Trust, but verify. During the recession of 2007, trust in the extended supply chain was broken. As companies throttled-back production to adjust to falling demand, many suppliers who thought that they were strategic were left “holding the bag.” Risk was pushed backwards in the supply chain violating the tenants of many strategic relationships.
As a result, shipments were refused and orders canceled. Payments were delayed and trust was violated. Many supplier companies never recovered, tightening the supply of materials in discrete value chains like automotive and high-tech.
As growth slowed over last five years, the supply chain focused on an agenda to reduce costs. Commodity price volatility increased and procurement pressures to reduce costs resulted in transactional buying (a focus to minimize price variance). In many companies, strategic sourcing and commodity management through category buying programs took a “back seat.” Supplier programs become more reactive.
In this environment, as shown in Figure 2, supplier viability—an environment for a supplier to manage a successful business—became a pressing risk issue. Sitting four and five levels back in the value network, suppliers experienced a double-whammy—pressure to reduce price along with the lengthening of Days of Payables.
Ironically, while technology in supply chain finance progressively improved to enable a quick transfer of funds across industries, Days of Payables increased 30 and 60 days. The second irony is the cost of capital. While brand owners have a lower cost of capital than their suppliers, few companies extend their brand capabilities in supply chain finance to their suppliers. While companies talk supply chain finance, squeezing suppliers is the market reality.
In parallel, economic uncertainty and demand volatility increased, also putting pressure on the supplier base. While the adoption of demand-driven processes could improve supplier alignment, demand-driven process adoption is slow. Few companies are taking ownership of demand signals to their supply base.
Traditional processes dominate. Companies are strongly wedded to supply-centric processes based on traditional forecasting processes using order patterns. With the lengthening of order latency, and the lengthening of the long tail of the supply chain, the synchronization of suppliers into the value network is out-of-step, creating waste and obsolescence.