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The Design and Implementation of Effective Knowledge Management System in Multinational Corporations

Knowledge management

The Design and Implementation of Effective Knowledge Management System in Multinational Corporations

Executives agree with Doyle McCarthy, who sees society as a product of knowledge. [1] Defining culture as various forms of knowledge and symbols that make up an organization’s culture. However, knowledge is a by-product of culture and knowledge’s role in guiding and facilitating people’s action is key to executive decision-making.

Knowledge also creates values, thereby fulfilling the strategic functions of “producing and guiding social action, of integrating social organizations, of protecting the identity of individuals and groups, of legitimatizing both actions and authorities, and of serving as an ideology for individuals, groups, classes, and entire nations”. [2] In addition, Thomas Beckman explains that knowledge management is “the formalization of and access to experience, knowledge and expertise that create new capabilities, enable superior performance, encourages innovation and enhances customer value,” [3]  and Bernard Marr and his colleagues define knowledge management as a set of activities and processes aimed at creating value through generating and applying intellectual capital.

[4] Moreover, knowledge management has also been regarded as a “conscious strategy of getting the right knowledge to the right people at the right time and helping people share and put information into action in ways that strive to improve organizational performance”. [5] Executives direct practices that create value from intangible organizational resources. For executives, it is clear that the objective of managing knowledge is to add value to organizations. The focus here is that executives consider the fact a firm’s knowledge is positively associated with its outcomes. This article portrays a more detailed picture of the effects of leadership and organizational factors on knowledge management performance that have been mentioned but not placed in a model in the past. Executives can use the model proposed in this article to improve knowledge management performance in companies.

What Can Executives Take From Previous Academic Research?

Executives that manage knowledge and use it as an important driving force for business success find their organization to be more competitive and on the cutting edge. However, knowledge management implementation in organizations is determined by a set of critical success factors, one of which is the strategic dimension of leadership. For now, executives can develop conducive organizational climates that foster collaboration and organizational learning in which knowledge, as a driver of improved performance, is shared and exploited. Academicians point out that if leaders do not adequately support knowledge dissemination and creation through various mechanisms such as rewards or recognition for employees who create new ideas or share their knowledge with others, knowledge management cannot be successful.

Furthermore, it is safe to say that knowledge management effectiveness can be enhanced today with the use of information technology. Information technology can play a critical role in the success of knowledge management.

For instance, a scholar in Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) by the name of Kuan Yew Wong highlights the importance of information technology in facilitating knowledge flow and communication. [6] Ying-Jung Yeh and his colleagues at the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology and National Chung Cheng University indicate that the effectiveness of knowledge management implementation is positively associated with using information technology and setting up useful software and systems to enhance strategic decision-making. [7] Effective leaders can, therefore, develop information technology through employing IT professionals and allocating more budgetary resources to share and utilize knowledge within organizations.

Moreover, it is clear that executives around the globe realize that they play a critical role to achieve the best climate and for implementing knowledge management that creates learning and growing the organization. Engaging followers and getting them to participate in leadership activities is an important part of knowledge management practices. Scholars subsequently suggest that success is also dependent upon how executives formulated their organization’s mission, vision, and strategy.

The key is for executives to inculcate an effective strategy, culture and structure so that information can be found and used instantaneously. The fact that executives steer the strategic direction of organizations is indicative of empowering people and making them more responsive to the constant changes in technology, economic fluctuations, and other pertinent and vita changes that occur on a day-to-day basis.

Executives Are Now Introduced to the Proposed Model

Based on an integrated framework of the above ideas and scholarly research, I depict and applicable and reliable model for executives as Figure 1. This framework of the model highlights a relationship between knowledge management, leadership, strategy, culture, structure and information technology. I show the relationships in Figure 1. In Figure 1, leadership has a positive impact on knowledge management which leads to higher knowledge management performance. And finally, better strategy, better culture, better structure and better information technology lead to better  performance.

In Conclusion

This article blends scholarly concepts with real world application and investigates how scholarly research can be applied in the organizational boardroom. Also, scholars see that I expand upon the subject matter of organizational factors. Through introducing a more comprehensive model for implementation, I add to the current and extant literature. In particular, I suggest that if these factors are not completely in favor of supporting knowledge management, organizations cannot effectively implement knowledge management projects and may become obsolete, taken over, or acquired.

__________________________________________________________________

Mostafa Sayyadi works with senior business leaders to effectively develop innovation in companies and helps companies—from start-ups to the Fortune 100—succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders. He is a business book author and a long-time contributor to business publications and his work has been featured in top-flight business publications.

References

[1] McCarthy, E.D. (1996). Knowledge as Culture: The New Sociology of Knowledge, New York: Routledge.

[2] Strasser, H., & Kleiner, M. (1998).  Knowledge as Culture: The New Sociology of Knowledge, European Sociological Review, 14(3), 315-318.

[3] Beckman, T.J. (1999). The Current State of Knowledge Management. In J. Liebowitz, (Eds.), Knowledge Management Handbook, New York: CRC Press.

[4] Marr, B., Gupta, O., Roos, G., & Pike, S. (2003). Intellectual Capital and Knowledge Management Effectiveness. Management Decision, 41(8), 771-781.

[5] O’Dell C., & Grayson C.J. (1998). If only we knew what we know: identification and transfer of international best practices, New York: Free Press.

[6] Wong, K.Y. (2005). Critical Success Factors for Implementing Knowledge Management in Small and Medium Enterprises. Industrial Management & Data Systems, 105(3), 261-279.

[7] Yeh, Y.J., Lai, S.Q., & Ho, C.T. (2006). Knowledge management enabler: a case study. Industrial Management & Data Systems, 106(6), 793-810.

coronavirus

How the Coronavirus Pandemic has Diversified UK Business

As the Coronavirus pandemic has altered our ways of living and working – potentially for good – it has sent shockwaves through areas of UK business previously thought untouchable.

The thriving food and hospitality sector has steadily grown over recent years but faces an uncertain future as social distancing becomes a new norm of everyday life.

Of course, some industries have enjoyed something of a boon during the lockdown as their products, services, and expertise have come to the fore, or been adapted to suit the needs of the population.

How have businesses altered their offering?

Many eateries have kept afloat by switching their sit-down service to take-out or delivery, while robotic delivery of food and drink in Milton Keynes could offer a glimpse into the future of the industry, long after Covid-19’s grip on our daily lives has subsided.

The airline industry has been similarly decimated as planes have been grounded but swapping passengers for cargo has allowed some to maintain business.

Land-based delivery services have thrived, especially those connected to online shopping, like our trips to the high street or retail centers have been curtailed by the lockdown.

This has not come without the need for a change to regular services, however, with health and safety now more paramount, businesses have needed to be agile in swiftly adapting sanitary and sterile methods of delivery especially when dealing with at-risk customers.

Can businesses help in the fight against Coronavirus?

Some of the biggest swings in business have seen entities completely change their line of work in a bid to help fight the virus.

Producing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, gowns, and gloves, has become a priority for many textile companies.

In the bid to build more hospital equipment, Formula 1 teams used their engineering might take on the task. World champion outfit Mercedes produced a ventilator which was used in a trial by the NHS and made the plans freely available for other manufacturers to build their own versions.

As the need for clear public communication has risen, printing business instant print was marked as NHS supply chain critical, producing an adapted product range including posters, signage, floor stickers and more to be used in a host of healthcare settings.

Will UK businesses recover after Coronavirus?

This is a tricky question to answer, as to how our daily lives will look once the pandemic subsides remains a grey area.

As scientific exploration into the virus continues, the threat of a ‘second wave’ of illnesses sweeping the world is set to make the resumption of our previous ways of life something that is implemented slowly, if indeed some things we used to take for granted ever do return to our daily routines.

Work settings may change, infrastructure will likely have to be adapted to suit a more socially distant population. How crowds gathering in shops, restaurants, bars, concerts, sporting events and more will be managed is almost impossible to predict as simply containing the virus still remains the highest priority.

As some countries begin to tentatively emerge from lockdown and try to get to grips with a ‘new normal’, the world will look to the likes of Australia and New Zealand for cues, while China has also looked to restore many of the social liberties that were taken away when the virus began to spread in its Hubei province.

If your business has been impacted by the Coronavirus, perhaps some of the examples above can help guide you through the rocky times or inspire a change of direction that may bring greater success once the pandemic passes.

young workers

YOUNG WORKERS WILL BE THE LONG-TERM CASUALTIES OF COVID-19

They are the ones who will bear the brunt of the coronavirus recession.

A little more than a decade ago, millennial college students graduated into what was then the worst economy in decades. In the United States, the Great Recession wreaked long-term damage on young people, many of whom faced slim job prospects along with mountains of student debt. Compared to earlier generations, these young adults today have less wealth, more debt and are less likely to be financially secure.

Today’s youngest workers could have it even worse. Young workers – who make up a disproportionate share of workers in hospitality, food service, retail and other service industries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic – are likely to shoulder the worst of the coming recession.

Young workers: first to feel the pain

Young workers have been among the first to feel the pain as the restaurant, retail, and hotel industries reel from the initial impacts of the pandemic. Marriott, for instance, has furloughed tens of thousands of employees. So, too, have Hilton and Hyatt. Many small businesses are forced to close shop or lay off most of their workforce. The National Restaurant Association reports that business dropped by nearly half among its members just in the first half of March.

Labor According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, workers between the ages of 20 and 24 account for nearly one-third of restaurant waitstaff, one-fourth of all retail cashiers, and one-fifth of all retail salesclerks. Young workers also occupy a large share of other entry-level service jobs in entertainment and hospitality, such as hotel and motel desk clerks (one-third), ushers and ticket-takers (one-fifth) and baggage handlers (one-sixth).

Young people also make up a disproportionate share of the low-wage workforce hardest hit by the pandemic, period, according to new research from the Brookings Institution. Scholars Martha Ross, Nicole Bateman, and Alec Friedhoff find that workers ages 18 to 24 comprise nearly one in four low-wage workers, with the most common occupations being retail, food service, and lower-level administrative support. Many of these young workers can ill afford any loss of income: Among the 13 percent who lack a college degree, the median hourly wage is just $8.55. Worse yet, one in five of these workers is the sole earner in their family; 14 percent are also caring for children.

NiNis worldwide

A new crop of “not in school, not working”

Even before the current crisis, many young people were already in dire economic circumstances. According to the Social Science Research Council, as many as 4.5 million young adults ages 16 to 24 were not in school nor working in 2017, the latest year for which data are available. No doubt this figure has already skyrocketed.

Unfortunately, unemployment might be only the start of young workers’ worries in the coming months.

The sudden closure of colleges and universities means that multiple cohorts of students are missing out on opportunities to lay the foundations of their future careers. “Job fairs and internships have been called off, as have debating competitions, graduate school admission tests and conferences that are essential opportunities to network and get jobs,” writes The Hechinger Report.

A different economy after COVID

Other hazards also loom in the future job market that could disadvantage younger workers. For instance, the pandemic may also accelerate the push to automation, as researchers Mark Muro, Robert Maxim and Jacob Whiton of the Brookings Institution argue, which would also hit younger workers the hardest. According to their analysis, as many of 49 percent of workers ages 16 to 24 are in jobs vulnerable to automation.

Moreover, the current massive disruptions in higher education and in business likely also mean that skills gaps will worsen as training programs are put on hold and businesses struggle simply to survive. Shortages of qualified workers will not only significantly hamper recovery efforts in the future but handicap current industries’ efforts to retool themselves to a radically changed environment.

Vulnerable young workers

Worldwide impacts for youth workers

The same story is playing out globally. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), young people are roughly twice as likely to be unemployed compared to adults. After the global recession in 2009, adult employment grew uninterrupted but the number of young people employed contracted by more than 15 percent. In 2018, 21.2 percent of global youth were neither employed nor in education and training.

The COVID-19 pandemic is inducing a global labor shock both because workers cannot carry out their jobs and may have lost their jobs, but also because consumer demand especially in services industries has fallen off and could be slow to return to previous levels. In a vicious cycle, billions in lost labor income will further suppress the consumption of goods and services. At the beginning of April, the ILO estimated global unemployment would rise between 5.3 million and 24.7 million, but with 22 million Americans alone filing for unemployment over the last four weeks, this estimate is already vastly inaccurate. The long-term damage to young workers’ prospects is incalculable.

What next?

Economies around the world are already responding with rescue packages aimed at blunting some of the economic hardship the pandemic is creating. But as the crisis wears on and, with luck, economies can begin to recover, the long-term plight of young workers will need much more attention.

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Anne Kim is a contributing editor to Washington Monthly and the author of Abandoned: America’s Lost Youth and the Crisis of Disconnection, forthcoming in 2020 from the New Press. Her writings on economic opportunity, social policy, and higher education have appeared in numerous national outlets, including the Washington Monthly, the Washington Post, Governing and Atlantic.com, among others. She is a veteran of the think tanks the Progressive Policy Institute and Third Way as well as of Capitol Hill, where she worked for Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN). Anne has a law degree from Duke University and a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

recruiting

COVID-19 will Change Job Recruiting; Here’s How Companies Need To Adapt.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the business world and put tens of millions out of work in the U.S. At the same time, it’s caused a seismic shift in the way many companies operate, the biggest change being that more business functions are done while working remotely.

But along with the work-from-home aspect, the fallout from the coronavirus will fundamentally change recruiting and hiring practices long after the pandemic has passed, says Jack Whatley (www.humancodeofhiring.com), a recruiting strategist who specializes in creating employer branding campaigns.

“Social distancing, shelter-in-place orders, and the forced closing of businesses will change the way we look at employment,” Whatley says. “No longer will the promises of changing the world attract the modern workforce. Safety and job stability are at the top of the mind for the modern job seeker – and that changed what they want in a job.

“Businesses will have to become employee-centric as well as customer-centric. The companies that have the ability to capture that part of the employee message, put it into their employer branding, and reinforce it throughout recruitment marketing campaigns are going to be the companies moving ahead in a much different world.”

As states begin different stages of reopening for business, Whatley breaks down what companies should do when recruiting, hiring, and re-hiring:

Create a communication campaign. “If you’re a company that laid off employees with the hope of bringing them back, you have to reach out with genuine communication that goes the extra mile,” Whatley says. “It should let them know in detail what steps the company is taking. Those people who were let go unexpectedly and lived paycheck to paycheck, they’ll be emotionally drained and stressed. A company bringing them back needs to make them feel valued so the company doesn’t lose that relationship.”

Be careful in rehiring. Rehires won’t be a straightforward process for some companies. Circumstances won’t allow them to rehire or bring back from furlough all of their former employees. “Employers must be cautious in determining who to bring back to the workplace; they need to mitigate the risk of potential discrimination claims, which could be based on the decision not to bring back certain employees,” Whatley says. “Employers will need to have a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for choosing which employees to rehire. Those reasons include seniority, operational needs or documented past performance issues. Employers should document their decision-making process now, before deciding who will be invited back.”

Focus on expanded employee rights. Whatley thinks a new appreciation for workers may be emerging as state and local governments mandate paid sick leave and family leave during the outbreak. Some companies are shifting their focus to hourly workers as well for those perks. “This change could become permanent,” Whatley says, “as organizations work hard to hire new staff and increase retention rates.”

Streamline the process. “If the recruiting process gets backlogged,” Whatley says, “it causes problems for your current employees and an under-staffed company. It becomes frustrating for them, because they’re forced to work overtime, and the big workload kills morale and increases turnover.”

“Most companies look at hiring people as a transaction – they need to fill a seat,” Whatley says. “They place a job posting and fill the job. In the new world, that will no longer be the case. To get the best talent, companies will have to engage people sooner, more thoughtfully, and put a higher priority on what employees value most in a job.”

__________________________________________________________

Jack Whatley (www.humancodeofhiring.com) is a recruiting strategist who specializes in creating employer branding campaigns that position companies as the employer of choice in their market. He is the author of the upcoming book Human Code of Hiring: DNA of Recruitment Marketing. Whatley is known for creating successful recruiting and employer branding campaigns and delivering highly-qualified applicants. His Driver DNA Hiring System has made Whatley the No. 1 people ops recruiting strategist for truck driving recruitment in the world. Together with his partner, daughter and innovation wizard Anika Whatley, they have expanded into other industries and have been working to perfect the Human Code DNA Hiring System, which uses the latest technology to improve the quality of worker life and enhance recruiter productivity.

bear

The Bear is Back: A Global Pandemic

The U.S. stock market fell into a bear market on March 12, 2020, ending the bull market that began in 2009. The bull market had begun on March 9, 2009, and peaked on February 19, 2020. The S&P 500 rose 400% between 2009 and 2020, the Dow Jones Industrials rose 351% between 2009 and 2020 and the NASDAQ Composite rose 674% between 2009 and 2020. However, since February 19, 2020, we have seen dramatic declines in all three.

Figure 1. S&P 500, 2009 to 2020

The GFD US-100 Index provides coverage beginning in 1792. By our calculation, there have been twenty-four bull and bear markets since 1792 with four occurring in the 1800s, seventeen in the 1900s, and three in the 2000s. The worst bear market was in 1929-1932, led by an 89% decline in the Dow Jones Industrials. Two prior bear markets in this century both had declines of 50% in 2000-2002 and 2007-2009. By comparison, previous bear markets, such as those occurring in 1987 and 1990, only lasted a few months before a bounce-back.

What is interesting about this current bear is how quickly and how sharply it hit markets throughout the world in response to the spread of the Coronavirus. This was a quick, simultaneous financial pandemic in every nation of the world. In many countries, the 2020 bear market is simply a continuation of the bear market that began in 2018.

The extent of the bear market in 22 countries and for global indices is provided in Table 1 which uses data from the GFDatabase. The table shows the date of the market top, the value the index hit on that date, the change from the previous market low, the current value of the market, and how much each market has fallen since the top in 2018 or 2020. The only major market in the world which has not fallen into a bear market this year is the Chinese market, the country where the coronavirus originated. However, the Chinese market had already been in a state of decline since 2015.

Figure 2. Shanghai Stock Exchange “A” Shares Index, 2010 to 2020

So far, global markets have fallen by around 30-40%. The question is, how much more are the markets likely to fall?  Will this be a short-lived bear market as occurred in 1987 and 1990 or a more extended bear market as occurred in 2000-2002 and 2007-2009?

Figure 3. United States 10-year Bond Yield, 2010 to 2020

It should be noted that fixed-income markets have already hit their bottom in the United States. This occurred on March 9 when the 10-year bond fell below 0.5% as we had previously predicted in the blog “230 Years of Data Show Rates Will Soon Hit 0.50%.” Yields have slightly risen since then. Moreover, the Shanghai Index bottomed out on February 3, 2020, when the stock market reopened after the Chinese New Year and has not participated in the worldwide sell-off. Both of these indicate that this bear market will not continue for an extended period of time. We will update Table 1 on a regular basis so our readers can follow the changes in this COVID bear market.

Table 1.  COVID Bear Market Statistics for 22 Countries and 4 Regions

 

Country

Index

Market Top

Value

Change

Market  Low

Value

Change

Asia
Australia All-Ordinaries 2/20/2020 7255.2 133.16 3/23/2020 4564.1 -37.09
China Shanghai A Shares 6/12/2015 5410.86 165.15 12/27/2018 2600.05 -51.95
Hong Kong Hang Seng 1/26/2018 33154.12 80.98 3/23/2020 21696.13 -32.76
India BSE Sensex 1/14/2020 41952.63 82.79 3/23/2020 25981.24 -38.07
Japan TOPIX 1/23/2018 1911.31 59.77 3/16/2020 1236.34 -35.31
Singapore FTSE ST All-Share 1/24/2018 877.87 40.38 3/23/2020 540.6 -38.42
South Korea Korea SE Price Index 1/29/2018 2598.19 57.21 3/19/2020 1457.64 -43.90
Taiwan Taiwan Weighted 1/14/2020 12179.81 56.41 3/19/2020 8681.34 -28.72
Europe and Africa
Belgium All-Share 4/13/2015 13859.94 104.31 3/18/2020 7202.21 -48.04
France CAC All-Tradable 2/12/2020 4732.14 56.27 3/18/2020 2888.89 -38.95
Germany CDAX Composite 1/23/2018 625.19 50.07 3/18/2020 363.83 -41.80
Italy FTSE Italia All-Share 2/19/2020 27675.06 39.43 3/12/2020 16286.37 -41.15
Netherlands All-Share Index 2/12/2020 904.31 54.15 3/18/2020 574.88 -36.43
Norway OBX Price 9/25/2018 523.06 70.44 3/16/2020 329.67 -36.92
South Africa FTSE All-Share 1/25/2018 61684.8 246.26 3/19/2020 37963 -38.46
Spain Madrid General 4/13/2015 1203.82 99.78 3/16/2020 608.26 -49.47
Sweden OMX All-Share Price 2/19/2020 732.67 68.35 3/23/2020 478.95 -34.63
Switzerland SPI Price Index 2/19/2020 731.04 140.71 3/16/2020 548.52 -24.97
United Kingdom FTSE-100 5/22/2018 7534.4 99.27 3/23/2020 4993.89 -33.72
Americas
Brazil Bovespa 1/23/2020 119528 217.51 3/23/2020 63451.55 -46.91
Canada TSE-300 2/20/2020 17944.1 51.52 3/23/2020 11228.49 -37.43
Mexico Mexico IPC 7/25/2017 51713.38 206.16 3/23/2020 32936.6 -36.31
United States DJIA 2/12/2020 29551.42 351.37 3/23/2020 18576.04 -37.14
United States S&P 500 2/19/2020 3386.15 400.52 3/23/2020 2236.7 -33.95
United States NASDAQ 2/19/2020 9817.18 58.52 3/23/2020 6860.67 -30.12
Global
Emerging Markets MSCI Emerging Free 1/29/2018 1278.53 85.69 3/23/2020 758.204 -40.7
Europe MSCI Europe 1/25/2018 1926.57 47.52 3/23/2020 1152.698 -40.16
World MSCI World 2/12/2020 2434.95 35.63 3/23/2020 1602.105 -34.2
World MSCI EAFE 1/25/2018 2186.65 46.52 3/23/2020 1354.3 -38.07

 

___________________________________________________________

Dr. Bryan Taylor is President and Chief Economist for Global Financial Data. He received his Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University in Economics writing about the economics of the arts. He has taught both economics and finance at numerous universities in southern California and in Switzerland. He began putting together the Global Financial Database in 1990, collecting and transcribing financial and economic data from historical archives around the world. Dr. Taylor has published numerous articles and blogs based upon the Global Financial Database, the US Stocks and the GFD Indices. Dr. Taylor’s research has uncovered previously unknown aspects of financial history. He has written two books on financial history.

pandemic

How Entrepreneurs can Respond to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Within the past couple of weeks, communities across the U.S. have taken swift and drastic action to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Schools have been closed, events canceled, and businesses have changed their day-to-day operations.

In times like these—where the stakes are high and everything is rapidly changing, it’s hard to know exactly what to do. That’s especially true for entrepreneurs, who have to manage their business and care for their employees as well as themselves, their families, and their communities.

With that in mind, here are four ways small business owners can stay informed, prepared, and ready to respond.

Stay informed

New stories are breaking every few hours and official recommendations are constantly developing. With so much information out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed … which can either lead to hours spent scrolling through the news, or tuning it out simply because it seems impossible to filter through everything.

Since it’s important to stay up to date, try putting together a roster of reliable resources you can use to stay on top of the latest news for yourself, your family, and your business—without necessarily spending a lot of time chasing down information.

Here are a handful of sites that might make worthwhile additions to your list.

Health organizations: The Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have a suite of medical resources, regular updates on the coronavirus, and guidance for how businesses, schools, and other organizations can protect the health of their communities.

National business organizations: The US Chamber of Commerce is regularly sharing updates and resources focused on businesses and the economic impact of the coronavirus, while the Small Business Administration has resources including employer guidelines, information on their disaster loan program, and a directory of local business organizations.

State and county governments: Local health and business departments are working to take swift action and keep their communities informed as they respond to the coronavirus. Checking in with them can be a great way to understand what’s going on in your community and what services they are offering in response. You can typically find their websites through a quick search.

Look for resources that can help

The sweeping changes we’re seeing in response to the coronavirus are, inevitably, having massive social and economic impacts. With schools closed, events canceled, restaurants vacant, and many other businesses dealing with closures or reduced demand, many people are dealing with reduced income or economic uncertainty.

At this point, nearly everyone is significantly impacted in some way. As a result, we’re seeing government and community organizations come together and try to find new ways to support each other.

If you, or someone you know, is facing challenges as a result of the coronavirus, look for resources that might help. And if you’re not sure where to look, start by checking with your local newspaper or news outlet, or contacting your state or county government for advice.

Here’s a general overview of programs that are already available or in progress:

-Although most schools are closed, many of them are still offering meals to children who rely on school lunches.

-Food pantries are doing their best to adapt to the changing needs of communities.

-The federal government is working to pass response packages that offer economic support to families, communities, and businesses.

-The Small Business Administration is offering resources, including disaster loans, for small businesses.

-Many state and local governments are offering financial relief for small businesses, including tax deferments, grants, legal assistance, and loans.

It’s likely that more and more resources will become available as time goes by. These programs all exist to help businesses, families, and communities get through challenges and bounce back from them, so don’t hesitate to use them.

Find ways to adapt

There are a lot of businesses that are especially hard-hit by the coronavirus. Travel, restaurants, entertainment, events … the list goes on.

And although it would be ridiculous to suggest that all these businesses can mitigate their losses by smart planning and marketing, some are finding ways to cushion the damage a bit. For example, some restaurants are closing their tables but offering delivery or pickup instead. Retail shops are focusing on ecommerce efforts.

If you’re seeing a substantial drop in business, take some time to brainstorm. Talk to other entrepreneurs in your community (perhaps via a virtual meetup). Look for new needs and opportunities, and see if there’s a way your business can pivot or stretch to fill them.

Challenges and obstacles can lead to innovation and new opportunities, if you’re prepared to meet them.

Support your community

It’s a tough time right now. Although many groups are hit harder than others, practically everyone is feeling the strain one way or another.

That’s why, if you can, it’s more important than ever to volunteer, donate, and find other ways to support your local businesses and communities. Here are just a handful of ideas:

-If local restaurants sell gift cards, consider buying one (or a handful) to show your support. You can also look for small independent retailers who offer delivery or online sales instead of turning to bigger businesses.

-Consider donating to your local food bank or Meals on Wheels.

-If you can, give blood. There’s currently a severe blood shortage, and the Red Cross has put together guidelines on donating blood during the coronavirus pandemic.

-Help neighbors who are especially vulnerable to the virus due to age or pre-existing health conditions.

-Find and support local nonprofits whose services are likely to be strained by the virus. The impact is potentially wider-reaching than you might think, but nonprofits that focus on food, healthcare, and housing are a great place to start.

It can be especially challenging to donate or volunteer when you’re feeling anxious or economically strained, but every little bit counts. One thing we do know about the pandemic is that working together, as a community, is critical—so keep looking for ways we can all support each other through this.

_____________________________________________________________

Chelsea Hoffer is a writer at Azlo, an online banking solution for entrepreneurs, where she gathers and shares knowledge about building successful businesses.

spanish flu

The Spanish Flu and the Stock Market: The Pandemic of 1919

Everyone is concerned about the coronavirus and how it is impacting the global economy. Parts of China have been quarantined to prevent the spread of the virus and the world is wondering how the virus will disrupt supply chains between China and the rest of the world and how it will impact global travel. Will cities that are cut off from the rest of the world be able to contribute to the global economy?

The main precedent for the coronavirus is the SARS epidemic of 2002-2004, but you should also look at the more serious Spanish Flu pandemic of 1919.  It is estimated that the Spanish Flu infected 500 million people worldwide, or about 27% of the world’s population and killed between 30 million and 50 million people, or about 1.7% of the world’s population. Were a similar pandemic to hit the world today, this would translate into 100 million deaths. This made the Spanish flu one of the deadliest epidemics in history. The pandemic occurred in the last year of World War I and military censors in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, United States and other countries were told to control information on the flu fearing that it would affect their ability to win the war, but there was no censorship on the flu in neutral Spain where King Alfonso XIII took ill. This gave the world the false impression that the flu originated in Spain, hence the name.

The Spanish flu came in three waves as is illustrated in Figure 1. The first wave, which made people notice the flu, occurred in July 1918.  The second and most deadly wave occurred in October 1918 and resulted in millions of deaths. A final wave of the flu occurred in February 1919, and after that, the flu disappeared. Either the virus mutated to a less lethal form or doctors got better at treating or preventing it. Just as no one knows for sure exactly where the virus came from, no one knows why it disappeared.

Figure 1. Death Rates of the Spanish Flu, June 1918 to May 1919

It is interesting to contrast the response of the stock market to the Spanish flu in 1919 with the coronavirus in 2020. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell over 2,000 points in four days out of fear that the coronavirus will continue to spread and impact the global economy. The fear is that cities will become quarantined, supply chains will be broken, world trade will be impacted and growth in the global economy will slow down.

However, the impact of the Spanish Flu on the stock market was minimal. If you look at the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1918 and 1919, you can see that the stock market was relatively unaffected by any of the three waves of the Spanish flu. Of course, the Spanish flu occurred in 1918 while World War I was raging in Europe so the war had a larger impact on the stock market than the flu. There were few if any global supply chains that the Spanish Flu could disrupt because the war made supply chains nonexistent. The second and worst wave of flu occurred at the end of World War I when peace was finally achieved after four years of devastating destruction. It is interesting that there was little impact on the stock market of World War I ending on November 11, 1918. Perhaps euphoria about the conclusion of the war was offset by concerns about the Spanish flu.

It is comforting to see that when the final wave of the Spanish flu subsided in February 1919, the market began an increase of 50% which lasted until November of 1919.  Whether this increase occurred because of the end of World War I or the end of the flu or both is impossible to say, but it does provide encouragement that once the coronavirus begins to subside, the market will bounce back once again.

Figure 2. Dow Jones Industrial Average, January 1918 to December 1919

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Dr. Bryan Taylor is President and Chief Economist for Global Financial Data. He received his Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University in Economics writing about the economics of the arts. He has taught both economics and finance at numerous universities in southern California and in Switzerland. He began putting together the Global Financial Database in 1990, collecting and transcribing financial and economic data from historical archives around the world. Dr. Taylor has published numerous articles and blogs based upon the Global Financial Database, the US Stocks and the GFD Indices. Dr. Taylor’s research has uncovered previously unknown aspects of financial history. He has written two books on financial history.

silk road

Can the New Silk Road Compete with the Maritime Silk Road?

China’s president Xi Jinping refers the Belt and Road Initiative, aka the New Silk Road, as the “Project of the Century” and according to a recent Bloomberg article, Morgan Stanley anticipates Chinese investments will total 1.3 trillion US dollars by 2027. In addition, more than 150 countries and international organizations have committed to invest in the project as well with infrastructure enhancements, such as roadways and power plants. But will this New Silk Road ever really compete with the firmly established Maritime Silk Road?

Following is a comprehensive analysis by Bernhard Simon, CEO of Dachser, an international logistics solutions provider, Mr. Simon outlines the benefits and challenges associated with the New Silk Road as well as its position as a potential competitor to the Maritime Silk Road.

Over the last few years, the more I hear and read about the New Silk Road, the more grand the expectations.  Politically speaking, the trade corridors between China and Europe, as well as Africa, seem to be China’s key to becoming a leading global power in the 21st century. Logistically speaking, it would seem that infrastructures and networks are emerging on an entirely new scale, taking a gigantic economic area—often described as representing 60 percent of the world’s population and 35 percent of the global economy—to the next level. The New Silk Road could be a kind of high-speed internet for the transport of physical goods.

As with most narratives, it is worth taking a critical look at the facts. I would like to do this now for certain logistical aspects of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as the New Silk Road is officially known.

First, let’s consider the overland connection between China and Europe: the possibility of bringing Chinese consumer goods to us on the east-west route via rail. This transcontinental route was not the brainchild of China’s President Xi Jinping, who made the BRI a national doctrine in 2013.

In fact, goods have been rolling along the Trans-Siberian route from China to Europe since 1973 (with some interruptions due to the Cold War). Today, there are two routes out of northern China, which head via Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Russia to terminal stations such as Duisburg’s Inner Harbor or Hamburg. China’s western region, home to the megacity of Chongqing and its 30 million people, is also connected to the northern routes. This route allows cargo from the west to no longer need to be transported the many miles to China’s coasts.

 High Costs of Rail Freight vs. Ocean Freight

How significant are these rail links for logistics between Asia and Europe? In 2017, 2,400 trains moved about 145,000 standard containers between China and Central Europe. This corresponds roughly to the cargo of seven large container ships. The International Union of Railways (UIC) expects this to grow to 670,000 standard containers—equivalent to 33 container ships—in ten years’ time. Despite this forecast growth, the existing rail links between China and Europe are likely to remain logistical mini-niches. Steve Saxon, a logistics expert from McKinsey in Shanghai, summarizes it nicely: “Compared to sea freight, the volume of goods transported to Europe overland will always remain small.”

This is primarily a matter of cost. Transporting a standard container between Shanghai and Duisburg by rail costs between $4,500 USD and $6,700 USD; compare that to the cost of sending a similar container from Shanghai to Hamburg by ship: currently around $1,700 USD. This difference is simply too great for railway transport to be truly competitive against ocean transport, even though they move the cargo at about twice the speed. Efficiency improvements will not have a big enough impact to shift from ocean transport to rail.

Another factor is that at the moment, China heavily subsidizes these international rail connections. Once that support ends in 2021, competitiveness will erode further. It is not clear whether rail transport will be self-sustaining without subsidies.

Also, in most cases, anyone needing a shipment quickly and flexibly typically sends it via air freight, even if this option costs around 80 percent more than via railway. Thus, freight transport by rail is (and will remain) caught between economic (by ocean) and fast (by air).

Would adding more train routes change the situation?

China is planning an additional railway line in its southern region, which will move cargo to Europe via Central Asian countries, as well as Iran, and Turkey, bypassing Russia entirely. Indeed, a railway line has connected China with Iran since 2018. This route is, geographically speaking, very similar to the “old” Silk Road, a trade route for camel caravans that crossed Central Asia on its way to the eastern Mediterranean. If this railway line is completed one day, it will raise a number of questions from a European perspective: How can safety, punctuality, and reliability be guaranteed? How can delays caused by customs clearance be minimized? What effect will international sanctions have, for example, on transit through Iran? How can the misuse of containers for smuggling immigrants be avoided? In other words, many issues need to be addressed before a railway corridor south of Russia can be established.

There are two more routes in China’s BRI strategy. One is in Southeast Asia: a 2,400-mile railway line from Kunming to Singapore plus a branch to Calcutta. The other is a rail line that starts in China’s far west, then runs through Pakistan to the port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea. Crossing over various passes in Central Asia, this technically challenging project is expected to cost $62 billion USD. However, both routes have only a very indirect connection to freight traffic between China and Europe.

So the situation will remain much the same into the future–some 90 percent of world trade will go by ship. Rail transport via the New Silk Road will not change this. If all this freight suddenly started rolling along the Silk Road, the route would be like an endless conveyor belt loop—the idea is completely absurd.

And what about the Maritime Silk Road?

More important than Eurasian railway routes is the so-called Maritime Silk Road, i.e., the transport of cargo from China to Europe by sea. As soon as Portuguese sailors opened up China for trade by sea in 1514, the old Silk Road began to fade from memory.

Today, more than 50 percent of global trade takes place on the Maritime Silk Road between China/East Asia and Europe. The world’s largest container ports are on this route: Shanghai, Singapore, Shenzhen, Ningbo-Zhoushan, Busan, and Hong Kong. The development of the Maritime Silk Road needed no Chinese master plan; logistics infrastructure arises wherever corresponding investments pay off.

China has numerous plans for these established shipping routes, including port expansions. Its shareholdings in around 80 port companies—including Piraeus and more recently Genoa and Trieste—support its plans and ensure investments. Why should we take issue with China for pursuing these goals leveraging its position as a leading global economic power? It is not the first country to promote its economic interests with direct investments and financing. Europe, too, should pursue a strategy of developing an enhanced infrastructure to transport freight to and from China/Southeast Asia in order to ensure a reciprocal exchange.

And China’s plan to step up the use of the maritime corridor through the Suez Canal, which shortens transport between China and Central Europe by at least four days compared to the route around Africa, is reasonable and less complicated. The Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps completed the Suez Canal in 1869 with precisely this goal in mind.

Conclusion

Nobody denies that the diverse projects of the New Silk Road hold great economic potential; that they would improve the network of connections between Asia and Europe; and that Beijing has a geopolitical interest in pursuing them. China is creating an enhanced infrastructure that will benefit all participants in the global economy. Nevertheless, it would be advisable to evaluate the logistical opportunities with the necessary dose of reality. I would caution against being dazzled by the beautiful visions and the fascinating narrative as it could cloud your vision and lead to using poor judgment and making risky investments.

 

Bernhard Simon is the CEO of Dachser Logistics
trade

How U.S. Trade Policies are Speeding the Development of a Multi-Polar Global Economy

Several years in to the multi-front trade conflict led by the current U.S. administration, the world economy teeters on the edge of a possible recession.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that up to $700 billion in global trade could be wiped off the books by the end of next year due to the trade war.  Much of the direct loss, of course, is tied to reduced trade between the U.S. and China, but other trading regions, such as the rest of Asia and Europe, are impacted by this global slowdown.  How is this shaping future trade flows?

Of course, there are some immediate winners in this tussle between the two economic giants.  Countries such as Mexico and Vietnam have seen sharp increase in trade as businesses scramble to find new production sites that would allow them to duck tariffs. Hidden behind these headlines, however, is perhaps a more important story; the rapid development of a multi-polar global economy.

Observers wringing their hands over the U.S.-China trade dispute may have missed what else is going on in the world.  Europe has been negotiating trade agreements at a rapid clip, finalizing deals with Canada, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, several African regions and South America (MERCOSUR) over the last three years.  Africa is launching the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a 54-nation trade block that is hoped will dramatically increase inter-African trade. After a snub from the U.S., the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was retitled the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and is now an active free trade area among 11 partner nations.  Asian countries are considering a 16-nation trade pact called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).  In brief, world leaders are not sitting on their hands waiting for the U.S.-China dispute to get resolved.  They are seizing opportunities to trade elsewhere.

World demographics make this multi-polar trading system inevitable.  Despite the United States’ tremendous economic power, it represents less than five percent of the world population. Although it is a wealthy sliver of the overall market, that means that 95% of the world’s consumers still reside elsewhere.  Over the next few decades, rapid population growth in Asia and Africa will continue to change these market numbers, with 79% of the world’s consumers residing in Africa or Asia by 2050. The global middle class will continue to grow outside of ‘traditional markets’ and by 2030, over half of the world population will be considered middle class.  Some estimates suggesting that over 90% of future middle class growth will come in Asia and Africa. 

This dramatic surge in wealth and consumer spending power outside of Europe, the U.S. and Japan demands more infrastructure to support logistics.  China’s initiatives to help itself carve out a primary role in developing these new markets through the Belt and Road program are well known, but Europe has also jumped into the seize a piece of the action, especially in Africa, and programs to upgrade infrastructure at the state level are fueling building from South America to the Philippines. 

It’s my expectation global trade will become even more fragmented over the next decades,” notes European logistics expert Louis Coenders, owner of the Dutch advising firm De Transportheker, which has been consulting on transportation, warehousing, and global distribution since 2010 and has stressed to clients the growing importance of diversity in logistics as the world becomes multipolar.  “You cannot rely on one single source. From a risk management perspective, it’s never smart to put all your eggs into one basket. That also applies to international trade.”  Coenders further noted that the growing middle class in places like Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa will encourage infrastructure changes to bring products into these markets as consumer spending rises.  For the moment China has an edge into many of these areas, as illustrated by the first train shipments from Alibaba arriving into Liege, Belgium just last week as twice-a-week rail shipments are now sent directly from China to the EU courtesy of the improved rail system.

When the U.S. resolves its trade disputes with China (and potentially the EU, Turkey, Russia and other targets of the current administration), it will find that the unintended consequence of this long-term conflict is that the world has by necessity sped up economic exchanges, and adjusted trading systems and flows to accommodate this new multi-polar world.  While some of the trade may ‘come back’ to the United States, the changes in world population and fast-paced creation of new free trade blocks outside of North America means that other markets will seize this opportunity to deepen their trade relations and the U.S. will find itself in a more competitive and varied trading environment. This change was inevitable, but the recent trade war has sped up its development.  Agile, strategic companies will react to this market change by diversifying and partnering with colleagues in the growing markets of Africa and Asia. Those that are slow to change will find it hard to remain competitive in this brave new trade world.

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Kirk Samson is the owner of Samson Atlantic LLC, a Chicago-based international business consulting company which offers market research, political risk assessment, and international expansion assistance.  Mr. Samson is a former U.S. diplomat and international law advisor who lived and worked in ten different countries.

Worried about trade wars’ impact on your supply chain? Here are three ways to manage risks.

Companies live in a world now where a tweet about tariffs and trade wars can rattle markets, prompt uncertainty, and question whether supply chains and global operations are positioned to handle the speed, unpredictability, and interconnectedness of the global economy.  The prevalence and threat of trade wars generate pervasive uncertainty across the globe- carrying wide-reaching implications for overall global growth. Increased cost of goods sold from upstream suppliers are squeezing margins and forcing global supply chains to adapt and react mid-stream. Despite a robust US economy, and general stability across global markets, the escalating trade war is increasing prices and making raw materials harder to obtain – threatening the positive trajectory of domestic and international economic activity.

How is this playing out in real time? Let’s look at an example: An automaker may have its engine manufactured in Germany, its transmission in Mexico and its GPS from South Korea with final assembly in the US. Tariffs could force automakers to move production, reducing economies of scale and increasing prices for the end consumer. Processing the resulting number of variables, scenarios, and decision matrices brought on by the trade war is a daunting challenge, to say the least.

Despite these marketplace, competitor and regulatory challenges, digital technologies, such as data analysis, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) provides companies with the resources and insights to manage risk and anticipate events. Today’s leading supply chains run on data, monitoring for risk and opportunity, and blend human and digital strategies to make decisions in real time. This is called the cognitive supply chain. It is interconnected, self-learning, predictive, adaptive and intelligent, and it can help leaders react faster to risks outside of their control. As such, here are three approaches that can help leaders manage, anticipate, and address supply chain disruptions.

Leveraging predictive analytics

Data has always been at the center of the supply chain and helps leaders make decisions. With internet of things and the growing number of connected devices, organizations can be more proactive in how they use data to enable insights.

The expanse of datasets, and increasing ease to obtain them, allows proactive organizations to leverage data to help drive their decision structure. The resulting variety of perspectives creates an opportunity to align against broader company goals. For example, how does the planned production schedule of a Swiss supplier affect my organization’s market position in Asia this holiday season? What are the potential risks, and how can they be mitigated? Data availability opens the door to these solutions. Enablers from digital technology provide:

-Digital linkage – integrated sales, production and delivery processes which have seamless flow of information.

-Control tower –visibility of all processes across the internal and external supply chain.

-Centralized collaborative e-hub – a connected ecosystem where all partners interact seamlessly with improved flow of information.

-Integrated lean logistics – applying lean principles to eliminate waste, errors and defects, minimizes lead-time and materials impacted by tariffs.

-Virtual logistics – enable on the fly deployment decisions with new logistics models.

Creating the digital twin

Today’s supply chains have growing complexities with an international network of suppliers and service markets. Efforts to integrate with external partners has led to complicated systems and processes, overwhelming supply chain leaders with data and metrics. Add in the variability of demand, and a supply chain is pushed back on its heels, reacting to demand variability. One uniquely positioned solution is called a “digital twin”.

A digital twin is a model of the supply chain. The foundation is a transparent supply chain strategy, comprised of rules on how to absorb and refine costs, or pass through to customers downstream. A digital twin uses the multi-tier supply chain data to rely upon predictive outcomes and sensory response. Uncertainties such as pending tariffs can be run through “what if” scenarios to understand the service, cost, and risk implications of changes, decisions and unexpected market conditions.

These examples are not intended to be definitive outcomes; alternatively, they allow internal and external supply chain groups the opportunity to setup a plan of action which mitigates service risk while optimizing the collective cost. Organizations must learn the discipline of using “what if” scenarios for their analysis and guide the implementation of both short term and long-term strategies and events.

For example, what is the correct level of holiday inventory investment that should be imported into the United States from China, given the potential tariff increase in the coming months? Which alternatives provide lower risk? Successful organizations will use their digital twin to move up the supplier tiers of a supply chain, and anticipate disruption, and arrange alternative routes and suppliers.

Consider managed services

Continuous investment in technology and talent with the skill and knowledge to use it can be expensive. The process engineering required to maximize ROI, along with the associating change management inevitably strains an organization’s resources. As a result, many organizations have found relief in managed services of their supply chains. It enables companies to focus on their core competencies of products and services, while contracting out the outcome: the best customer service at the optimal cost.

The consolidation of supply chain expertise into a vendor eases the necessary people, process, and technology investment. It allows organizations to shed the strain of daily variability, while maintaining the ability to make decisions and focus on the long term growth of the company. With the increasing pressure on tariffs, organizations will look to these partners to leverage their digital tools and technologies to limit the downstream effect across the supply chain.

Creating a cognitive supply chain is essential for answering the threat trade wars present. International supply chains will continue to become more expensive to maintain and manage. Businesses that are successful in meeting these complexities and adopting digital capabilities will be best equipped for the uncertainty that lies ahead.

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Mike Landry is the supply chain service line leader at Genpact, a global professional services focused on delivering digital transformation.