Article | April 20, 2021
You might be wondering what the benefits are of benchmarking. Well, imagine you are training for a 100 metre sprint in your district. What would be the key number, or metric that you would need to know?
It would, of course, be what the winning time was when this race was last run in your district. Without that information, you don’t know what you’re trying to target. It would be impossible to know if you’ll have any chance at all of winning the race.
It’s exactly the same in business. If, for example, you are concerned about the pick rates in your warehouse, or your transport costs, or your inventory accuracy, benchmarking can help you because it can show you exactly where your performance is compared to others in your industry.
A few years ago, I was working with an automotive parts business. They had a little issue with their picking productivity in the warehouse. They wondered how good it was, whether they could improve it. They actually thought it was okay.
We looked at the figures and compared them with other businesses. This helped us realise that their picking productivity should be three times better than it was. And believe it or not, over a few months they did begin to improve their productivity.
Why? Because benchmarking opened their eyes to the fact that they were at a level quite far below others in the industry.
That’s the beauty of benchmarking. Until you know what others are doing, you can’t be sure how good your performance is.
If you’ve never tried benchmarking, there are three ways you could do it.
1. Informal Benchmarking
This exercise would involve you measuring particular functions or aspects of your business and comparing that against other parts of your business. Let’s say you have a warehouse operating in one city and another operating in another city. You might start to measure the same metrics and see which one is performing better.
You might know other people in the industry who are also operating warehouses so you might agree to share some data with them.
This is probably the easiest way to start off, but it has some downsides:
You’re only measuring against a very small sample size. If all of you in the pool are not that good, how would you know what good is?
You have to make sure that the businesses are similar and you are measuring things in exactly the same way. It’s very important in benchmarking to have a standard way of applying the metric.
2. Formal Benchmarking
This can work for much larger businesses. Perhaps you have operations in many different countries. You could agree a formal structure for how you are going to measure performance. You could do monthly or quarterly benchmarks with all the parts of your international organisation. You could learn from each other and share best practice.
This method is okay but you’re not getting access to a very large pool of results to measure yourself against. You will find that companies are very reluctant to give out benchmarking data. You might also be operating in an environment where the performance is quite low right across the business.
3. Hire a Professional Benchmarking Firm
This is the ultimate way to do it, although there are not a lot of professional benchmarking firms such as ours around. If you do manage to find one, you will quickly realise that there are significant benefits to be had by bringing in the professionals:
The metrics are put together in exactly the same way: When we do a benchmarking exercise for our consulting clients, we go through a very robust data-gathering process and then make sure all the costs, for example, are in the same buckets as everyone else’s in the database.
You gain access to a big pool of results: Professionals have measured hundreds, if not thousands, of companies. This enables you to say, ‘Our company is this size, it operates in this industry, these are the characteristics of our supply chain, who else in that pool of results is like us? We want to be measured against them.”
It’s no good measuring the performance of a grocery retailer, for example, against an industrial product supplier. They have different supply chains. You need to be measuring like with like.
Article | May 31, 2021
Supply chain is the backbone of any business. Since there is a supply chain in existence, you can buy whatever product you want. The supply chain is evolving since the Industrial Revolution, and it is still changing, and the evolution journey is fascinating. Before moving forward with the article, first, let's understand supply chain and supply chain management.
What is a Supply Chain?
A supply chain is an entire process of producing and selling commercial goods, beginning with the procurement of raw materials and ending with the distribution and sale of the goods. The supply chain ensures that a product is available in the right place, at the right time, and the lowest possible cost while ensuring the product quality. The supply chain aims to provide the maximum value to the customer at the minimum likely costs. The supply chain is the single most significant expense for businesses, and it provides them with a tremendous opportunity to improve and increase savings and profit margins. The price of most products is competitive in the market, but the supply chain determines the product's profit margin. The demand for products and services fluctuates for various reasons, and meeting this fluctuating demand with a higher degree of quality requires knowledge of supply chain management. Effective supply chain management is essential for any business to compete in the market.
What is Supply Chain Management?
Supply chain management is an essential factor in a business's long-term success. The management of how goods and services evolve from raw materials to products sold to consumers is known as supply chain management. It includes the processes of transporting and storing raw materials, storing finished goods until they sell, and tracking where sold goods go so that you can use the data to boost future sales. Supply Chain Management includes all aspects of business activities, including logistics, purchasing, and information technology. Materials, finances, suppliers, manufacturing plants, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers are all combined into a single system. A business with a well-managed supply chain can significantly reduce all operating costs associated with that chain, resulting in higher profits. The main goal of effective supply chain management is to increase profitability by improving customer satisfaction and reducing business costs. Profits improve as expenses are in control and reduced when possible. When the costs of purchasing raw materials and manufacturing goods drop, the operating costs also decrease.
Challenges in Supply Chain Management
There are many challenges related to supply chain management. In this section, we will focus on some of the most significant supply chain management challenges.
• Visibility: It is a significant issue in supply chain management. Businesses are unable to track all international cargo. The majority of data on the ocean or air shipments is often unavailable. Between 2008 and 2016, an average of 600 containers lost at sea (it does not include catastrophic incidents). These figures are concerning because the amount of cargo shipped over time is rapidly rising.
• Uncertainty: Uncertainty has been difficult in supply chain management. Demand planning is essential because many businesses have massive amounts of leftovers. If it is perishable, it is thrown away. There is a lot of waste, and it's all because of bad planning. In addition, initial raw materials may be unreliable, or lead time may be unpredictable. It isn't easy to be confident of any part of the supply chain, mainly because it is an extensive system.
• Customer Service: Supply chain management is all about getting the right product to the correct location at the right time. It seems easy at first, but it can quickly become complicated.
• Cost Management: Increasing energy/fuel and freight costs, a more significant number of global customers, technology, rising labor wages, new regulations, and rising commodity prices all strain operating costs.
• Planning and Risk Management: Annual reviews and redesigns are needed to be efficient and effective. These changes are in reaction to market changes, such as new product releases, global sourcing, credit availability, and the need to protect intellectual property. To monitor and minimize these threats, they must be identified and quantified.
• Supplier/Partner Relationship Management: It is crucial to create, understand, and follow mutually agreed standards to understand current performance and areas for improvement better. Using two separate approaches to measure and communicate performance results is a waste of time and resources. Trusting the system that was in place to ensure consistency and better supplier/partner relationships is necessary.
Emerging Trends in Supply Chain
The supply chain process is continuously evolving. The emerging supply chain and logistics trends prioritize intelligent, tech-driven management to minimize operational costs and enhance efficiency. The logistics and supply chain aspect is vital for any business in supplying high-quality raw materials, ensuring an efficient manufacturing process, and tracking, shipping, and storing finished goods.
Companies that implement well-designed supply chain practices can satisfy customer needs more quickly and efficiently. This improves customer relationships and loyalty, resulting in increased revenue and the acquisition of new customers through positive word of mouth.
Let's look at some significant emerging trends that are expected to shape and develop supply chain operations in the future.
Digitization of Supply Chains
Digitization is the process of reinventing logistics operations by combining the latest technology with other physical and digital assets. Digitization allows us to better adapt to the fast-paced, highly competitive, omnichannel business environment.
Digitization increases the speed, dynamics, and resiliency of supply chain operations, resulting in improved customer responsiveness and, ultimately, increased revenue. Companies that embrace digitalization can gain genuine value, improved revenue, and market valuation.
Companies should significantly redesign their supply chain strategy to gain the full benefits of digitization. It is not enough to decorate it with digital technology.
The Internet of Things (IoT) occupies a significant position in digitalization as a highly transformational technology solution in the logistics sphere. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of interconnected computing devices that allows data to be sent over networks without human input. It assists businesses in monitoring inventory, managing warehouse stock, optimizing fleet routes, and reducing dead miles.
Advanced Artificial Intelligence solutions have several uses in the supply chain, particularly in the warehousing area. The procurement process involves using gesture recognition solutions instead of keyboard and mouse. It also includes self-driving vehicles, which are designed to navigate without human assistance.
In the supply chain, the concept of robotics and automation is widely implemented. The new generation of robots is easier to program, more flexible, and more affordable. Their job is to help employees with repetitive and physically challenging tasks.
Enhanced Supply Chain Visibility
Proper supply chain data analysis can significantly boost business forecasting and decision-making. It can also optimize the use of inventory management, storage, and transportation resources.
Supply chain visibility provides information on what is happening at each stage of the supply chain. It is crucial for the overall efficiency of the supply chain process, which includes sourcing, manufacturing, transportation, and delivery.
Real-time inventory management is one of the advantages of enhanced chain visibility. It uses mobile point-of-sale systems and sensors, and it elevates inventory management to a whole new level.
For example, instead of paying for purchased goods at a store, customers can take the desired products and have the products immediately charged to their credit and debit cards. Furthermore, real-time inventory management allows for the replacement of goods as they are consumed.
Circular Supply Chain
The term "linear supply chain" refers to the traditional concept where goods travel in a straight line (from raw material to finished product). Modern logistics techniques are focused on the circular supply chain idea, which involves reusing previously, used products as raw materials.
Reusing products and materials is referred to as reverse logistics, and it is a novel and innovative technique. It assists businesses in reducing administrative and transportation expenses, increasing sustainability, improving customer service and loyalty, creating value, and conserving resources.
Used products can be kept in circulation if businesses work together with their suppliers and customers.
More focus on Risk Management and Supply Chain Resiliency
Without a doubt, companies must seriously consider supply chain risk management as a means to prepare for unfavorable circumstances. The increasing use of outsourcing, offshoring, product versatility, supply chain security, and significant interdependence across the supply chain highlights the need to deal with risks in the supply chain.
However, no matter how solid the plan is, it cannot prevent errors from happening. Here's where supply chain resilience comes into play. It is an accurate indicator of a company's ability to survive disruptive circumstances.
Visibility throughout the supply chain is necessary to detect disruptions, close collaboration with suppliers and distributors so that alternative supply routes can be found, and a good incident response plan to provide a course of action when disruption occurs are all steps that are important to make the supply chain more flexible and resilient.
Use of SaaS in the Supply Chain
The software-as-a-service (SaaS) Sapproach is growing in popularity in supply chain technology and logistics management and the growth of cloud computing. This is primarily due to SaaS's security and safety and the convenience of paying for precisely the services you require. Companies can avoid the high fixed costs of system maintenance, upgrades, and infrastructure-related expenditures by using SaaS.
Supply chains are continuously evolving technology, and the diversity of employee skill sets is playing an essential role in this evolution. Organizations are becoming more conscious of changes in their market competition and continuously updating or even reinventing their market offering to maintain and develop their market positioning.
Many companies are already turning to technology to improve their supply chain operations; however, before new systems are implemented and employees are upskilled to adapt to new ways of working, existing processes must be reviewed to eliminate waste activities from the supply chain, and data must be cleansed. To meet consumer demands, supply chains must be constantly checked for efficiency improvements and aligned with corporate strategy. At present, many organizations are reviewing the length of their supply chains, intending to minimize the overall size and bring supply chains closer to the organization or the end consumer, reduce risk exposure, eliminate waste, and align with corporate strategy.
• What are the three foundations of supply chain?
The three foundations of a supply chain are strategy, service, and cost. Aligning the strategy, service and cost is essential to support your company’s overall business growth and objectives. A good strategy along with good service and reduced costs helps in increasing profitability and customer satisfaction.
• What are the pillars of supply chain?
Plan, Source, Make, Deliver and Return are the pillars of supply chain.
Planning involves strategies and methods to be planned, Sourcing means procuring raw materials and other services, Making means manufacturing, Deliver means ensuring that the products reach the customers on time and Return means post delivery customer support that is associated with all kinds of returned products.
• Why supply chain management is important?
The management of how goods and services evolve from raw materials to products sold to consumers is known as supply chain management. It includes the processes of transporting and storing raw materials, storing finished goods until they sell, and tracking where sold goods go so that you can use the data to boost future sales. A business with a well-managed supply chain can significantly reduce all operating costs associated with that chain, resulting in higher profits. The main goal of effective supply chain management is to increase profitability by improving customer satisfaction and reducing business costs.
"name": "What are the three foundations of supply chain?",
"text": "The three foundations of a supply chain are strategy, service, and cost. Aligning the strategy, service and cost is essential to support your company’s overall business growth and objectives. A good strategy along with good service and reduced costs helps in increasing profitability and customer satisfaction."
"name": "What are the pillars of supply chain?",
"text": "Plan, Source, Make, Deliver and Return are the pillars of supply chain.
Planning involves strategies and methods to be planned, Sourcing means procuring raw materials and other services, Making means manufacturing, Deliver means ensuring that the products reach the customers on time and Return means post delivery customer support that is associated with all kinds of returned products."
"name": "Why supply chain management is important?",
"text": "The management of how goods and services evolve from raw materials to products sold to consumers is known as supply chain management. It includes the processes of transporting and storing raw materials, storing finished goods until they sell, and tracking where sold goods go so that you can use the data to boost future sales. A business with a well-managed supply chain can significantly reduce all operating costs associated with that chain, resulting in higher profits. The main goal of effective supply chain management is to increase profitability by improving customer satisfaction and reducing business costs."
Article | August 18, 2021
A sector which has been heavily disrupted in the last years is the mobility sector. Following decades of "car being king", we have reached a saturation and mentality shift. People want to be more healthy and more ecological (sustainable) and also avoid losing precious time in traffic jams. As a result a whole eco-system of companies has been created to find solutions for this.
This article tries to provide an overview of the trends in this market, with a focus on the Belgian market.
First of all when looking at mobility and the offers on the market it is important to make a distinction between private and professional displacements. This last category can additionally be split up between the daily commute and professional displacements during working hours.
When looking at private mobility (the so-called B2C market), the car remains an important pilar. Especially for families with (young) children it remains difficult to do everything without a car. Obviously, there is a trend to be more sustainable, which is reflected in more sales of hybrid and electric vehicles, more usage of (e)bikes and (e)steps and an increasing usage of shared mobility options (like shared bikes, steps or cars).
Statistics from China, which is already the furthest in the post-Covid era, show that most mobility options have lost terrain (compared to pre-Covid), with the exception of the car and bike. The car, although still not very sustainable, is still the most flexible and has the least chance for contamination. Especially the flexibility will become more important as office hours also become more flexible. Additionally due to the increased home working, in some cities traffic jams have considerably reduced, making room again for more people to switch back from public transport to their car.
Additionally there is the bike. This is a very flexible, individual, healthy and sustainable mode of transportation that many have discovered during the crisis. Furthermore with ebikes becoming more and more common, bigger distances can be covered without needing to be in excellent physical shape.
The professional mobility (i.e. B2B(2C) market) is however even more in evolution, as governments provide all kinds of fiscal incentives to change the mobility habits of employees and employers. Furthermore employers want to offer more flexibility (in working hours, in working location and in mobility options) and less administrative burden to their employees, allow them to profit from those fiscal incentives (resulting in an increased buying power) and become more sustainable.
As a result a variety of new offers to be more flexible and optimally profit of those extra-legal advantages has come to the market. This makes it very complex for an employer to find his way in this tangle.
Obviously, every company is unique, with multiple axes determining which mobility options are possible and best suited for the company:
The location of the company, i.e. Is the company situated in a city with a lot of mobility difficulties (traffic jams)? Is the company situated near public transport options? Is the company situated in a city where a lot of shared mobility options are available? Are the employees typically living close or far away from the company? Which kind of parking facilities does the company have? Does the company have multiple offices geographically spread over the country?
The type of work done at the company, i.e. Does the work require physical presence at a specific location (i.e. time- and location-dependent work)? Is remote work possible? Does the work require a lot of displacements to customers (and/or partners, suppliers…) during working hours?
The type of employees working at the firm, i.e. Are the employees typically living close or far away from the company? What is the age distribution of the employees within the company (e.g. lot of young people, lot of employees with children…)? How strong is the war for talent for the desired employees, forcing the employer to offer a lot of extra advantages to attract people?
The size of the company, i.e. a bigger company has the means to setup more complex mobility plans/options, as they often have dedicated people within HR specialized in these setups.
This makes it difficult to define a "one-solution-that-fits-all" approach, but rather a more tailored approach is required, with some degree of customization per customer.
Promoting commuting by bike via bike leasing and a bike allowance is mainly interesting for companies with employees not living too far away from the company and not requiring doing customer or other professional displacements during working hours. Additionally it depends on the profile of the employees and the safety of the trajectory between the home of the employees and the office. Note that 54% of Belgian employees does not want to use a bike to come to work, with the main reason people finding it too dangerous. At the other hand a similar percentage of employees indicates they would be very interested in options like bike leasing and bike allowances.
Shared mobility options are of course only interesting in the bigger cities, where those options are also strongly available. As a result incorporating those options in a mobility plan does not make much sense when the employer is situated in a location where those options are (almost) not available.
The same applies for "multi-modal transportation" (and the associated multi-modal route planners), which are also only interesting in the larger cities where multiple mobility options are readily available. Furthermore a company introducing this multi-modal mobility concept should be able to put a whole change management trajectory in place, as it requires discovering new mobility options and changing existing commute habits (for most employees the commute is a routine activity, which they do in "auto-pilot")
Setting up a Cafeteria plan or Mobility budget can be quite complex, making the costs and effort, especially for smaller firms, not always outweigh the benefits. New digital solutions can provide a (partial) solution to this, but they typically do not take away the uncertainties for employers to deal with something they do not fully understand.
Electric cars are still difficult for people doing large distances on a regular basis, due to their limited action radius and the too low number of charging stations (especially in the South of Belgium). On the other hand for companies where employees come to the office the whole day and that have the required space to setup charging stations, this can be a very interesting option both fiscally and ecologically.
Collective organized transport is typically only economically viable for large companies, for which a large number of employees are coming from the same region. Platforms exist to manage this cross-employers, but this raises a number of other concerns and reduces the added-value.
Options like "no-mobility" (i.e. home working) and "less-mobility" (flex-offices / co-working places) depend on the work culture and the type of work to be done. For some companies the shift to homeworking during the Covid-confinements was already a serious stretch, which will take years to get fully absorbed. Introducing new concepts like "flex-offices" (co-working places) is probably a bridge too far, especially as there is still a lot of unclarity of who will be paying (and what the fiscal implications are) for the office space (employee paying out of his mobility budget or employer paying) and even more for the added-services like drinks, snacks, catering…
In general employers have a big interest to do something around mobility, but when having to deal with all complexity (fiscal and operational concerns like policies, load administration…), many employers drop out. Employers fear especially all exceptions, as they often represent hidden costs and lot of extra effort. E.g. what happens if an employee leaves the company? What if someone is fired? What about the liability in case of accidents/theft/vandalism? What will be the exact total cost for me as an employer? How do I need to manage VAT? What is the exact value of benefit of all kind for the employee? Which proofs do I need to collect for the tax authorities? Does it fit with the agreements made in the collective labor agreement of the joint committee?…
These questions mainly originate from the existing unclarities in the fiscal regime, which is due to the fact that many HR managers are not yet acquainted with these new offers, the fact that new mobility offers are created continuously (making it impossible for the government to stay up-to-date) and the continuous change in regulation (e.g. "Mobility Budget", "Company Car Legislation"…).
This lack of maturity in the industry puts a break on the adoption and this maturation might take years to unfold. E.g. meal vouchers took 40 years to arrive to a market penetration of 50%, while this is a much simpler HR product than most mobility options. Until this maturity level is reached, resulting in more well-known, better integrated, more frictionless and cheaper offers, the traditional company mobility options of reimbursing public transport subscriptions and salary cars will remain mostly used. Those are still most widely known by HR managers, are fiscally still very interesting and fit well the needs and desires of most employees.
This last argument is important, as no mobility option will become mainstream unless employees are happy with it. This means the mobility option should not only give a solution for "Professional displacements" but also for the "Private displacements" (in evenings, weekend, holidays…), often with the whole family.
Nonetheless we see the market is maturing and transforming, as millions of euros of VC money are invested in promising new start-ups. Almost all of those start-ups are not profitable yet but given the market potential a few of them could grow out to become unicorns. Today’s students are more acquainted and open for these new mobility services, so likely some of them will become mainstream in the next decade.
Today a whole eco-system of young start-ups and existing incumbent players are offering mobility services, like
Car leasing companies: Alphabet, ALD Automotive, ING Lease, KBC Autolease, LeasePlan, ARVAL…
Car rental companies: Sixt, Avis, Dockx, Hertz, Rent a car…
Car sharing companies (in the form of cars that can be easily used for individual trips up to platforms facilitating sharing your private car or co-driving): Cambio, Poppy, Partago, Zipcar, Cozywheels, Getaround, Dégage, Share Now, Stapp.in, Tapazz, BlaBlaCar, Klaxit, TooGethr, Carpool (Mpact)…
Taxi services: Uber, Wave-a-Cab, Taxi.eu, Heetch, Bolt, Free Now, Allocab…
Bike leasing companies: Ctec, O2O, Joulebikes, KBC-Fietsleasing, B2Bike, Cyclis, Lease-a-bike, Cyclobility, Cycle Valley…
(e)bike, (e)step and scooter sharing & renting: Lime, Dott, Bird, Felyx, Scooty, Villo!, Billy Bike, Mobit, Blue Bike, Swapfiets, Spinlister…
Fuel card and Electric charging card issuing companies: Network Fuel Card, Modalizy, Fleetpass, Belgian Fuel Card (BFC), XXImo, EDI (Electric by D’Ieteren), New Motion, Plugsurfing, Blue Corner, Luminus, EVBOX, Cenergy, Eneco, Dats24, EV-Point,…
Parking companies (either companies providing public parkings or platforms to share individual and company parkings): Yellowbrick, Indigo, QPark, BeMobile, BePark, Pasha, ParkOffice…
Companies helping to define mobility plan and manage setup of policies and mobility plans/budgets: Social Secretariats (SD Worx, Partena, Securex, Acerta, Liantis…), Payflip, Mbrella, MaestroMobile (Espaces-Mobilités)…
MaaS (Mobility as a Service) players: Modalizy, Skipr, Optimile, Olympus, Be-Mobile, MyMove, Vaigo (Eurides), Moveasy…
(Inter-modal) Route planners: Google Maps, Coyote, Waze, Mappy, Jeasy, Skipr, Stoomlink…
Co-working place companies (either companies providing co-working places or platforms allowing to reserve spaces over multiple co-working places): Bar d’Office, Workero, Cowallonia, Burogest, Regus, Welkin, Meraki, Frame 21, Fosbury & Sons, Start it, Coffice, Spaces, House of Innovation, Ampla House, WeWork, Betacowork, Startbloc, SilverSquare…
Expense management solutions for local and international (mobility) expenses: Rydoo, XXImo, MobileXpense, N2F, Certify, SAP Concur, Travel Perk, Trippeo, SpenDesk, Splendid, Declaree, SRXP, Dicom, WebExpenses, Notilus, Expensify, ExpensePath, Abacus, ExpensePoint…
It will be interesting to see which of those companies will still be around in 10 years (i.e. which of the start-up have sufficient funding to bridge the long-time gap to profitability) and to which form they have evolved. Clearly regular pivoting will be required as this market is in full evolution.