.
In order to answer these questions, I conducted a study to open up the black box of vertical information sharing. I found several determinants of the vertical information exchange process which may clarify the reluctance of buying organizations and suppliers to share information. The determinants are also the buttons to switch in order to improve the information exchange.

Determinants of the vertical information exchange process
Several determinants of the vertical information exchange process are found: profitability (division/uncertainty), dependency, reciprocity, vulnerability (opportunism, impact), control, trust and culture. Each single determinant influences the information exchange process between a buyer and supplier. Besides this, it is important to notice the potential interaction among these determinants. In figure 1 the information exchange process between a buyer and supplier including the determinants is schematically depicted.

Figure 1 Schematic presentation of the information exchange process

In the middle of figure 1, the level of information disclosure is depicted which is subject to a direct influence of the first order determinants. It is a valid assumption that the first order determinants are influenced by other first order determinants and factors which have no direct influence on the level of information disclosure. These latter factors are called the second order determinants (not specified in this study). The arrows indicate the influence of the possible interaction among all determinants (1st order, 2nd order, n-order) and the level of information disclosure. The information exchange process takes place in a specific context (e.g. industry, market situation) at a specific point in time. Based on this figure, you can make a snapshot of the information exchange process between a buyer and supplier. This snapshot can serve as  base for looking for opportunities for increasing the information exchange.  

To find out more about this study, the determinants and how it affects the information sharing process, you can e-mail me for a free copy of this study.

zondag 30 oktober 2011

Innovation – the parallel between warfare and business

In this article the impact which technological innovations may have will be discussed.  It is an interesting and broad subject and the two pages to describe any of this is far too less. Therefore it must be obvious that my goal is not be exhaustive, but to point out some theoretical and practical topics on innovation in warfare and business in order to make you aware of it. Maybe it will even be useful to you in your way of doing business in the future.

- this article is part of a serie of articles called parallel between warfare and business -

Innovation in technology -  invention of the tank
The idea for the tank already existed years before the first world war as a substitute for manpower[1]. Nevertheless, a prototype was never made at that time due to  high costs and the necessity was not there (there was no war). When the first world war started, the development of the tank got accelerated; the first tanks were in use at small scale. The tanks were used to realize a breakthrough in the static defense lines consisting out of trenches and barbed wire which characterize the first world war.
Technical drawing of a 'United States'M26 Pershing heavy tank (Source)

Value of the innovation – specifying the use of the tank
Nevertheless, the real great value of the tank was not captured until the second world war.  It were the Germans who realized how to use the tank to capture its full value. After the first world war, they studied the use of the tanks in the first world war. The studied the advantages and the disadvantages[2] of the tank in order to create a better understanding of how a tank could be used in war.
In short: They realized that the tanks were strong and fast, and could create a breakthrough in the defense lines of the enemy. But what next? Follow up actions were not specified in world war one… The problem was, that the infantry could not keep up with the high speed of the tank. Therefore the breakthrough could not be consolidated and  terrain could not be captured.  Besides that , the tanks were strong, but on specific terrain they  are very  vulnerable if they are not accompanied with infantry (especially on the terrain of urban warfare). The solution would be to make sure the infantry could keep up with the tanks, so the Germans developed trucks and armored troop carriers which could transport the infantry to make sure the infantry could keep up with the tanks.

Change in processes – a new paradigm of warfare
Due to studying the first world war which they lost, the Germans looked for other ways of warfare, which may make them better and stronger. The searched for valuable lessons from their loss while the allies relied on their status quo instead. Why should we [Allies] change or be critical to our type of warfare? We won the war! There was no intention to be critical and learn…
Their critical view made the Germans see also the value which the tank may fulfill (see the previous paragraph of Value of the innovation). The invention, and later the development of the tank (which was accelerated due to the reluctance of  trench warfare and a threatening war, WWII) played a significant role in the change in warfare. The static warfare characterized by opposing trench-systems, shifted to a dynamic warfare characterized by surprise, speed and impact. Among other reasons, which are too complex to explain here and which deserve attention on their own, the innovation of the tank was one of the key-drivers of this shift in paradigm.
The technologic change also caused changes in processes. The development of the tank was probably one of the sources for a change of paradigm in warfare. It became much more dynamic, and it became known as the blitzkrieg. Roughly, the idea of the blitzkrieg was to focus on a specific point in the defense  of the enemy with a combination of infantry, panzer (tanks), airpower and even parachutists (Von Clausewitz called the focus on a specific point: schwerpunkt). Speed, power (impact) and surprise were the ingredients of this new dynamic type of warfare.

Carl von Clausewitz. Author of the book 'On War' (Source)

Luckily the Allies pulled themselves together and won the war. It is very likely that this will be discussed in later articles.
Lessons learned which may also be valuable for business
-          Most of the time technological changes, are not a success in itself. Processes ( in its broadest sense, varying from production processes to organizational & policy processes) may need to be changed to fully capture the value of a technological innovation.
-          Creating a breakthrough with new inventions (products, services) is not enough, you have to have next steps organized (or at least in mind). Capturing market share is good, but make sure you have resources and plans how to consolidate your market share.
-          What is the usefulness of an innovation? Although a new product is fantastic, if there is no market for it, be critical on the resources you spend on them. Spending resources on the development of tanks while you are in a naval warfare may not be the right way to utilize your resources at that moment.
-          Especially nowadays, it is dangerous to rely on your status quo. You have to be aware of changes and innovation in you direct and indirect surroundings (market). Your necessity for innovation may not (seem) to be high, but for other organizations it may be and once they have changed, they may have set a new standard which outcompetes yours. Your status quo has been vanished. In this complex and ever changing world, the term status quo may not be applicable anymore and may be a fairytale or utopia.
Anyway, the message is that it is dangerous to sit back and do nothing. Scan your market and (potential) competitors, even if you think they are not capable of doing anything (be aware of underdogs).
-          War makes people inventive, because the necessity for change and innovation is high. This causes a lot of new inventions (for example the tank, jet-fighter, just to name a few during the world wars) which make your standard useless.
This may also be applicable to businesses. Highly competitive markets make players on that market creative.
-          Every organization has limited resources. Think carefully where you use them for. Sometimes it may be better to focus your resources on a specific area (Schwerpunkt) instead of trying to compete with all your (potential) competitors on all fronts, there are just not enough resources to this. In the second world war, the Germans had to fight on multiple fronts against multiple enemies, they (luckily for us) just didn’t have enough resources to act on both theaters.
Translating Schwerpunkt to innovation in business, it is important to focus on a (or a few) specific innovation(s), because innovating is very expensive (but necessary, there is no status quo). But make the choice for a certain innovation carefully, based on a plan which includes the next steps to capture full value of your innovation and consolidate these. The plan should also include risk analysis (what if it doesn’t work out the way we thought it should). Draw up multiple scenario’s and make a choice based on theory and experience .
Although focusing your resources on a specific point, bear in mind that this may also be very dangerous, spread your risks. And make sure failure is compromised by other focus areas. Sometimes it may be better to have a few Schwerpunkts (focus areas).

[1] Even Leonardo da Vinci made drawings of a ‘tank’. The idea was to use the tank to create breakthroughs. It was not a fully substitute for manpower.
Da Vince's drawings of his invention of the tank (Source)
[2] Knowing what you are not capable of, is a great strength

donderdag 20 oktober 2011

Strategic decision making - what can managers learn from war-strategists?

Several authors discuss the usefulness of strategy & tactics as it is applied in war, for using it in business. They talk about the similarities between the battlefield and business. To my opinion there are more differences than similarities between a real battlefield and business. Nevertheless, much can be learned from the approaches to strategy used in war.

Especially nowadays the informative value of insights about strategic decision making in war for managers can be very high, because most markets are continuously and rapidly changing. Decisions have to be taken on short terms with limited information while the impact of the decisions are high and critical. Waiting for actions of competitors is not an option, you will lose the initiative and will be behind on your competitors. Losing initiative will in some markets lead to losing a battle, or even worse: lose the war.
The highly competitive and rapidly changing environment looks to a certain extent like situations which we see in war. War strategists (officers) have to make decision under great time-pressure with limited information (of which the reliability can be questioned), while the impact is high.
Let there be no misunderstanding; the impact of decisions in war are much higher as these are in business. No doubts here, as wartime decisions are decisions concerning the lives of human beings. Nevertheless, the way of thinking which officers have when making strategic decision, can be very useful for managers in business, because sometimes business can look like a battlefield. Approaching the business like a battlefield can be useful in these rapidly changing and highly competitive world.

Some examples of authors which make the parallel between strategy in war and strategy in business are:

Jan Jaap Brouwer – Schaduwen over de woestijn (Dutch book)
Robert Ogilvie – Krijgen is een kunst (Dutch book)
Sun-Tzu and Gary Gagliardi - The Art of War for the Management Warrior: Sun Tzu's Strategy for Managers
More will follow…

Much of these books are based on books/studies of classic war-strategists (which are very interesting and inspiring) like:

Machiavelli – the prince
Carl von Clausewitz – On War
Sun Tzu – The art of war

But there are also many examples of (battles of) more recent wars (WW I, WWII, Vietnam).

The plan is to post in the near future some theory accompanied by examples (based on books or written by myself) about strategic topics in war related to strategic supply chain management, procurement and strategy in business. This serie of articles is called: The parallel between warfare and business

New posts will be announced on my twitter account:

woensdag 8 juni 2011

Nothing new about ‘Total Value of Ownership’

When I saw a report of Accenture (2011) I got triggered to write this text. Why? Well Accenture says the right thing when they are stating that Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) models are well accepted these days. It continues to argue that these days, procurement is more and more focusing on Total Value of Ownership (TVO), nothing wrong with that, I couldn’t agree more!  
What then, triggered me to write this post? Well not just Accenture, but many more organizations, experts, books, etcetera argue about the present focus on TVO, and many of them (not all), as if TVO is something new which they write or talk about for the first time. But it’s not something which just has appeared today, it’s an incremental trend (don’t take trend to literally) which has started years earlier, especially in countries like China and Japan.

Even in scientific articles, the Total Value of Ownership has been described before.
Morssinkhof, Wouters & Warlop wrote in 2005 already about the Total Value of Ownership. They argue that The TVO concept recognizes that the value of a higher priced offering may come from revenue improvements and not only, or not at all, come from total cost savings. They continue to argue that a firm may be able to offer a better end-product to its (end) customers (at the end of the chain) when working together with a particular supplier (and with that increase its revenues).

When going further back in time we see that, in 1989, Michael Porter also wrote about a concept which is quite similar, or has at least some overlapping parts (maybe at a somewhat a higher theoretical level. Indeed… Value Chain Analysis (VCA). Value Chain Analysis as proposed by Porter (1989) captures both the TCO and the TVO perspectives by focusing on costs and differentiation (value) at the same time. By having this combined focus, VCA strives for a competitive advantage which is expected to result in an increase in profitability.

In the spring of 2010, I started writing my Master Thesis. I was writing about information exchange between buyers and suppliers, because I experienced the difficulties in sharing information between buyers and suppliers (both parties were hesitant to disclose information) while both parties realized that sharing information (in many cases) is profitable. I used several theoretical frameworks, but besides that  I also had to describe ‘profitability’ with respect to buyer-supplier relationships. The idea of TVO attracted my attention, but at the same time I realized that cost (TCO) should be taken into account as these two (TVO and TCO) are  inextricably linked with each other (see my thesis how cost (TCO) and revenue (TVO) interact with each other).  In order to clarify  profitability within a buyer supplier relationship, I combined the two perspectives and made one new perspective of it:
Total Inter-firm Profitability perspective. The TIP-perspective looks at the total cost incurred and the total value created by a buyer and supplier for a specific product/service-transaction in that buyer-supplier relationship. It refers to the total profitability of a (part of the) supply chain instead of the profitability of one focal organisation.

To be clear, this post is not about what perspective is better, more useful, etcetera, because that is dependent on many other things (maybe something to write about later), but the goal was to show you that TVO is not as new as some people say it is.  
Yes: Nowadays, TVO is very relevant in procurement (and probably will be coming years? Decennia?)
No: TVO is nothing new

dinsdag 17 mei 2011

Information overload - in- or outsource 'Intel 2.0'

Interesting post of Steve Hall on the procurement blog about the changing nature of buyer-supplier relationship.
Some comments on a point he suggests:

  • Greater pricing transparency:  eSourcing and procurement’s intrepid scrutiny into still-cloaked categories are bringing increasing price transparency.  Global trading networks and online communities will take this up a notch, further decreasing the importance of price negotiations.  “The Cloud,” predicts Roy Anderson, former CPO of Metlife, “will force price transparency.  Savings will be tied to things like discounts and rebates for reaching certain volumes or paying early.”

  • Although he certainly has a good point here, I have some remarks:

    1) this greater pricing transparency is highly dependent on good eProcurement software which is professionally implemented and used in a proper way by the organization. Furthermore this eProcurement software depends on the informaiton input, see point 2

    2) Although the internet is providing more and more access to a lot of information (also on price information), it is creating its own pitfall: an overload of information (and what about the reliability of the information?). With this, a new market is created for organizations which deliver the service to deal with the complexity of this information overload. This market is growing with on the one hand the more general search engines which can be used to organize to a certain extent this information (although it's more gathering than organizing it), on the other hand there exist more specialized organizations/communities which focus on specific markets and industries. Nevertheless, I think this 'new' market is still growing, and will be growing along with the increase of the information overload.
    Of course it is not a completely new market because we all know google and similar search engines. Furthermore there are several (more specialized) marketing associations who act in this new market. Anyway due to the growing information overload the role of 'gatekeeper' for information will become increasingly important in the future. It may determine your competitive advantage as organizations and managers act based on the information. Therefore an important question for organizations with respect to the future will be: in- or outsource 'Intel 2.0'?

    Logically, this question adresses more than just procurement, and is a strategic question (of importance).

    3) I think  that, dependent on the market situation, the subject of negotiation remains to take a solid place in the S2C process (especially in conservative slow moving industries) when contracting new suppliers

    Nevertheless, I suggest to read the article of Steve Hall as it is very interesting. Furthermore he also wrote a part II.

    woensdag 30 maart 2011

    Compliance in the world of procurement

    Hello All,

    I’m not sure whether there is one right answer, but I was curious to your definition/ breakdown of compliance with respect to procurement?

    I was thinking about the following breakdown of compliance (in the world of procurement):

    maandag 28 maart 2011

    Supply Chain Costs

    In my article on costs, I provided the following figure.

    Value and Costs

    Despite the upcoming trend of 'value', costs remain important!!

    The concept 'value' continues to take a central position in procurement. With respect to the position of Procurement I consider this as a positive trend and it contributes to the fact that in many organizations procurement is shifting from a support to a strategic function. There is a lot to gain for procurement with respect to value, nevertheless, 'value' is linked to 'costs'; it are two sides of the same coin. Therefore an article is expected concerning a more holistic view of procurement in which costs and value are not seen as two separate concepts, but two intertwined concepts.

    Industry data sources

    Some months ago, I posted an article about should cost modeling based on industry averages. There are multiple ways to extraxt industry data. A lot of them are to a certain extent available on the internet, some are free, some need registration and other need a paid membership.

    I will post some of them here,

    woensdag 23 februari 2011

    Interesting article on should cost modelling by Jonathan O'Brien

    Interesting article on should-cost modelling written by Jonathan O'Brien:


    His emphasize on the power balance and the market situation is vert important! Although a very interesting piece of thought leadership, the aim is solely focused on adversarial relationships with suppliers, meanwhile fully ignoring the cooperative way in should cost modelling.

    dinsdag 18 januari 2011

    Interview on should cost modelling

    Some days ago, I responded to a post on a blog, which was actually a respons on another post on a different weblog, which, on its turn, was based upon an interview about shoud cost modeling. Still following me?
    Well, in this post you'll find this interesting interview about should cost modelling. it is an interview with Tim Reis (Sourcing Manager).

    Some points I want to highlight of this interview are:

    maandag 17 januari 2011

    How to use the should cost price?

    (ppt summary of this article will follow soon)

    How to use the outcome of a should cost model (the should cost price)

    Although I only discussed the should cost model method based on industrial averages, I thought it might be interesting to write a piece about what one can do when you have calculated the should cost price of a product.

    So, once you have the should cost price, what next? How are you
    going to use the should cost price? What is the best method to use a should cost price?

    donderdag 13 januari 2011

    Expected: How to use the outcome of a should cost model

    On this blog, I will mainly write about should cost modeling, the concept is now introduced and I gave until now just one method how to perform a should cost model (by using industry averages). Other ways (including examples) will follow soon, but it is also important to know what you can do with a should cost price. Therefore my next post will be about ‘how to use the outcome of a should cost model’.

    Innovation Driven Procurement

    As procurement is still often seen as a supporting function it is mainly only involved after a product is already developed which leaves the procurement with a limited supplier base in which they only can negotiate. The value that procurement may deliver is then fully neglected by the business. Involving procurement earlier in the process, or even in the development phase of the product, unties procurement and will give procurement the opportunity to add value. This is also called innovation driven procurement. On this blog: you will find more about this new interesting concept.