Archives October 2021

Chain Reaction Podcast Timing is Everything

Timing is everything says Tony Hines when it comes to achieving supply chain advantage. Whether it is how long it takes to procure goods, process work-flows or transport goods (raw materials, work-in-progress or finished inventories) to the customer. Time endows advantage. Of course time can also be a problem if you do not manage it well. Managing time in supply chains is a risk. Ther are uncertainities beyond your control that give rise to risks that you may not have factored in. Even the most savvy supply chain professionals are subject to it. Take the current issues in global supply chains with ports experiencing delays in handling cargo. Satelite pictures of ports in California showed about seventy ships lining up waiting to discharge containers at Los Angeles. Long Beach too has delays. About 40 per cent of US Container traffic passes through these two ports. In the UK too at Felixstowe which handles about 36 per cent of the UK container traffic there are similar problems. In the US it has been taking up to 14 days to get ships into port and in the UK 6 days. There is also increased dwell time in turning around containers. It has risen form 4 days to 10 in the UK. The Biden Administration brought those involved in the US crisis to the table to discuss practical solutions and gain commitments.  This is seen as a postive move and parties are keen to operate ports 24/7 to get the job done. In the UK the underlying problem is the shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers to clear the ports and get containers in the right places. Time is everything because these delays are costly for everyone the shippers, the ports, the hauliers, the customers and those managing the various operations. A number of large retailers have been agile in trying to manage the risk by hiring their own vessels to move goods. These are generally smaller ships to weave in between the larger ships and to drop cargo at smaller facilities to avoid the backlogs. Home Depot's Sara Caliga said the idea started as a joke saying they would charter the ships themselves to get the job done but that's exactly what they have done. Wal-Mart said their strategy was to hire smaller ships to move goods more quickly. IKEA, Target and Costco are all doing something similar. Cocal Cola said it was using smaller vessels usually used for grain or coal to move their products around. In the UK the John Lewis Partnership runs 34 department stores and about 374 Waitrose Stores and it too committed to charter ships on 16th September to ensure they had supplies for the run up to Christmas. Hiring ships is not cheap. It is also not a skill expected of retailers to run the shipping operation so it will be interesting to see how they do. These retailers are looking to secure the high velocity inventories the goods that make them most profit. Listen to the podcast and find out more.

Electricity shortages in China have impacted production capacity as factories in some of the biggest industrial areas have had to close. This is in addition to the problems experienced from the pandemic shutdowns that occur with China's no tolerance policy to Covid. This will mean more disruptions to some goods. Recent closures in Vietnam have also seen some production move from their to China but Vietnam is now opening up again. 

The UK is still impacted from the HGV driver shortage (100,000) meaning goods are not moving as quickly as they should. This is impacting the UK's largets container ports. This week the reintroduction of cabotage by the UK Government means that EU drivers can do more pick ups in the UK but this has not gone down well with UK hauliers who fear their work will be taken away by EU firms.

Chain Reaction Podcast Troubled Waters – Energy, Shortages, Ships and Policies

In this episode Tony Hines looks at the troubled waters everywhere in supply chains. As the world is slowly opening up trade again excessive demand for energy, shipping and other goods has put pressure on struggling supply chains grappling with labour shortages. In Europe wholesale gas prices increased by 60 per cent in just one day before falling back. This was a result of Russia controlling supplies into the EU. In the United Kingdom the rocketing price of energy has resulted in industries that are big energy users such as steel, chemicals, aggregates, ceramics and glass asking for the government to help out. Government policies to decarbonize and to switch to renewables and greener sources have put energy supplies at risk because they have not developed sufficient green and clean energy capacity at the same level that they have removed fossil fuels sources and nuclear. 

Shortages are everywhere in supply chains from supermarket food supplies through to fuel for transport and energy. This week in the UK David Lewis a former CEO of Tesco was appointed by the UK Government as an adviser on supply chains so let's hope he can bring some order to the chaos. Meanwhile the PM is on holiday not playing his fiddle but painting in Spain.  

In California we still have ships lining up to be unloaded at ports and now in the UK too at Felixstowe ships are waiting six days to get unloaded. Some large container vessels have been rerouted to Rotterdam and Antwerp and cargo is being sent to the UK on smaller vessels to avoid the queus. It is also taking 10 days to move boxes whereas this dwell time usually averages just 4 days.

Government in the UK are under pressure to introduce policies to hel out some industries that are big energy users. All in all we have troubled waters in supply chains.

Chain Reaction Podcast Just In Time Not Too Late

This episode discusses some issues affecting supply chains in the news this week. They include: Problems for Pig Farmers in the UK; The Oil Spill in the Amplify Pipeline in California; Ways to lower your carbon footprint in supply chains and what governments are doing to achieve net zero targets; There are still supply chain issues in the UK because of a shortage of HGV drivers and the shortages of fuel at service station forecourts. Increasing costs are driving up inflationary pressures along with wholesale gas prices all of which will feed into consumer prices. The UK is still adjusting to life outside of the European Union and a failure of planning and preparation has exacerbated the disruptions to supply chains being experienced.
 Many efficiencies achieved in supply chains have come about during the past thirty years as just-in-time systems were implemented. JiT reduces time taken to produce and move goods to customers but some of that good work has been undone by recent supply chain disruptions and people are beginning to question the approach. Tony Hines argues that efficiency is the key to having a successful supply chain and Just-in-Time is a concept and practice to do that. He argues you can be resilient and efficient but it takes a little work, keeping costs low in supply chains helps everyone and the benefits outweigh any disadvantages. Some of the key benefits are: lower cost; reduces carbon footprint; customers get goods when they want them and wastage is reduced in production.