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Conquer Supply Chain Resource Scarcity With These 7 Technologies

Gabriele Pfaffmann

“Scarce.” It’s a great word. It’s probably a term that first appeared to me on some middle school vocabulary test. Little did I know then that the word would become such an integral part of my everyday lexicon as I embarked on a career in supply chain.

Oddly enough, the word “scarce” has always invoked a feeling of fear in me. Part of that is likely because it’s a mere one letter off from the word “scare.” More likely, I think it’s the fact that running out of something, particularly some precious resource, is a truly frightening prospect.

In today’s increasingly complex supply chain industry, resource scarcity is certainly something to fear – but it’s an issue that organizations can unquestionably overcome as long as they have the right strategies in place.

SCM World recently published a report on the topic of resource scarcity. The paper provides insight on how supply chain organizations can manage their operations in a more sustainable fashion. In essence, the research firm touts technology as a key enabler to conquering today’s greatest resource scarcity concerns.

How is resource scarcity impacting supply chain organizations?

By 2050, the world’s population is expected to grow to 9.7 billion, up from approximately 7.4 billion today, according to a 2015 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs report. This will put a tremendous strain on the world’s water, raw material, mineral, and energy resources.

A water shortage will greatly affect chemical and industrial companies that use the resource in their manufacturing processes.

The declining availability and, incidentally, rising costs of raw materials and minerals will adversely impact end-product affordability, which translates to supply chain organizations operating at a loss.

Oil and gas companies face similar obstacles, with energy resource shortages resulting in high levels of commodity price volatility.

On top of all this is the increasingly concerning issue of human resource scarcity, which 56% of supply chain executives refer to as “extremely challenging,” according to a recent SCM World survey.

Technology is the key to managing resource scarcity

While a majority of surveyed supply chain practitioners believe they’re successfully managing resource scarcity – with 66% proclaiming themselves to be “first movers” or “fast followers” – many still lack the capabilities of overcoming their challenges.

According to SCM World, and the organizations that are thriving in this area, these seven technologies hold the key to addressing natural resource scarcity and sustainability:

1. Blockchain

This online public ledger is a practical way for companies to trace the origin of raw materials back through the supply chain. With an available list of visible records, known as blocks, supply chain organizations can better keep track of their resource supply and plan for potential shortages.

2. Sensors

More and more enterprises are leveraging the power of sensors and other Internet of Things-enabled devices to monitor and manage the use of water, energy, and other resources at production plants and distribution centers.

3. Drones

The military uses drones for combat missions. Children and adults play with toy drones in their leisure time. Now, supply chain professionals are employing drones to do things like check for leaks in hard-to-access oil pipelines.

4. 3D printing

Businesses are using 3D printing for everything today, from action figures to food. In supply chain, organizations leverage the power of 3D printing to reduce waste during the production process.

5&6. Big Data analytics and GPS

Agricultural companies combine the capabilities of GPS and Big Data analytics to optimize their growth activities. They can use these technologies to scout for prime locations to harvest and gain insight on how to improve crop yields.

7. Social media

Businesses regularly mine social media for customer feedback and potential product quality concerns. Supply chain organizations are monitoring the chatter on social media in order to flag certain supply chain risks. For example, social media can help supply chain experts gain vital information on how people in an area are reacting to severe weather events that may result in supply chain disruptions or resource availability.

Don’t let resource scarcity doom your business

No supply chain organization is exempt from resource scarcity. At some point or another, your enterprise will be impacted by a shortage in water, minerals, raw materials, energy, or skilled labor, and you must understand how to overcome this obstacle.

Cutting-edge innovations, such as those listed above, can provide your company with greater visibility into its resources, as well as insight on how your organization can prevent and address its resource scarcity concerns internally and across the entire digital supply chain.

Download the full SCM World report – Resource Scarcity: Supply Chain Strategies for Sustainable Business – to learn more about managing resource scarcity with the latest technology and to find out how leading companies throughout supply chain are already achieving this.

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Gabriele Pfaffmann

About Gabriele Pfaffmann

Gabriele Pfaffmann is a member of the SAP Solution Marketing organization, responsible for the enterprise asset management (EAM) line of business. She joined SAP in 1996, holding positions in solution management and solution marketing, and is based in Walldorf, Germany.

Meet The Co-CEO Who Has Recycling Going Digital

Darren Hunter

For many of us these days, walking a few extra steps to a recycling bin has become automatic. But is the effort making a difference? What happens to those newspapers and paper packages after they’ve been placed into recycling?

Thanks to single-stream technology, fiber recovered from businesses and households is directly reused in modern paper mills. And at the epicenter of efforts to create value from these types of recovered fibers is Mayen, Germany-based WEIG Group.

The WEIG Group also has companies in Paraguay and is organized into three strategic business units that are integrated along the value chain: recycling, carton-board, and packaging.

The WEIG Group deals with 1 million tons of paper annually, produces 700,000 tons of recycled carton board, and creates packaging for both food and non-food products. That’s good news for both the environment and customers who value products made from recycled materials.

Not surprisingly, the WEIG-Karton unit and its packaging partners recently won the highly coveted European Sustainability Award of Pro Carton, announced during a major conference of manufacturers in Cannes, France last year. WEIG-Karton was highlighted for both the replacement of plastic and the impressive amount of recycled carton-board that is ultimately reused for new packaging.

Now the company is successfully combining the latest technology with its leadership role in protecting the environment. In the Leaders Run Live Executive Series, WEIG Group co-CEO Moritz Weig states that technology plays a huge role in evolving its business model of being a customer-driven business. To get there, the organization needs to grow and evolve across the value chain, as well as interact much more within business units and networks.

Weig said that the company also needs to better understand the dynamics of the market and react much more flexibly to customer demands. He believes that they are on a very good path to reaching this goal with the successful implementation of a next-generation ERP suite. “Our customers can communicate much faster with us, directly provide data to us, and leverage information provided by us,” Weig said.

The business is operating on one integrated platform, and with this transparent and consistent data structure, the company can now define benchmarks that were not possible before. Subsequently, Weig believes that better data has made for faster “live” business decisions.

For more on how businesses can make a difference in the world, see Be The Change: Promoting Corporate Social Responsibility.

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Darren Hunter

About Darren Hunter

Darren Hunter works in the Customer Newsroom at SAP. His areas of expertise include storytelling, speaking engagements, covering events, interviewing SAP customers, partners and stakeholders and creating engaging content for worldwide distribution and enjoyment.

Electronic Signatures: Ready For Prime Time After 148 Years

Alicia Rudolph

Electronic signatures (e-signatures), the concept of using a signal or process to show signing intent, has been around for a long time. In fact, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled in 1869 (Howley v. Whipple 48 N.H. 487) that Morse code broadcast over telegraph lines could serve as an enforceable signature under state law.

Over the years, laws and technology have continued to evolve. But it was not until the new millennium that the U.S. government made physical and electronic signatures legally equivalent. On July 1, 2000, President Clinton e-signed the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) and established a legal framework for using electronic documents.

Strong growth for e-signature technology through 2020

Electronic signature technology has grown significantly since ESIGN went into effect, especially in the U.S., where the practice has been widely adopted by the e-commerce, financial services, and insurance sectors. P&S Market Research expects the demand for the technology that enables e-signatures to sustain a compounded annual growth rate of 39.2% through 2020.

Three factors are encouraging companies to invest in this aspect of digital transformation: efficiency, compliance, and traceability.

Electronic signatures promote efficiency

Paper-based workflows and signature-management processes are time-consuming and unreliable. Workers often need to transport or print physical documents, capture a legible signature, and then scan, fax, or mail the completed document to another location for further processing.

With e-signature solutions, documents can be signed and returned online in minutes. For example, businesses can integrate e-signature management with procurement processes to simplify digital transactions and more quickly execute agreements. Other signature-dependent activities, such as human resource onboarding, can be similarly streamlined to reduce paper, increase productivity, and accelerate decision-making.

Electronic signatures ensure compliance

Traditional workflows create exposures by making potentially sensitive information easier to access. It is not unusual for business documents to include personal information, pricing details, proprietary business terms, intellectual property, and other highly sensitive data. If this information is subject to local and regional security and privacy regulations – such as ISO 27001, SSAE 16 SOC 2, PCI DSS, or HIPAA, for example – any compliance failure can lead to expensive penalties and legal entanglements.

Solutions for e-signatures are designed for compliance. Encryption and tamper-conspicuous measures ensure that sensitive information is kept secure at each step in the signing process. Rules built into the software can quickly check deliveries and verify that all required paperwork is complete and signed.

Electronic signatures improve traceability

Lost or misplaced documents drive down efficiency while increasing costs. Many companies implement paper-based audit trails to verify document processes, deter fraud, and correct input errors. While paper auditing is well entrenched in the business world, cloud-based document management and signature solutions are becoming more attractive to a range of companies, from large multinationals to small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

On-premise and cloud-based solutions are increasingly affordable and easy-to-implement. Documents that live in an electronic environment are easier to track during signing since the underlying software can automatically create clear audit trails, certificates of completion, and tamper-evident seals. E-signatures can be marked with time, geo-location, and unique identifier tags to create a level of visibility not possible with physical signatures.

As businesses further embrace digital transformation, they will continue to look for affordable enabling technologies. And the demand for e-signature solutions and related digital transaction management systems will continue to grow and improve the user experience while taking time and cost out of essential processes.

Want to learn more?  Listen to the SAPRadio show Digital Transformation with eSignatures: Beyond the Obvious, featuring panelists from DocuSign, EY, and SAP. And follow @SAPPartnerBuild on Twitter.

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Alicia Rudolph

About Alicia Rudolph

Alicia Rudolph is presently part of the Strategic Ecosystem Marketing at SAP. She is passionate about leveraging Social Media as a way to drive business for partners and customers alike.

Teaching Machines Right from Wrong

Dan Wellers

 

By 2018, smart machines will supervise over 3 million workers worldwide.
21% of consumers in an FTC study had confirmed errors on their credit reports.
2014: the first annual Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency in Machine Learning conference.
A private university encouraged 20-25 students to drop out based on AI predictions of
poor grades.

Real-world examples of misused AI algorithms abound. These are just a few:

  • Women who weren’t pregnant — or weren’t ready to reveal it — received special offers of baby products and “congratulatory” messages.
  • People with minority ethnic names received a disproportionate number of ads implying they had criminal records.
  • Guests at a party learned a ride-hailing company kept track of customers who stayed out all night and went home in the wee hours.

Ethical-Edge Cases

Credit scoring algorithms designed to evaluate lending risk are now commonly used to gauge reliability and trustworthiness, determining whether someone should get a job or apartment.

Insurance underwriting algorithms determine the extent, price, and type of coverage someone can get, with little room for disagreement.

Healthcare algorithms could be used to penalize the currently healthy for their probability of future illness.

Algorithms often use zip codes as proxy for (illegal) racial profiling in major decisions, such as employment and law enforcement.

Self-driving cars will have to learn how to react in an accident situation when every possible outcome is bad.


What Should We Do About It?

All machine learning contains assumptions and biases of the humans who create it — unconscious or otherwise. To ensure fairness, business leaders must insist that AI be built on a strong ethical foundation.

We can:

  • Monitor algorithms for neutrality and positive outcomes.
  • Support academic research into making AI-driven decisions more fair, accountable, and transparent.
  • Create human-driven overrides, grievance procedures, and anti-bias laws.
  • Include ethics education in all employee training and development.

Above all, we must consider this a human issue, not a technological one. AI is only as unbiased a tool as we make it. It’s our responsibility to keep it on the ethical straight and narrow.


Download the executive brief Teaching Machines Right from Wrong.


Read the full article AI and Ethics: We Will Live What Machines Learn

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Dan Wellers

About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is the Global Lead of Digital Futures at SAP, which explores how organizations can anticipate the future impact of exponential technologies. Dan has extensive experience in technology marketing and business strategy, plus management, consulting, and sales.

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Why Millennials Quit: Understanding A New Workforce

Shelly Kramer

Millennials are like mobile devices: they’re everywhere. You can’t visit a coffee shop without encountering both in large numbers. But after all, who doesn’t like a little caffeine with their connectivity? The point is that you should be paying attention to millennials now more than ever because they have surpassed Boomers and Gen-Xers as the largest generation.

Unfortunately for the workforce, they’re also the generation most likely to quit. Let’s examine a new report that sheds some light on exactly why that is—and what you can do to keep millennial employees working for you longer.

New workforce, new values

Deloitte found that two out of three millennials are expected to leave their current jobs by 2020. The survey also found that a staggering one in four would probably move on in the next year alone.

If you’re a business owner, consider putting four of your millennial employees in a room. Take a look around—one of them will be gone next year. Besides their skills and contributions, you’ve also lost time and resources spent by onboarding and training those employees—a very costly process. According to a new report from XYZ University, turnover costs U.S. companies a whopping $30.5 billion annually.

Let’s take a step back and look at this new workforce with new priorities and values.

Everything about millennials is different, from how to market to them as consumers to how you treat them as employees. The catalyst for this shift is the difference in what they value most. Millennials grew up with technology at their fingertips and are the most highly educated generation to date. Many have delayed marriage and/or parenthood in favor of pursuing their careers, which aren’t always about having a great paycheck (although that helps). Instead, it may be more that the core values of your business (like sustainability, for example) or its mission are the reasons that millennials stick around at the same job or look for opportunities elsewhere. Consider this: How invested are they in their work? Are they bored? What does their work/life balance look like? Do they have advancement opportunities?

Ping-pong tables and bringing your dog to work might be trendy, but they aren’t the solution to retaining a millennial workforce. So why exactly are they quitting? Let’s take a look at the data.

Millennials’ common reasons for quitting

In order to gain more insight into the problem of millennial turnover, XYZ University surveyed more than 500 respondents between the ages of 21 and 34 years old. There was a good mix of men and women, college grads versus high school grads, and entry-level employees versus managers. We’re all dying to know: Why did they quit? Here are the most popular reasons, some in their own words:

  • Millennials are risk-takers. XYZ University attributes this affection for risk taking with the fact that millennials essentially came of age during the recession. Surveyed millennials reported this experience made them wary of spending decades working at one company only to be potentially laid off.
  • They are focused on education. More than one-third of millennials hold college degrees. Those seeking advanced degrees can find themselves struggling to finish school while holding down a job, necessitating odd hours or more than one part-time gig. As a whole, this generation is entering the job market later, with higher degrees and higher debt.
  • They don’t want just any job—they want one that fits. In an age where both startups and seasoned companies are enjoying success, there is no shortage of job opportunities. As such, they’re often looking for one that suits their identity and their goals, not just the one that comes up first in an online search. Interestingly, job fit is often prioritized over job pay for millennials. Don’t forget, if they have to start their own company, they will—the average age for millennial entrepreneurs is 27.
  • They want skills that make them competitive. Many millennials enjoy the challenge that accompanies competition, so wearing many hats at a position is actually a good thing. One millennial journalist who used to work at Forbes reported that millennials want to learn by “being in the trenches, and doing it alongside the people who do it best.”
  • They want to do something that matters. Millennials have grown up with change, both good and bad, so they’re unafraid of making changes in their own lives to pursue careers that align with their desire to make a difference.
  • They prefer flexibility. Technology today means it’s possible to work from essentially anywhere that has an Internet connection, so many millennials expect at least some level of flexibility when it comes to their employer. Working remotely all of the time isn’t feasible for every situation, of course, but millennials expect companies to be flexible enough to allow them to occasionally dictate their own schedules. If they have no say in their workday, that’s a red flag.
  • They’ve got skills—and they want to use them. In the words of a 24-year-old designer, millennials “don’t need to print copies all day.” Many have paid (or are in the midst of paying) for their own education, and they’re ready and willing to put it to work. Most would prefer you leave the smaller tasks to the interns.
  • They got a better offer. Thirty-five percent of respondents to XYZ’s survey said they quit a previous job because they received a better opportunity. That makes sense, especially as recruiting is made simpler by technology. (Hello, LinkedIn.)
  • They seek mentors. Millennials are used to being supervised, as many were raised by what have been dubbed as “helicopter parents.” Receiving support from those in charge is the norm, not the anomaly, for this generation, and they expect that in the workplace, too.

Note that it’s not just XYZ University making this final point about the importance of mentoring. Consider Figures 1 and 2 from Deloitte, proving that millennials with worthwhile mentors report high satisfaction rates in other areas, such as personal development. As you can see, this can trickle down into employee satisfaction and ultimately result in higher retention numbers.

Millennials and Mentors
Figure 1. Source: Deloitte


Figure 2. Source: Deloitte

Failure to . . .

No, not communicate—I would say “engage.” On second thought, communication plays a role in that, too. (Who would have thought “Cool Hand Luke” would be applicable to this conversation?)

Data from a recent Gallup poll reiterates that millennials are “job-hoppers,” also pointing out that most of them—71 percent, to be exact—are either not engaged in or are actively disengaged from the workplace. That’s a striking number, but businesses aren’t without hope. That same Gallup poll found that millennials who reported they are engaged at work were 26 percent less likely than their disengaged counterparts to consider switching jobs, even with a raise of up to 20 percent. That’s huge. Furthermore, if the market improves in the next year, those engaged millennial employees are 64 percent less likely to job-hop than those who report feeling actively disengaged.

What’s next?

I’ve covered a lot in this discussion, but here’s what I hope you will take away: Millennials comprise a majority of the workforce, but they’re changing how you should look at hiring, recruiting, and retention as a whole. What matters to millennials matters to your other generations of employees, too. Mentoring, compensation, flexibility, and engagement have always been important, but thanks to the vocal millennial generation, we’re just now learning exactly how much.

What has been your experience with millennials and turnover? Are you a millennial who has recently left a job or are currently looking for a new position? If so, what are you missing from your current employer, and what are you looking for in a prospective one? Alternatively, if you’re reading this from a company perspective, how do you think your organization stacks up in the hearts and minds of your millennial employees? Do you have plans to do anything differently? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For more insight on millennials and the workforce, see Multigenerational Workforce? Collaboration Tech Is The Key To Success.

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