As we transition into the final month of 2011, we are revisiting the Supply Chain Matters 2011 Annual Predictions for Global Supply Chains which were outlined a year ago.  Our annual process is to first re-visit past projections made for the current year, in this case 2011, and declare some projections for the upcoming 2012 year, which will come in a later series of postings before the end of the year. In this Part Four and final posting, we will revisit predictions eight through ten. Our earlier scorecards can be accessed by clicking on the following links:

Part One- Predictions One and Two

Part Two-Predictions Three and Four

Part Three- Predictions Five through Seven


Prediction Eight: Two industry sectors, B2C and healthcare, will be especially effected by significant supply chain process impacts in 2011.

Both the B2C retail and pharmaceutical and healthcare industries were significantly impacted by supply chain related process impacts in 2011, making our prediction right on the money.

In the brick-and-mortar and E-Commerce sectors, a more sophisticated consumer has absolutely altered the retail buying landscape. Throughout 2011, consumers are exercising their ability to significantly influence product selection choices, perform real-time price comparisons, and easily place orders via the Internet and smartphones. According to comScore Inc., U.S. online e-Commerce spending is expected to grow to $162 billion in 2011, up from $142 billion in 2010, an increase of 14 percent. This motivated brick-and-mortar, as well as online retailers, to significantly enhance their online shopping, multi-channel commerce and operational capabilities throughout 2011. An article featured in the Wall Street Journal in mid-November (paid subscription or metered free view) noted that the hottest thing on retailers Christmas lists this year are finding experienced directors of e-commerce. Those that are highly experienced with solid track records are commanding total compensation packages upwards of $1 million.

For the online channel, Amazon continues to set the bar for services and price aggressiveness, causing retailers in many sectors to heavily invest in augmenting online capabilities in order to protect market share. Two of the most visible aspects of online impacts were the announcement by Wal-Mart that its CEO of global E-Commerce would retire in July after disappointing results in the online channel. The retailer who continues to have aggressive expansion plans related to online presence promises to announce a replacement in early 2012.  Retailer Best Buy has experienced five consecutive quarters of declining sales growth as consumers visit that retailer’s brick-and-mortar stores to touch and view products but often order goods online from the most price advantaged sites.

Another highly visible impact was that of Target. The retailer had previously outsourced its online site to Amazon, but made a decision to roll out its own internally sourced online site in August, only to experience a five hour breakdown in September when premiering a highly marketed promotion of Missoni clothing. The after-effects of this incident have motivated that retailer to also seek a new director of online activity.

The massive shift to more online retail capabilities and services is forecasted to have noticeable impacts to retailer margins this year, particularly in the upcoming 2011 holiday buying season.  Most retailers are offering free shipping, and many have considerably expanded the availability of products available for online purchase.  The implications to retailer inventory management and added costs will be interesting to observe when the final year-end results are tallied.

Pharmaceutical and Healthcare

The second significantly impacted industry Supply Chain Matters predicted for 2011 was that of pharmaceutical and healthcare related value-chains. The reason was what we viewed as the cascading effects of the significant changes in strategic business models causing too much leaning toward reduction in supply chain costs, healthcare reform initiatives emanating from multiple countries and desires to grow sales in emerging markets.  We feared all of these forces would cause noticeable supply chain impacts.  What we did not anticipate was the severity, which turned out to be a complete breakdown in certain industry segments.

In July, we posted a Supply Chain Matters commentary, Why are Pharmaceutical and Drug Supply Chains Failing?, noting financial media headlines that a vast majority of U.S. hospitals were facing severe shortages of life-saving chemotherapy and intravenous drugs used in critical care.  We followed up with a commentary in August noting that the ongoing complexities of pharmaceutical global supply chains have become greater than these companies abilities to control them. Critical shortages of life-saving drugs spilled over to areas of pet care, and in September, we noted that 2011 was tracking to be a year with the largest number of severe, life-saving drug shortages causing hospitals and healthcare providers to resort to gray channels to secure supplies. While industry concerns were primarily focused on increased regulation and cost managing costs, value-chains in certain segments have broken down in 2011. Causation points to generic producers and contract manufacturing sources, but that may be symptomatic of other problems. Suffice it to state that this industry remains in supply chain related crisis and that the situation will continue into 2012.


Prediction Nine: The landscape for the global outsourcing of components and finished goods production will shift again in 2011.

The essence of this 2011 prediction was that two fundamental business forces, ongoing fierce competitiveness forces directed at lowest product cost and continued needs for access to booming emerging markets, would compel manufacturers and retailers to pay much more attention to outsourcing strategies and to analyzing all the pertinent factors motivating these strategies.  We anticipated further shifts in component and finished goods product sourcing, particularly in low margin or highly sensitive IP product areas.

This prediction also turned out to be generally correct but the most compelling motivation for re-examining sourcing in 2011 relates to vulnerabilities to natural disaster when product production is too concentrated in a single geographic region.

Significant inflationary pressures brought about by explosive increases in labor costs, along with raw material and commodity costs, forced many manufacturers to revisit their sourcing strategies for China and other emerging economies. The building clouds of currency risk ebbed and subsided in various points in 2011, only to surface again late in the year with the ongoing Eurozone sovereign debt crisis and threats to the Euro. Manufacturers of lower costs and lower margin products continued to shift sourcing strategies away from China in favor of other countries.

Of more lasting impact, one that will continue in 2012 was the reminders that the northern Japan earthquake and severe monsoon floods in Thailand brought in 2011.  The motivations for low cost sourcing may have exposed significant vulnerabilities to strategic capacity and risk.  Having upwards of 30 percent of global hard disk drive manufacturing sourced within one country, along with the hundreds of bill-of-material related component related suppliers is cause for concern.

In the area of market access, intellectual property protection and increased concerns among senior executives regarding increased barriers for doing continued business within China have cast a less aggressive perspective for sourcing within China, and those companies that are compelled to stay the course, are constantly revising or modifying sourcing and value-chain strategies.

We believe that the landscape for global outsourcing of components and finished goods shifted in 2011, and will spillover again into 2012, perhaps at a much more aggressive rate.


Prediction Ten: Supply chain related green and sustainability programs will continue in 2011 and beyond, but at a slower pace.

Entering 2011, supply chain wide green and sustainability initiatives had been primarily directed at achieving reductions in resource use as well as in saving costs. Saving energy, water consumption or packaging resources all related to the bottom line and at the same time, provided customers and consumers a positive persona of a green and sustainable brand and company.

While a positive sustainability profile often makes good business sense, we had predicted a slowdown in green and sustainability program momentum during 2011. Our prediction was predicated on the continued effects of global recession and that consumer buying decisions would not in the end, favor a green or sustainable product over a lower-cost product.

That did not turn out to be the fact since consumers continued believe that companies can provide green and sustainable products at competitive prices. Rather than a slower pace, many companies, especially those with a B2C presence, increased their investments in green initiatives. The efforts and initiatives of multi-industry supply chain dominants such as Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, Kraft Foods, Nike and others no doubt kept momentum moving and expectations high. In one example, Wal-Mart is deploying its Supplier Energy Efficiency Program (SEEP) to improve the energy efficiency of its suppliers by passing along learning the global retailer has gained from its own internal initiatives.

The standards for green and sustainable supply chain are high, and we are pleased that our 2011 prediction in this area turned out to be more positive.


This concludes our complete series of scorecard updates related to the Supply Chain Matters 2011 Predictions for Global Supply Chains published at the beginning of this year.

Of the original ten predictions, by our count, five were on the money, three came about partially, and two were a miss.  We rate our 2011 predictions good, but readers are certainly welcomed to chime in and share their observations of global supply chain events in 2011.

Predictions aside, 2011 was a significantly challenging year for global supply chain teams and it does not get any easier in 2012. In December, we will declare and publish our 2012 Predictions for global supply chains so keep your browser favorites pointed toward Supply Chain Matters.

Bob Ferrari

©2011, The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC and Supply Chain Matters, all rights reserved.