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Don’t Get Caught Off Guard by Expired Contracts

contracts

Don’t Get Caught Off Guard by Expired Contracts

Contracts are key to mitigate risk, secure discounts, and acquire services. Your procurement teams work hard to negotiate contracts that enforce the most beneficial terms for your company, and your AP team takes careful measures to ensure each invoice is paid on time. However, one section of the contract that’s often overlooked by finance teams is the expiration date. Surely your supplier will let you know when it’s time to renegotiate, and someone’s tracking it somewhere, right?

The truth is, in many organizations, the expiration date of a contract is often completely unknown. An expired contract can have serious ramifications to your business functions and could cost you a lot if you’re unaware of its pending arrival. Below are a few scenarios that can happen if you’re caught off guard by expired contracts.

Where are our contractors?

If you fall out of contract with your contractors, the first thing you might notice is that they simply don’t show up. This may not be a huge issue on temporary projects such as landscaping, but if you’re relying on them for long-term IT support, this could be a big issue: A few weeks of contract renegotiations can slow down your business significantly. Staying ahead of contract expirations allows you to renegotiate terms before they expire, to ensure there aren’t any gaps or delays in your projects.

Hmm, this seems more expensive than usual

If your supplier contracts expire, they’re no longer obligated to honor the price you negotiated. They can suddenly begin to charge their market rate, which is likely substantially higher than the contracted rate. This would be an unwelcome surprise for any finance team, especially if it’s after you’ve already purchased the goods (and perhaps even used them as components within your product). After a contract is expired, you lose all your leverage to find an alternate supplier, and the cost of your goods can rise exponentially. Avoid this supply chain nightmare by knowing in advance if you need to renegotiate your prices.

I can’t afford my new subscription price, but can I afford not to have it?

Contracts often include a clause that limits cost increases upon renewal, typically around 3-5% or covers the cost of inflation. However, if the contract expires, this clause will no longer be honored. Let’s say your business is using an ERP or CRM software on a six-year contract. During that timeframe, the software company raised its annual fee from $400K to $3.5M. Unfortunately for your company, you didn’t renegotiate the contract before expiration, and you now have zero leverage to negotiate a better price. Even worse, the cost of switching may be equally high, so it doesn’t make sense to look for alternative software. Your company has no choice but to pony up the money in order to keep your business functioning on all cylinders.

The above scenarios would be tricky for any business to avoid. With so many contracts with so many different suppliers, it can seem impossible to be aware of each upcoming expiration date. However, AppZen’s Contract Audit notifies you of all of your upcoming expirations (and coupled with AP Audit, you can also be confident that your contract terms are reflected on each invoice too). Thanks to AppZen, you’ll be notified with enough time required to make a decision on alternative suppliers, saving you costly mistakes, and keeping your business and supply chain running at 100% efficiency.

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David Wishinsky is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at AppZen.

risk

How to Get a Handle on Risk in Uncertain Times: 10 Important Considerations

Risk: It’s the operative word on everyone’s mind right now. Whether it’s COVID-19 or oil prices, supply chain impacts or financial market concerns, understanding the impact of macro and micro-events, assessing their impact and putting in place the right action plans to mitigate that risk as best as possible is the priority task at hand.

Here we’ll examine ten steps to consider to ensure you’re being as thoughtful and rigorous as possible in your response to risk.

1. Take Care of Your PeopleHopefully, this has already been priority number one for your business after the past few weeks. How do we safeguard our people? How do we handle work from home – voluntary versus mandatory? What other flexible resourcing options do we provide – from sick leave to absenteeism considerations? What are the IT implications and subsequent human resource and capacity management concerns we need to consider and fully factor in? Err on the side of caution. Better to be safe than sorry.

2. Analyze Internal Risks – Before you can do that, you need to galvanize the right teams to be able to understand, assess and action against those risks. It’s critical to build the right cross-functional teams to be able to look at, and understand, the relevant issues to consider. This will involve finance, R&D (depending on your business) and marketing and sales. It will also involve teams like quality and sustainability leaders, as there will be implications and follow on ramifications despite your very best efforts.

3. Conduct Scenario Analyses – For critical categories, it’s important to get a handle on what alternative demand/supply options are. What are the pessimistic versus expected versus optimistic cases depending on what happens with the current situation, both in terms of the pandemic but also in terms of current and expected economic conditions? As part of any such assessment, you’ll need to score, assign probabilities and weights and adjust your thinking and actions accordingly.

4. Talk to Customers –This doesn’t tend to be the first thing people think about when it comes to procurement, but understanding the demand side implications for your business will be essential. How will demand be disrupted? Will there be specific products in your portfolio that will be more directly or severely impacted? Will this result in demand cutbacks or surges? Where will you source supply from? Can you cut back supply needs for others? How will buying patterns change – will there be channel shifts from offline to online? How does that play out in terms of critical suppliers and critical buys and requirements in the near to medium terms? Maintaining a dialogue with customers to understand their needs and issues and where all of this plays through for your team is essential.

5. Develop Plans for Strategic Categories –You’ll need to revisit your plans and the related risks around your most critical categories during a time of crisis. Make sure that these plans have been reviewed, the pressure points tested, the risk points analyzed and alternative plans considered. This could mean enhancing inventory levels (and rethinking inventory buffers based on the scenario planning we talked about earlier), assessing implications for delivery performance, gaining a view of multi-tiered supplier performance, increased inbound category visibility and more.

6. Examine Logistics Implications – By the same token, businesses must assess the logistics implications both inbound and outbound, either to make products or to ensure delivery. This has cost and timeline implications. All modes of transportation can be seen to be impacted, not least of which is shipping impacts – especially to and from China, but elsewhere, as well – whether these impacts are halts on movements, ramp downs, or the subsequently phased ramp back up. Or bypassing some of these options and going to airfreight which presents another level of cost to timeline tradeoffs.

7. Assess Liquidity – This will be critical and will call for a stronger partnership and alliance with finance. Looking at cash positions, assessing payables, and of course extending that into receivables, etc. will be essential. Add to this, talk of tightening credit markets and this makes it all the more important. Cash as always will be king if we need to endure near term instabilities, revenue disruptions, supply chain impacts, sourcing problems, and more

8. Assess Supplier Health – Part and parcel to all of this is assessing supplier health and evaluating who will be the most impacted. A clear view of your supplier segments – strategic versus mid-tier versus everyone else – is essential so you can focus your time and analysis accordingly.

For the most strategic suppliers, it’s critical to have a multi-tiered view of their supply base and related dependencies so you can adequately assess their performance and supply chain bottlenecks. This will involve structured risk analyses – looking across multiple variables beyond financials, to operational performance, to industry performance factors, to geographic and locational concerns and more. You’ll also need to identify alternate supply sources to shift production as and where needed, and as quickly as possible. Not all of this can be done at a moment’s notice. Some of it should have been done as part of a prior risk assessment exercise.

9. Think Ahead – Businesses can’t afford to simply think about today. Consider what the next three to six months look like. This is where scenario planning comes into play. It is critical to assess not only how you can react now but also how to prepare for eventualities later, when things are either fully back to normal or in some altered state based on longer-lasting ramifications from the events of today.

10. Work With Facts and Manage Emotion – Fundamentally, the most important thing you can do is to continuously monitor changes in a structured fashion. Have a programmed information collection and analysis mechanism. If we accept that the crisis is still unfolding and that the true impacts from a supply chain disruption perspective may not reveal themselves for months, we need to take tangible steps.  This can be done by establishing a process to monitor other regions outside the infected areas that could be impacted. Are ports outside the infected areas being impacted through disruption or through new regulations to protect against transmission of the virus?  Are suppliers struggling financially without access to the Chinese markets, jeopardizing their viability? Data will be important but data converted to relevant insight for your specific supply chain situation will be essential.

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Omer Abdullah is Co-founder and Managing Director of The Smart Cube and is responsible for managing the company’s Americas business.Omer has more than 25 years of management consulting, global corporate and industry experience across North America, Europe and Asia.

Prior roles include A.T. Kearney (North America), Warner Lambert (USA) and The Perrier Group (Asia-Pacific). Omer has an MBA from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, USA and a BBA from the University of East Asia.

disruptions

How to Manage and Overcome Disruptions in the Supply Chain

Regardless of the type of disruption, supply chain resilience is highly dependant on several factors, one of which being reliable end-to-end visibility created at the first sign of trouble. Whether it’s a health crisis, a series of policy changes, or other forms of disruption, proactive rather than reactive measures are critical in staying afloat when facing a variety of disruptions or bottlenecks.

Disruptions in the modern supply chain are simply inevitable and require a different approach in data management and predictability to successfully overcome the challenge at hand.  By effectively utilizing technology tools available and developing a solid crisis plan can make a significant difference in recovery times.

Below is a helpful infographic from DiCentral breaks down various predictable and unpredictable supply chain disruptions and what it takes in the planning, reaction, and response stages of managing and navigating challenges.

food sector

Food Sector Faces Multipronged Consequences of COVID-19 Outbreak

Brick and mortar, as well as online food chains, are facing the wrath of the current COVID-19 outbreak. The worldwide supply chain includes distribution, packaging, as well as sourcing of raw materials. Lockdowns are disrupting the transportation of packaged foods, prepared foods, non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. Before the pandemic, the major growth drivers were growing consumption of ready-to-eat convenience foods among on-the-go consumers.

Shifting lifestyle patterns, rising per capita income, and a growing population have been the prominent growth-enhancing factors associated with the food sector prior to the outbreak. However, shutdowns of restaurants and quick service facilities due to lockdowns have hindered the growth of the food & beverage industry to a large extent.

Online Food Orders Surge as Offline Food Chains Struggle to Cope with COVID-19

In view of the dual nature of the food industry, the impact of COVID-19 is multifaceted on online and offline food chains. The offline food chain comprises of cafes and restaurants that have been shut down across the globe. However, online food deliveries remain operational in most of the regions. The packaged food industry, in particular, is witnessing prolific demand for milk products and shelf-stable foods. As consumers hurry to fill their pantries, the demand is projected to surge even further. Almost every region of the world has been affected by the coronavirus crisis, namely, Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, and the rest of the world. An example of how supply chains were gravely affected is derived from Coca Cola Co.

The carbonated beverage giant, sources raw material from China where the outbreak surfaced in early December of 2019. During the initial days of the pandemic, the company faced a great deal of difficulty in managing the frontend of its supply chain. The production, supply, and export of raw materials from China were delayed due to which the company now solely relies on its suppliers in the US for sourcing sucralose. The major companies in the food & beverages industry affected by coronavirus outbreak include Subway Restaurants Inc., Starbucks Corp., PepsiCo Inc., Papa John’s International Inc., McDonald’s Corp., KFC Corp., International Dairy Queen Inc., Dunkin’ Donuts LLC, Domino’s Pizza, Inc., and Burger King Corp. For instance, Starbucks had to shut down about 2,000 outlets in mainland China after the pandemic began to spread like wildfire.

Livelihoods and Lives at Risk from COVID-19 Pandemic

The looming food crisis amid trade disruptions, quarantines, and border closures continues to endanger both livelihoods and lives worldwide. The huge imbalance between supply and demand resulted from economic shock in the midst of the widespread shutdown of businesses. The uncertainty surrounding the eventual retreat of the COVID-19 pandemic is adding to the crisis. Fast and effective measures are required to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the vulnerable food supply chain.

Nutritious and diverse food sources are in short supply in the wake of the global health crisis. Furthermore, greater food insecurity is prevalent in regions hit hard by COVID-19 such as Spain, Italy, and the US. However, there is still the need for anyone to panic about the food crisis as the world has adequate stock of it. The only problem is making it accessible to every section of the society amid strict lockdown.

What Has the World Learned from History?

The 2007-2008 food crisis offered the world some important lessons which can be utilized to avoid letting a health crisis turn into an indispensable food crisis. Policymakers worldwide are intent on not repeating their mistakes of the past. As the measures tighten around the pandemic, it will be even more challenging to prevent the downfall of the global food system. Logistics bottlenecks are a major challenge facing the globe at present. The global food industry is certainly strained in terms of transport and accessibility.

So far food supply has been sufficient thereby disruptions have been minimal. However, the production of high-value commodities such as vegetables and fruits has declined. Hence, governments, especially in India, aim to restart the agriculture activities in parts during the harvest season.

What Does the Immediate Future Hold for Food Sector?

The food supply chain disruption is expected to continue through at least May 2020 as new cases of COVID-19 continue to rise. Movement restrictions will continue for at least two more months in various parts of world, which is why minimizing bottlenecks will remain crucial for major manufacturers in the food industry. Agricultural production, on the other hand, will be affected by a shortage of veterinary medicines, fertilizers, and other inputs. Moreover, demand for seafood products and fresh produce will continue to decline in view of less grocery shopping and closure of restaurants. In particular, aquaculture and agriculture sectors are among the most adversely affected by the pandemic. Canned seafood and other frozen food products will be on the other hand in demand. The suspension of school meals in emerging nations in India is another area facing the brunt of the COVID-19 outbreak.

One thing is certain: the poorest sections of the society including the migrant workers will be the worst affected by the pandemic. In India, migrant workers are terrified of dying from hunger even before the pandemic can strike. Feeding millions of poor families is a daunting task being faced by the government of India. Individuals continue to contribute their part to help the vulnerable ones. However, feeding them every day requires uninterrupted production and supply of essential food items. The food sector in developing nations will thus certainly face greater strain over the entire system in the foreseeable future.

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Nandini is a senior research consultant working with Future Market Insights (FMI), a global market research and consulting firm. She has been serving clients across Food & Beverages, Pharma, and Chemical domains. Currently leading FMI’s Food & Beverages division, Nandini handles research projects in various sub-sectors, viz. Food Ingredients, Food Innovation, and Beverages. The insights presented in this article are based on FMI’s research findings on Impact of COVID-19 on Food Sector Industry of Future Market Insights

crisis

How Can Businesses Prepare For A Worldwide Crisis? 4 Tips To Survive.

The coronavirus that emerged in China is now shaking the world economy – including some major U.S. companies – and stoking fears of a global recession.

But, as companies go about mitigating damage, there are lessons they can learn to be better prepared for another rare worldwide crisis, says Hitendra Chaturvedi, a professor at the Supply Chain Department of W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University and an expert on global supply chain sustainability and strategy.

“The coronavirus is an abnormal occurrence,” Chaturvedi says. “Businesses cannot completely insulate themselves from such events, but they can certainly reduce risk so it will hurt but not be life-threatening. The whole idea is, what is the strategic insurance policy against such unexpected events, and what is the cost businesses are willing to bear?

“We have had risk mitigation and disaster recovery plans for data centers for decades now. Why should we not have the same for our manufacturing operations?”

Chaturvedi offers these suggestions for companies to prepare for a worldwide crisis that could affect their business:

Localize more inventory. “Holding inventory in multiple locations closer to your customers makes sense in many cases, even if it may be costlier than in other countries,” Chaturvedi says. “I think companies in the U.S. will start to keep more inventories here as a reaction to the coronavirus.”

Localize core manufacturing. “If your current business relies heavily on products being made in China, you’re probably concerned right now,” Chaturvedi says. “Consider having a manufacturing operation in the U.S., or at least part of your operations here, so even though the cost may be high, business survival will not be severely impacted. It’s another way for companies to have more control when events happen out of their control.”

Separate R&D from manufacturing locations in other countries. “If it makes sense to maintain your core manufacturing outside the U.S., keeping research and development work closer to home ensures your future product development does not get impacted,” Chaturvedi says.

Invest in new technology for transparency in supply chain and disaster simulation. “Blockchain can easily provide transparency across the supply chain, Chaturvedi says. “Get visibility across at least tier 1 and tier 2 suppliers.

The more you know, the better you will be at spotting trouble spots and handling a crisis. Moreover, investing in Artificial Intelligence-driven risk simulation models based on numerous factors, including a global pandemic, nature events, or political instabilities may be a prudent choice. Just as schools conduct fire drills, companies should conduct pandemic drills as part of their risk mitigation and disaster recovery plan.”

“Events such as a worldwide health crisis are a standalone business risk and an amplifier of vulnerabilities,” Chaturvedi says. “The coronavirus may serve as another reason for companies to reassess their supply chain exposure. We often get complacent after a crisis settles down, but businesses who prepare for the next time will be in a stronger position to respond and recover.”

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Hitendra Chaturvedi (https://wpcarey.asu.edu/people/profile/3541031) spent over 30 years in progressive technology leadership positions with Microsoft, Newgistics, E&Y e-Business and A.T. Kearney. Chaturvedi also built a $100 million software company in India, GreenDust, where he implemented proprietary reverse logistics software at Amazon, Flipkart (Walmart), Samsung, Panasonic and Whirlpool. A computer engineer with a master’s degree from Louisiana State University and an MBA from Southern Methodist University, Chaturvedi has been widely covered in the media and is a subject matter expert on global supply chain strategy, sustainable supply chains, reverse logistics, ecommerce, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Chaturvedi is now a professor at the Supply Chain Department of W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

wildfires

10 Steps Businesses Can Take to Manage the Risk of Wildfires

As prolonged drought, heat, other climate factors, and population growth trends intensify wildfire risks in the Western U.S., parts of Australia, Europe, South America, Africa and several other industrialized areas of the world, many governments have expanded their precautions to reduce the likelihood or severity of these devastating events, including massive temporary electrical power shutdowns and large-scale evacuations of at-risk residential populations.

The combination of actual wildfires and government preventative measures have made it critical for businesses with operations, suppliers and customers in vulnerable areas to develop comprehensive plans to prepare for and manage power outages and operational shutdowns that can be implemented safely and quickly – especially during seasonal periods when wildfire risks are most severe.

From developing, adjusting and testing a business continuity plan to preparing for and evaluating the impact of potential wildfires, related government-mandated power outages, evacuations and highway closures, business leaders and managers need to assess their potential vulnerabilities to wildfire risk and develop and implement appropriate measures to mitigate them.

Accordingly, here are 10 steps for managing exposures related to wildfires. Note that many of these measures apply to areas where scheduled power outages may occur, but facilities may continue to be occupied and can be operational using alternative or back-up power sources.   

1. Review and update your company’s emergency plan. This includes developing any contingencies that might need to be added to account for the evacuation or residential areas where employees with emergency responsibilities may be located. Ensure that personnel with assigned responsibilities will be able to get to the facility in the event of a power outage. Plan for the possibility that some employees with emergency duties may reside in areas being evacuated and won’t be available for work. If possible, choose back-ups who reside in different areas. Double-check that your communication plan is established and that you have up-to-date call trees so employees can be contacted on a timely basis when emergency situations arise.

2. Assess power-down procedures. Make sure they are up to date with respect to any new equipment or recent facility expansions or modifications. At the same time, be sure your managers understand the steps for restoring your plant or facility to full operation once power is restored.

3. Check emergency power resources. Start by testing and securing any generators available. In addition, make sure your company has adequate fuel to withstand multiple power outages within certain time periods.

4. Evaluate lighting and equipment. Ensure emergency lighting is operational and that computer systems are backed up and current. During periods of high wildfire threats, such as during extended drought conditions, employees with laptops should be instructed to back-up data on a daily basis and make sure they are fully up to date in the event they need to work off-site for extended periods. In the event of an outage, make sure desktop computers, mainframes, servers, and other critical electrical equipment is switched off, so it will not be adversely impacted when the power is restored. If the facility is to be vacated and time permits, consider removing valuable equipment.

5. Check perishable products and vulnerable inventory. Consider offsite warehousing for any products that may be affected by the loss of temperature or humidity controls. Alternatively, consider using reefer trucks and/or dry ice for maintaining appropriate temperature control to protect inventory and equipment during an outage.

6. Revisit facility security measures. Make sure all doors and windows are secure and consider restricting access to the entire property through the use of perimeter fencing. Keep in mind standard security alarm and access control systems may not be functioning in the event of power outages.

7. Request assistance from law enforcement. Notify local police authorities to request additional patrols and increase internal security rounds (as installed CCTV systems may be inoperable during any power outages that result from mandated, preventive shutdowns or those arising from the spread of wildfires).

8. Establish planned fire watches. Whether for preventive purposes or as a result of damage related to wildfires, any electrical power outage may result in impaired fire protection systems. As practical, businesses should designate a safety team member to conduct an ongoing fire watch during any area of power outages to spot signs of potential exposures as well as other system impairments. In areas where wildfires may be expanding, personnel should also continually monitor the news media for civil instructions regarding potential evacuations.

9. Consider options for reporting fires. Designate a safety, maintenance, security or operations team member to contact the local fire department in the event of a fire as a fire alarm system, transmission and notification may be interrupted during any electrical power outage.

10. Check premises for fire hazards. Trim foliage on property and evaluate risks of any combustibles on premises, including any being stored away from the building; if appropriate, consider relocating to indoors or other locations to minimize potential fire hazards. Eliminate any hot work or hazardous operations.

During the past several months, wildfires in various areas of the world have resulted in the loss of life, devastation of wildlife, caused several billions of dollars in damage and had a significant impact on business and industry. By taking steps to prepare for these exposures, businesses can help reduce their risks and speed their recoveries from these perils.

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Jeff Borre, a director in Aon’s Property Risk Control Practice, manages the firm’s Field Services group, which provides a wide range of consulting services, including property risk control site surveys, to meet the property risk management needs of commercial and public sector clients. He joined Aon in 2001, after serving with Ahern Fire Protection and Nexus Technical Services Corporation where his responsibilities included designing fire protection systems. He earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville and holds the Associate in Risk Management (ARM) designation. A Professional Engineer (PE) licensed in Illinois and Wisconsin, he is a member of the National Fire Protection Association, Society of Fire Protection Engineers, American Society of Safety Professionals, and American Society of Civil Engineers. He can be reached at jeff.borre@aon.com

 

Christian Ford, a managing director of Aon, serves as chief operating officer – Property Claims Advocacy within Aon’s Global Risk Consulting group. In addition to various leadership responsibilities for the group, he works directly with numerous clients on complex property claims advocacy and resolution. Earlier in his career, Ford served as a multi-line claims adjuster at two large commercial insurance companies. He earned a B.S. degree in business administration from John Carroll University and also holds the Senior Claim Law Associate (SCLA) designation. He can be reached at christian.ford@aon.com.
global

GLOBAL FORWARDING: BIGGEST, FASTEST SAVINGS FOR GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAINS

Increasingly complex omnichannel business models are resulting
in correspondingly complicated global supply chains. Maximizing
efficiencies for time and cost in moving freight around the world
is mission critical. This paper takes a high-level look at three
opportunities for optimization: cargo consolidation, cargo risk
management, and customs management.

The multichannel retail business model, along with increasing levels of global sourcing, have created staggering opportunities for importers and exporters around the world, whether huge multinationals or small companies shipping globally for the first time.

Global supply chains are becoming longer and more fragmented,
presenting significant new issues for logistics professionals. In one
survey, 104 global supply chain executives reported that visibility
(21.1%), fluctuating consumer demand (19.1%), and inventory
management (13.2%) were their biggest challenges (1).

Many factors add complexity to global supply chains, including longer lead times and lead-time variability and an increasing number of suppliers, partners, carriers, customers, countries, and logistics channels. Contrary to what you might think, global freight forwarding can offer relief for these concerns and when people, processes, and technology are leveraged, can even offer competitive advantages.

10 Approaches to Savings in the Global
Forwarding Supply Chain

EASY

1. Align shipping activities to leverage benefits of consolidation
services.

2. Minimize financial impact of cargo loss and damage by
purchasing marine cargo insurance.

3. Take advantage of transportation providers’ TMS to create
visibility and take control of the supply chain.

MODERATE

4. Develop strategies to match service modes with inventory
planning and sales forecasting.

5. Create a risk management strategy—identify and understand
risk types, probabilities, and potential costs.

6. Integrate with a single transportation provider’s TMS and
connect with suppliers and carriers globally.

DIFFICULT

7. Effectively use Incoterms® when negotiating with suppliers to
impact unit price, cash flow, inventory levels, and logistics costs.8. Actively engage with a customs professional to deploy best
practices in customs management.

9. Leverage transportation provider’s business intelligence
reporting and analytics to improve supply chain performance.

10. Utilize PO management to control the purchase order lifecycle;
go upstream to supplier order fulfillment logistics activities.

CARGO CONSOLIDATION

What it is
Few companies can fill an entire ocean or air container with their
own freight. Both ocean and air carriers require shippers to work
with freight consolidation services to accommodate small volume
shipping needs. These freight consolidators accept complementary
freight from multiple shippers, and consolidate freight all kinds
(FAK) containers for ocean shipping or unit load devices (ULD) for
air. This results in better freight rates and cargo security measures.

Why it’s important
One of the biggest areas for savings in a global supply chain is
taking advantage of space. Companies of any size can use freight
consolidation services, but it’s particularly useful if you have a lean
supply chain or operate in a just in time environment. Using logistics
efficiencies from freight forwarders, consolidators, and third party
logistics providers (3PLs), you can choose to move smaller quantities
of material more frequently. In doing so, you make a strategic
decision to spend more on consolidation shipping services and less
on inventory, storage, returns, and other costs.

Ocean versus air
Whether air or ocean consolidation is the right choice for you
depends on the required service level and transit time. Globally,
ocean is the less expensive transportation method. That cost
advantage must be carefully weighed against longer transit times, as
well as potential delays caused by adverse weather conditions, port
strikes, or other issues.

In addition, there are faster and slower ocean options. Some ocean
freight goes directly to the port of call. Other shipments can stop at
multiple ports of call, which is less expensive, but takes longer and
is more prone to unexpected disruption. Working with a reputable
freight forwarder can help reduce unexpected supply chain failures
and delays, and provide options if disruptions occur.

Air freight consolidation service is a faster, more expensive option
than ocean, but here, too, there are faster and slower options that
determine the cost. For example, if you don’t need direct service
(next flight out), choose a slower transit time at more favorable
pricing.

Best Practices for Cargo Consolidation

Choose a forwarder with:

-Sufficient freight volumes to effectively consolidate without delays and to aggressively negotiate rates with ocean and air carriers.

-Dedicated space allocations for capabilities when they are needed.

– Work in major markets with high flight capacity.

Generally, in any type of transportation, the more time there is between pickup and delivery, the less you pay. In air, for instance, use providers with gateways (vs. a hub and spoke approach)
to get cost-efficient options that meet your deadlines. Use consolidation schedules if you can for more savings.

CARGO RISK MANAGEMENT

What it is
Global shipments are exposed to risk from a wide range of human
and natural forces. Yet, global shipments are subject to a unique set
of international laws and/or treaties that limit the liability of carriers. Whether you import or export, you should understand the various types of risks that cargo could face and how you can help protect the value of the goods shipped globally.

Why it’s important
Even with proper packing, stowage, and securing of containers on
a container ship, severe weather and rough seas can cause rare but
catastrophic events like ship groundings, structural failures, even
collisions, any of which can result in loss of cargo. On average, the
World Shipping Council estimates that there were 1,582 containers
lost at sea per year between 2008 and 2016; 1,012 of these
containers (64 percent) were lost due to a catastrophic event.2 Theft, counterfeiting, hurricanes, floods, political unrest, labor disputes, documentation errors, or mechanical problems can also delay or ruin delivery of the most perfectly planned global shipment. Protecting the value of products while they are in transit across the globe can have a significant impact in protecting the bottom line.

Air and Ocean Carrier Liability

When events occur, companies are often dismayed to find that not
all risks or damages are covered by carrier liability.

Air carriers are not liable if damage was caused by:
-An inherent defect, quality, or vice of the cargo
-Defective or insufficient packing of the cargo
-An act of war or armed conflict
-An act of a public authority carried out in connection with the
entry, exit, or transit of the cargo

Even if an air carrier is held legally liable for damages, they pay the
value of the goods or 19 SDRs3 per kilogram, whichever is less.
If a ship experiences an extraordinary sacrifice or expenditure at sea,ship owners may declare general average. The concept of general average hearkens back to the days when a crew tossed cargo overboard to lighten the ship in a storm. During the emergency, there wasn’t time to figure out whose cargo should be jettisoned. After the fact, to avoid quarreling, merchants whose cargo landed safely would be called upon to contribute a share or percentage to the merchants whose goods were tossed overboard to avoid imminent peril. Today, general average declarations still mean that all the merchants with freight on the vessel are required to share in the cost of the expenditure before the goods are released.

General average is a growing risk and concern for many risk
managers and insurance experts. In recent times, there has been a
rise in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events that
have led many vessels to become grounded, causing container loss
and/or vessel damage. In addition, fires on container vessels are
more common now than in the past.

Today, when these events occur and general average is declared:

1. Ship owners have a lien on the ship’s cargo. At the time
the voyage is completed, the level of sacrificial losses will not
normally be known. Ship owners will usually call for security
from cargo interests, against which the assessed contributions
can be enforced. The amount of the claim is usually calculated
by average adjusters, appointed by ship owners. Each cargo
owner’s contribution is calculated on a percentage of the cargo
owner’s interest or commercial invoice value, ranging from
1 to 100 percent.

Ship owners have a lien on the cargo until each cargo owner’s
contribution or security is satisfied. Unless a shipment is secured
with all-risk marine cargo insurance, the cargo owner will be
required to post their contribution or security in cash before
their cargo will be released. As the frequency of general average
declarations has increased, so has the amount of the required
securities—from about 12% a year ago to about 50% today.

2. Ocean carriers are not automatically liable for loss or
damage to your cargo. The U.S. accepted the Hague Rules in
1936 through the passage of the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act
(COGSA). The rules expressly remove the ocean carrier’s liability
for loss or damage to cargo that arises from one of the 17 stated
liability exclusions. Legal liability claims are often met with
resistance by carriers.

Even if the ocean carrier is found liable at the end of a legal
process that can take months to settle, their limit of liability
under COGSA is $500 per package or customary shipping
unit, or the actual value of the goods, whichever is less. In other
words, the onus is on you to assess and minimize your
risk exposure.

Best Practices for Cargo Risk Management

-Buy the appropriate amount of marine cargo insurance for ocean or air shipments.

-Ensure the valuation clause for a given shipment defines the maximum amount an insurance company will pay for a loss. Most valuation clauses include the commercial invoice value and any prepaid charges associated with the shipment, such as freight, customs clearance, or duty. This clause can be modified to include other charges or profit margin—if requested and approved by underwriters.

-Choose an insurance intermediary with experience or specific training in international logistics and transportation insurance.

Calculating Costs to Determine Risk Exposure

The risk of lost cargo is real. Yet, without a crisis to motivate
action, most companies place risk management at the bottom of
the priority scale. The most common method used to protect the
value of goods from physical damage, theft, or other calamity is the
purchase of marine cargo insurance.

The first step you can take is to understand your risk exposure
by tying dollar values to varying types of risk. The challenge is
quantifying the potential cost. You can brainstorm to gather that
information, or can work with a logistics provider that has in-house
risk management professionals to help uncover potential liabilities
in the supply chain.

You can apply subjective probability to calculate possible losses. In
other words, you can estimate the chances of a risk event happening
and multiply it by the cost if it did happen (see below). Once the
dollar amount is calculated, the next step is to reduce the expected
loss by reducing the probability of the occurrence, or the cost of the
occurrence.

Armed with subjective probability estimates, you can effectively
buy the appropriate amount of insurance. While insurance is readily
available, it is your responsibility or the consignee’s to ensure the
coverage purchased best fits the unique exposure.

CUSTOMS MANAGEMENT

What it is
Most companies choose their customs broker for the long term.
That’s because the customs broker must truly understand your
company and products. They must also know how to navigate each
country’s compliance requirements with their own specific set of
customs rules, governmental regulations, VAT, duty rate calculations, and payment plans.

Why it’s important
Even simple trade-related mistakes, such as an incorrect spelling on
a declaration, can result in fines, penalties, or even cargo seizure.
Penalties for transgressions can be severe, depending on the
seriousness of the infraction.

For example, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) imposes
fines of up to $10,000 per entry for recordkeeping infractions.
Non-financial costs, such a shipment delays, the diversion of staff
resources to correct problems, and in rare instances, the loss of
trade privileges, can be detrimental to an importer’s business.
When you work with Trusted Advisor® experts in customs, you can
learn where the most common mistakes occur and implement best
practices to avoid them. In addition, CBP can conduct a customs
focused assessment—essentially, an audit—with any U.S. importer. A
customs expert can help your company prepare before, during, and
after a focused assessment to minimize risk exposure.

Compliance programs and options that are worth investigating
Not every compliance option will fit or resonate with every business.
Discuss specific issues with an attorney or Trusted Advisor® expert
in customs compliance and learn which elements might be the most
useful. Always seek out an expert opinion.

-Customs bond sufficiency. If you import into the U.S., you must
have a customs bond, generally 10% of the duties and taxes
you expect to pay to CBP for import transactions throughout
the year. CBP can shut down all imports if they discover you
have an insufficient customs bond. Since tariffs (and duties)
are increasing substantially, existing bonds may no longer
be sufficient. Bond insufficiency will lead to additional costs
and delays if not monitored or addressed in a timely manner.

Consider the increased duty amounts well before the bond
renewal period comes up. If the customs bond will need to be
significantly higher, the surety company may require additional
documentation—including financial statements and possibly
letters of credit—before they issue a new customs bond, all of
which will take time to get into place.

-Duty drawback programs. Duty drawback programs refund
99% of certain import duties, taxes, and fees for goods that are
subsequently exported; this supports both U.S. manufacturing
and foreign export sales. Before 2018, duties might only have
been in the 1% to 2% range, and since there is paperwork to file
to get the refund, many companies did not bother with it. Today,
those 1.2% duties have jumped up to 25% in some instances,
making duty drawback programs a potential game-changer for
your business. The downside: duties must be paid up front; your
company may wait for 1 to 2 years to receive the refund under
the current drawback environment, which can become a cash
flow issue for some companies.

-Foreign trade zones (FTZs). Foreign Trade Zones (FTZ) are
secure areas located in or near CBP ports of entry, and are under
CBP supervision. Unlike duty drawback programs, companies
don’t have to pay duties when goods enter an FTZ. Instead, FTZs
enable duty deferment; the duties are paid when the goods
enter CBP territory for domestic consumption. At that point, the
importer pays the duties at the rate of either the original foreign
materials or the finished product.

-Exclusion requests. If a company thinks their product should
be excluded from Section 232 and Section 301 tariffs, they can
request an exclusion. When filing an exclusion, make certain that
the classification used is the best classification for the product.
Also, work with a trade attorney; they can help you navigate
the law and apply it to a specific product so the exclusion isn’t
rejected on a technicality.

-Changing sourcing locations. It’s not always easy to change
suppliers, but some companies are looking at it in a new era of
tariffs. Yet, suppliers for some materials are only found in China,
and even if you locate a source in another country, there can be
issues. Can they supply at the necessary level? How long will it
take to test the new supplier against specifications? The more complicated the product, the more challenging a switch will be.
Also, keep in mind that if the cargo ships from Singapore but its
origin is China, U.S. tariffs may still apply.

-Incoterms®. Incoterms®, or International Commercial Terms,
are published by the International Chamber of Commerce.
They are the rules that define the responsibilities of sellers and
buyers for the delivery of goods under sales contracts, and
they establish where the transfer of risk takes place. However,
they vary from situation to situation. For example, if a container
being moved across the ocean from Shanghai to the United
States falls overboard, who is at risk? The Incoterms® tell the
story. If the U.S. buyer purchased the product FOB (free on
board), the importer took responsibility for the risk as soon as
the freight was loaded on the vessel in Shanghai. If the same
product was purchased DDP (delivered duty paid), the shipper
would be responsible until the product reached the purchaser’s
door in the United States. You can save money if you ensure
your purchasing team understands how Incoterms® rules will be
applied to freight.

Best practices in Customs Management

-Buyers are not transportation and compliance professionals who understand Incoterms®—they choose suppliers based on favorable pricing. You can establish internal structures or education to help buyers understand how Incoterms® impact risk management and pricing.

-Rely on a customs professional to leverage U.S. Customs data. They can combine a company’s unwieldy historical shipping data into usable trade reports to reveal whether an organization is taking proper advantage of free trade agreements around the world.

GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY CAN TIE IT ALL TOGETHER

As companies large and small continue to expand internationally,
they can no longer afford to single-handedly manage the countless
details and nuances of global freight forwarding. Shortened lead
times, the use of multiple transportation modes and carriers to
deliver product efficiently across continents, and an environment
fraught with risk requires both worldwide and regional management
of cargo flows.

Many companies rely on a transportation management system
(TMS), hoping to keep their fingers on the pulse of their global
supply chain providers. However, TMS products were developed
initially to track domestic or regional truck shipments and to
automate tedious, low-value processes performed by an enterprise’s
transportation staff. Today, few TMSs can enable global visibility to
every shipment, or can interconnect disparate systems on multiple
continents to provide the level of visibility to show where products
are at any given point in time.

A truly global supply chain network has a single TMS architecture
that spans all continents. Global visibility enables your organization
to clearly see the entire supply chain. Utilization reports for multiple
services and modes (air, ocean, rail, and road) on all continents
confers specific strategic advantages:

-Continuous improvement to supply chain logistics in real time

-Access to business intelligence, crossing all freight and spend.categories to strategically understand the impact of decisions

-Access to a centralized network of multiple providers–without
integrating individually with each provider

Work with a logistics provider that offers a full suite of services,
manages service performance, consistently communicates
performance metrics, and offers strategic optimization to gain
distinct advantages in the marketplace.

A case in point: purchase order management

-Purchase order management (POM) within a TMS delivers end to end visibility throughout the purchase order (PO) life cycle. POM enables you or your provider to manage shipment windows, work
with overseas vendors to coordinate bookings, manage exceptions,
collect and distribute documents, and provide reporting at the shipment and PO/line item level.

-POM options include PO tracking and visibility, reporting, online booking, document management, check and verification process, vendor self-service, vendor management, exception management,
and PO and shipment analytics.

5 Questions to Ask a Potential Global Freight Forwarder

IS YOUR TMS TRULY GLOBAL? There should be one system architecture that works across regions and covers all types of transportation.

CAN YOU PROVIDE CAPACITY OPTIONS?
They should ship goods by ocean, air, rail, and truck,
choosing the option that best aligns with the business
need. Ask about their consolidation programs to
optimize spend, routings, and transit time performance.

DO YOU HAVE “BOOTS ON THE GROUND” IN KEY
GEOGRAPHIC REGIONS?
Your global freight forwarder should think globally, act locally.
That is, they should know global transportation, but also
have deep knowledge of the local population, infrastructure,
languages, politics, economy, customs, currencies, tax laws,
and tariffs for each country your shipping routes touch.

CAN YOU HELP ASSESS CARGO RISK?
They must adequately help you assess and mitigate cargo
risk to help protect your bottom line.

DO YOU OFFER CUSTOMS ADVICE?
They should be experts in leveraging customs information
and programs to your company’s advantage.

 

_________________________________________________

1. “What is the biggest challenge you are facing in your supply
chain?” eft Supply Chain & Logistics Business Intelligence,
April 2018. Accessed at https://www.statista.com/
statistics/829634/biggest-challenges-supply-chain/.

2. “Containers Lost at Sea-2017 Update,” World Shipping
Council, 2017.

3. SDRs, or Special Drawing Rights, refers to a basket
of currencies designed to iron out currency exchange
fluctuations in International valuations, now used to express
the limitation under the Hague-Visby Rules and the MSA
Limitation Convention.

4. “Global Trade, Trade Statistics,” World Shipping Council,
2018. Accessed at http://www.worldshipping.org/about-theindustry/global-trade.

5. “Containers Lost at Sea-2017 Update,” World Shipping
Council, 2017.

6. Larry Kivett and Mark Pearson, “Understanding risk
management in the supply chain: Using supply chain data
analytics to drive performance,” Deloitte, 2018.

Deconstruction of the Value Chain

Why Large Shipping Lines Should Think About Asset-Sharing

In the past, companies have tried to optimize and unearth efficiency gains through value chain integration. Reason was that it is easier to communicate and optimize within a company than with external partners. Examples from container logistics include Maersk Line acquiring Damco as part of the P&O Nedlloyd acquisition and Amazon aiming to consolidate the entire value chain from factory to last mile delivery. 

In the literature, the explanations focus on lower transaction costs when communicating within an organization compared to the outside and the risk of “hold-ups” is better manageable if you can observe the entire value chain compared to just a small fraction. 

Extrapolation: You can argue that these factors and risks are the only reason why we have companies at all, those are basically just a way for humans to work together and communicate efficiently. In a sense, a company is just a collection of specialists who work together on a “platform” called a company. 

Technology Reduces Those Underlying Costs and Risks

Today, technology and digital platforms reduce transaction costs and remove risks. This makes the traditional “company borders” obsolete. We see that in the “gig” economy where specialists (from highly paid professionals such as lawyers and consultant to poorly paid uneducated “hands”) chose not to get a job in a company but instead offer their workforce on platforms – think of Uber, Fiverr and even Deliveroo. Interestingly, this does not quite fit into the B2B vs B2C vs C2C logic of the past but is rather P2B (“Platform-to-B”) or P2C: As a company or as a consumer I only need to join a platform to get access to a wide range of services without further need to search, compare or contract. 

“Traditional” B2B Markets Follow the Trend

We see the same happening in B2B! M&A activity will not remain the only logical way to increase efficiency along the value chain and to achieve economies of scale. Instead, platforms and digital technologies allow companies (no matter how small or specialised) to work together across company borders. On successful platforms, this is powered not only by efficient online processes, but supported by platform activities that increase trust such as peer reviews, performance information or payment handling. 

An industry perspective: “a simulated large, consolidated company” which operates equipment in an efficient, market-driven pool. Other examples that come to mind are platforms focused on the optimization of hinterland intermodal moves—improving communication between container carriers, freight forwarders, and trucker. 

Future: We Expect This Along the Entire Transportation Value Chain

Thinking about the future of shipping industry, we will see further deconstruction happening. Multiple “neutral” platforms will link together specialized actors along the value chain. Actors on the value chain will be much more specialized than today and instead of  seeing mega carriers covering the transport chain end-to-end, we’ll have actors such as equipment owner, vessel owner, vessel operator, slot marketer, agents in POL and POD, equipment tracking technology, ports, terminal, truckers, depots… 

An example: from an economic viewpoint (and when removing transaction costs / communication barriers and “holdup risks”) it makes only very little sense have “vessel operation” and “equipment ownership” done by the same party. In the case of equipment: Managing a pool allows you to balance out company-specific imbalances and reduce empty container moves! Container Leasing companies are a prime example where this already happens. 

Of course, this does not need to be fragmented down to the individual micro-service at all stages. Thinking back to our example before, that would mean that we don’t even have companies here anymore but just individual freelancers. Such companies can then also contribute 2, 3, 4 steps but we think the underlying logic is important: Deconsolidation makes sense! 

Additionally, there will be some clients who prefer buying from a consolidated entity instead of plugging-and-playing services on a platform. Consider a large shipper who wants to have a reliable long-term contract with stable rates and a single-point of contact -> this role will still exist and also create value (as they cater to a specific demand). Here you’ll also find strong “consumer” / “client” facing brand names such as Maersk. However, the way this “consolidator” then provides the service will change completely from an inhouse solution to an “on demand platform solution”. 

What we see in shipping is that fully integrated liners act like a “one-stop-shop” and try to offer everything even though their core business is ocean freight. Why shouldn’t forwarders or shippers bring their own containers and only book the vessel slot? When shippers bring their own boxes, containers are so-called shippers owned containers, SOC container in short. Such containers increase flexibility and create a win-win for shippers and carriers: Forwarders save demurrage charges, while carriers avoid time-consuming planning and can focus on what they’re good at: moving goods between continents and the sale of vessel slots! 

More and more shipping companies increase their SOC activities because online platforms provide them with access to global capacity and streamline processes of booking containers separately to the vessel slot. 

Container xChange is an example of how companies can work together on a neutral platform and share capabilities/ assets. It is not necessary anymore to take over your competitor to leverage a shared equipment pool of containers. More than 300 companies use this chance to access to world market and to have eyes and ears across the entire globe. It is also possible to add further services from 3rd parties to a transaction such as container insurance or surveying to further driving down transaction costs. Apart from efficient processes, transaction costs are further reduced through secure payment handling, partner reviews, performance, and issue resolution by the always on support. 

No Need to Run the Race for Integration 

You can stop the “race to be the largest and most integrated actor”, in the future of shipping you’ll need to be super specialized and able to play multiple platforms instead. In a corporate finance viewpoint there will be no more “conglomerate cover-up”, every activity needs to be performed at par with or better than the best. Because markets will be so efficient, that customers are not willing to pay for sub-par parts of products anymore. 

How Do You Prepare for The Future of Shipping?

What does this all mean for you? Firms should ensure they are preparing for an eco-system future—or what “eco-systematisation” will mean for them. Specifically, they need to dedicate resources to understanding which services are available, as the landscape is evolving quickly. More and more platforms are evolving that might evolve into an eco- system services—just think of Alibaba and WeChat. They need to decide what they are really distinctive at and exit or source marginal activities. While this has always been a good idea and strategic exercise, it is becoming more important than ever (examples could be COSCOs divestment of its shipbuilding/shipyard arm).

And finally, they need to create plug and play architectures, not just in a technical sense, but also in how they contract (e.g., shorter duration). And in some cases, they may need to organize themselves into a set of discrete internal services to allow inter-operability with the external market. Zapier is a really good example for pushing plug and play architectures, it basically is an online service that “connects” distinct services to provide additional user value. Easyjet is a good example for an “unbundling” of services into micro-services: You can book everything, but you don’t have to—that aligns very well with the market and is profitable in itself! 

geopolitical

How to Successfully Conduct Global Business During a Time of Geopolitical Instability

The way organizations approach global commerce is undergoing a radical change. Geopolitical instability is slowing growth in a volatile global economy as organizations are forced to adapt their tactics, making complex decisions that increase operational costs and, if mishandled, make them less competitive in an unforgiving business landscape. So, what can organizations do to navigate this ‘new normal’? As an association whose members deal with small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) at the local level on a regular basis, we at the World Trade Centers Association (WTCA) released our second annual WTCA Trade and Investment Report: Navigating Uncertainty, in partnership with FP Analytics. The report focuses on how cities around the world are optimizing trade and investment opportunities despite challenges, both economic and political, and how SMEs benefit from these strategies

The report shows that the majority (83%) of business leaders interviewed believe that global economic uncertainty will stay at its current elevated levels (30%) or get worse (53%) in the coming year. However, 69% of business leaders polled are cautiously optimistic about the coming year, as the report shows that resilient cities—defined as those that outperform their countries during economic downturns—have Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as a percentage of GDP twice as high as non-resilient cities.

Despite their differences in location and culture, resilient cities have a set of commonalities that allow trade and investment to thrive. These characteristics include diversified economies and strong service sectors. In fact, resilient cities on average saw the share of services in GDP grow by 3.3% over the last five years; more than double the pace of non-resilient cities. Their populations are largely educated, with many inhabitants having college or other advanced degrees, as well as diverse, with higher rates of foreign citizens. On average, foreign citizens represent 11.6% of resilient cities’ populations, which is one-quarter higher than that of non-resilient cities. These cities also tend to have strong transportation infrastructures, including both airports and public transit options. 

Building Resilience 

The report also identified specific tactics used by resilient cities that organizations, including business and civic leaders looking to improve their own city’s resilience, can mirror. 

In resilient cities, key stakeholders are prioritizing direct diplomacy, meeting face-to-face to navigate obstacles created by regional or national governments. By cutting through political red tape, organizations have been able to create new meaningful relationships with each other and strengthen existing ties. The ability to engage in a direct dialogue creates efficient business interactions that are beneficial to all parties. For example, World Trade Center (WTC) Arkansas has organized multiple diplomatic trade missions with Mexico. As a result, its exports to Mexico are growing 3.6 times faster than to any other country. 

Cities are also proactively building programs to attract and retain skilled foreign citizens. For example, Twente, located in the eastern Netherlands, is evolving from a region focused on machine-building and textiles to one with an economy driven by high-tech systems. To retain young, skilled workers from across the globe, WTC Twente created an Expat Center that offers a range of services, including Dutch language courses, visas and work permits, housing, and support for families, as well as social events with the goal of enticing technically-skilled foreign workers and their families to integrate into the community for the long term.

Turning Obstacles into Opportunity

Economic turmoil affects everyone, but not always in the same way. For some, the current geopolitical reality presents opportunity. City leaders are adapting to these geopolitical changes and establishing themselves as cost-efficient and low-risk trade and investment partners to capitalize on the situation. FDI is being redirected towards these agile cities who have recognized the advantages created by this global uncertainty, and supply chains are shifting and realigning based on new benefits. Competition for FDI is escalating (global FDI slowed 27% over the last year, according to the OECD) and the private and public sectors need to work hand-in-hand to create attractive fiscal and tax environments, and institute policies that will attract business. 

Cities are also increasingly investing in both high-tech industries, and SMEs to ensure they are able to attract FDI at a time when this investment comes at a premium. These high-tech industries will lead to future growth and play a central role in the next industrial revolution. Additionally, partnerships with major research institutions are being used to create new technology and modernize existing tech. For instance, in Delaware, private agriculture technology or “ag-tech” companies have partnered with universities to pioneer better technology in seeding, pest management, antibiotic reduction, and biopharmaceuticals. 

SMEs are well suited to adapt quickly in the face of change and evolving economic realities, which enables them to capitalize on changing conditions. However, their size can prevent them from competing on a global scale. To combat this, programs that help SMEs move forward given limited resources can be critical in encouraging and nurturing growth opportunities. As an example, WTC Toronto created the Trade Accelerator Program (TAP), a six-week program that connects SMEs with export and business experts to train them on developing export plans fit for the global market. This program has now been adopted by several other WTC members in Canada, including Vancouver and Winnipeg. 

At the moment the global economy is relatively unpredictable, and increasing risks for businesses have made sound strategic business planning more difficult at a time when it is absolutely vital. Knowledge, preparedness, and agility are key traits cities and businesses need to acquire in order to achieve success and growth. Despite the prevailing conditions, with a strategic approach and tactics proven to increase resilience, organizations can optimize current trade and investment opportunities and set themselves up for success now and in the future.

To review the full 2019 WTCA Trade and Investment Report: Navigating Uncertainty, including commentary from WTCA Members, visit www.WTCAReports.org

portfolio

Is It Time To Play Defense with Your Investment Portfolio?

The bull market has been charging ahead for more than a decade now, but financial professionals are starting to wonder whether the good times are about to come crashing down on the American public’s prosperous portfolios.

That means it could be time to become a bit more defensive with your investments, says Dr. Joseph Belmonte, an investment strategist and author of Buffett and Beyond: Uncovering the Secret Ratio for Superior Stock Selection(www.buffettandbeyond.com).

“People will talk about having good luck or bad luck in the market, and you never want to depend on blind luck,” says Dr. Belmonte says. “But another definition of luck is when opportunity meets preparation. And if a recession is coming, as so many people fear, then you want to make preparations.”

One suggestion for doing that, he says: Stay away from cyclical stocks, which are stocks that perform well when the economy is humming along, but struggle when things turn sour. These are companies that provide something that’s not essential to daily living or that consumers can at least postpone purchasing when times are tough.

Examples are car manufacturers, higher-end retail stores, and mortgage companies. Specific examples are Ford, General Motors, Caterpillar and Macy’s.

With the potential for a recession looming, Dr. Belmonte says, it’s vital that you review your portfolio, examine whether you have cyclical or non-cyclical stocks, and decide whether you need to make adjustments.

He says a few things worth remembering as you shift your portfolio to the defensive mode include:

-Look for efficiency. The companies you seek for your portfolio should be efficient. “They must have a relatively high return on equity and a consistent return on equity,” Dr. Belmonte says. “If the ROE is high and consistent, we know the firm has the capacity to create value because it is already doing so.”

-Examine a company’s history. Dr. Belmonte says that Warren Buffett likes to look at a company’s average return on equity over a 10-year period, most likely because over any 10-year period the economy goes through recessions and also economic expansions. “As the economy goes through these cycles, expectations about a company’s future will rise and fall with the mood of all of us,” Dr. Belmonte says. “Buffett probably feels that over a 10-year period, we see the average of at least one complete economic cycle, and of course, the ensuing mood swings that accompany both the good and bad times.”

-Consider value. Price follows value, Dr. Belmonte says, so invest in stocks that increase their value “every minute of every day.” He says McDonald’s is one example. The stock’s price may drop in tough times, but eventually the price catches back up to the company’s overall value. To find such companies, he says, look at how a stock performed during the last recession from June 30, 2008, to March 30, 2009. Value-added stocks didn’t fall as far as the overall market, and recovered much more quickly.

-Focus on businesses you understand. A company might sound good in theory, but if you don’t really have a good grasp of what it does and how the market for it might develop over the long haul, then it could be a risk for you. Dr. Belmonte suggests looking at businesses you have a good understanding of, so you can make an educated guess of where they likely are headed. “If you take a business you understand, and that company has a high and relatively consistent ROE, you are probably looking at a pretty good contender for your stock portfolio,” he says.”

“I always tell people to remember the good, the bad and the ugly,” Dr. Belmonte says. “The good stocks should be in our portfolios; the bad stocks should be in someone else’s portfolios; and the ugly stocks should be in nobody’s portfolio.”

 

 

Dr. Joseph Belmonte, author of Buffett and Beyond: Uncovering the Secret Ratio for Superior Stock Selection (www.buffettandbeyond.com), is an investment strategist and stock market consultant. He is fond of saying, “If you want to live on the beach like Jimmy Buffett, you’ve got to learn how to invest like Warren Buffett.” Dr. Belmonte has developed hedged growth income strategies for family offices, and has lectured to numerous professional and investment groups throughout the country. His weekly video newsletter is sent to thousands of investors, money managers, and academics both nationally and internationally.