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Reconfiguration of global supply chain ‘to persist through 2030’

Global supply chains remain disrupted as the COVID-19 pandemic enters the third year and the crisis in Europe creates chaos in Europe-Asia transportation.

Expert Mark Millar said the disturbance offers companies an opportunity to reevaluate their sourcing and production, considering a more regional approach going forward. He also expects global supply chain reconfiguration to last through 2025 to 2030, with some businesses nearshoring and reshoring.

Millar is an internationally known industry expert in logistics and supply chain strategies with over 30 years of global business experience. He is a renowned keynote speaker and author of Global Supply Chain Ecosystems. He will deliver a keynote speech at a webinar hosted by DIGITIMES Asia on August 25: From Long Chains to Short Chains: Reforming Global Supply Chains in the Post-Pandemic Era.

According to Millar, much of the world is still experiencing vast supply chain chaos, while some regions are recovering. The more globalized supply chains are, the more prevalent the disruption gets. However, the challenges companies face today differ from two years ago, especially with the ongoing conflict, which Millar described as a “black swan” event.

He said that during 2021, an additional one million cargo containers traveled by rail from the East, mainly China, to Western Europe due to the significant congestion in the sea freight shipping sector.

Most of those routes go through Russia and are not available now. Therefore, freight forwarders and logistics companies must find space for the containers on ships which are already full to capacity.

On a broader basis, the crisis in Europe has impacted the availability of oil and gas and increased energy prices. Millar said the situation has created a knock-on effect on the global transportation network serving supply chains.

More nearshoring and reshoring to come

What can companies do to tackle the challenges? While it is an overused term, Millar said collaboration among the supply chain partners is the practical way to get through the crisis in the short to mid-term. The effort includes finding alternative sources or transportation routes that may be more expensive but can deliver the goods to the final destination.

On a medium-term basis, Millar said the disruption has created an opportunity for reevaluation after 30 years of globalization. For instance, companies might want to take a more regional approach in the future that would build more resilience into their supply chains and reduce emissions.

In fact, a movement of businesses reconfiguring their supply chains has started. Millar said some companies are looking at or implementing nearshoring, moving sourcing and production closer to the final destination market. Others are considering moving sourcing and production back into the final destination, which is reshoring, also known as on-shoring.

“We’ll see a movement towards a more regional approach to supply chains,” Millar said.

The expert added that in the European scenario, Poland, Turkey and even some North African countries with low-cost labor forces and are geographically close to Europe would all come into play as potential nearshoring locations.

Sourcing and production to remain strong in Asia

With all the nearshoring and reshoring coming, questions about whether reconfiguring supply chains would affect Asia’s, especially China’s, role as the manufacturing powerhouse have been raised.

Millar said due to multiple reasons, there will not be a mass exodus, only a proportion of production will be moved out of China or Asia. For example, some of the supply chains are so complex and fine-tuned that relocating them would be prohibitively expensive and risky.

Moreover, the majority of growth in the consumer class will continue to originate from Asiauntil at least 2030. Millar said the increase would almost make up for what would exit Asiafor nearshoring. Therefore, production and sourcing for supply chains in Asia will remain strong to serve the region.

Additionally, the China government has taken the dual circulation strategy to foster greater self-reliance for its economy. The policy will provide extra impetus to boost production within China.

Millar concluded that the real movement of reconfiguring global supply chains will become evident from 2025 to 2030. Besides nearshoring and reshoring, companies would concentrate supply chains in China for the products they sell locally – “In China for China“. Furthermore, the diversification around Asia would result in a China-Plus strategy, creating supply chains built in Asia for Asia.

Some CEOs and CFOs of major listed companies are now involved in the strategic decisions of supply chains, Millar said. Lots of executive boardroom discussions about future supply chain directions will be ongoing. The results will gradually unfold over the next five to 10 years.

“The global supply chain landscape in 2030 will be pretty different to what we’ve been used to for the last decade or so,” Millar added.

You can join the DIGITIMES Supply Chain Webinar here.

Third of supply chain leaders re-evaluating China operations

33% of supply chain leaders globally have either moved sourcing and manufacturing activities out of China or plan to do so in the next two to three years, with the COVID-19 pandemic just one of several disruptions cited that have put global supply chains under pressure.

That’s according to new research from Gartner, which surveyed of 260 global supply chain leaders in February and March 2020 across a range of industries, including high-tech, industrial and food & beverage, in North & South America and the EMEA and APAC regions.

“Global supply chains were being disrupted long before COVID-19 emerged,” said Kamala Raman, senior director analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain Practice. “Already in 2018 and 2019, the U.S.-China trade war made supply chain leaders aware of the weaknesses of their globalized supply chains and question the logic of heavily outsourced, concentrated and interdependent networks. As a result, a new focus on network resilience and the idea of more regional manufacturing emerged. But this kind of change comes with a price tag.”

For decades, China has been the go-to destination for high-quality, low-cost manufacturing, and it has established itself as a key source of supply for almost all major industries including retail and pharmaceutical. However, Gartner research showed that the margin between those companies planning to add jobs in China versus taking them away narrowed sharply in 2019. The primary reason is the increase in tariff costs.

“We have found that tariffs imposed by the U.S. and Chinese governments during the past years have increased supply chain costs by up to 10% for more than 40% of organizations. For just over one-quarter of respondents, the impact has been even higher,” Raman said. “Popular alternative locations are Vietnam, India, and Mexico. The second main reason for moving business out of China is that supply chain leaders want to make their networks more resilient.”

Only 21% of survey respondents believe that they have a highly resilient network today – meaning that they have good visibility and the agility to shift sourcing, manufacturing and distribution activities around quickly. However, 55% expect to have a highly resilient network in the next two to three years – a reaction to disruptions such as Brexit, the trade war and COVID-19.

However, resilience has a price. Fifty-eight percent of respondents agree that more resilience also results in additional structural costs to the network.

“We are at a crossroads in the evaluation of global supply chains that pits just-in-time systems designed to improve operational efficiency against just-in-case plans that emphasize planning and preparing for a range of plausible scenarios,” Raman added. “To find balance, supply chain leaders must engage in risk management to assess their organization’s willingness to take risk onboard and decide how to quantify that risk against other network objectives such as cost effectiveness.”

One-quarter of survey respondents stated that they have already regionalized or localized manufacturing to be closer to demand. Despite the cost of adding more players to the ecosystem and increasing the overall network complexity, regional supply chains can ease delays and shortages in times of disruption – if the model is economically viable.

“Many Western organizations will have to explore new forms of automation on the factory floor to decrease the costs of near- or onshore production. Some also favour a partial option, such as manufacturing in Asia and moving only the final assembly closer to the customer,” Raman concluded.

Image by wei zhu from Pixabay 

GUEST BLOG: Business after Brexit – Is our future with China?

By Amy Hodgetts, Oasys Software

With 29th March 2019 drawing closer, and without a clear understanding of what state the market will be in between Britain and the European Union after Brexit, the pressure is certainly rising.

Despite this worry, or perhaps because of it, less than one third of UK firms say they have a plan in place in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Though a no-deal Brexit would be a problematic event, it would also unshackle the UK and allow it to make trade deals across the world. It would not affect trade with countries outside the European Union, which is precisely what the UK seems to be planning for with its Prime Minister having recently visited China for talks.

But would China be open to the idea of a trade deal with the UK? After all, in 2016, the UK imported £42.3bn worth of goods from China, but exported only £16.8bn to China in return. But then again, that’s not entirely proof that China wouldn’t increase its British exports demand if a trade deal was in place — the country is already hoping to widen its trade with The Belt and Road Initiative.

This initiative would see China gain far stronger transport and trade routes throughout the world. The “belt” side of it roughly equates to the land connections it will build through railroads, and the “road” refers to a sea-route of trade. Essentially, China is building a new Silk Road, and 71 countries are already part of the project, including Russia and New Zealand.

A contrast of confidence has, however, been outlines by Business Insider UK. Where Prime Minster Theresa May has not pledged support to the project that she feels isn’t a guaranteed success, Chancellor Phillip Hammond expressed his support of it.

As the UK’s trade ties with China develop, however, these opinions may change. In fact, we have already enjoyed success in China before Brexit has even resolved. At the start of 2018, during talks between the UK and China, the 20-year ban on British beef was lifted. The deal is purported to be worth £9bn to the UK.

After an outbreak of “mad cow disease”, the EU placed a worldwide ban on the export of UK beef. It wasn’t until 2006 that the EU lifted the ban, but other countries chose to retain their ban on the product, including China.

What other British produce does China want? What markets and UK businesses could, potentially, fare well with Chinese consumers? According the Telegraph, top British exports the Chinese enjoy are:

  • British cars
  • Burberry, and other designer labels
  • Scotch whisky
  • Scottish salmon

Of course, China’s market is massive, and the competition is there, but that shouldn’t put off smaller companies from breaking into the market. The Creative Industries reported on the success of hairbrush and haircare brand Tangle Teezer over in China. Tangle Teezer’s International Managing Director, Gemma Clarke, confirmed in the article that China became its second biggest sales market in only 3 years trading there.

After a Chinese model shared her purchase of a Tangle Teezer to her social media followers, Tangle Teezer took off in the country. China loves its online shopping, so influencers should not be overlooked when planning to cater to the Chinese market.

Businesses can potentially do very well in China, with the right product and approach. At the very least, firms need to plan for the eventual shake-up to the UK’s ties with the European market once Brexit comes into play, and time is running out to start building the foundations. This small window of golden opportunity has been highlighted by Rebecca De Cicco in regards to the UK’s construction industry in particular.

The director of Digital Node outlined how 70% of buildings over 200 metres tall completed in 2017 were built in China, and so the country is increasingly interested in building information management software and crowd simulation. The use of British construction software has already proved its value to the Chinese construction sector in Beijing’s new airport, the Beijing Daxing International. Projected to see 45 million passengers a year, the airport’s construction has benefited from crowd simulation software provided by UK structure design software experts, Oasys. The software alerted the construction company and designers to any potential bottlenecks, congestion problems, or other inefficiencies.

The Business Magazine has offered a guide on how to approach your business dealings in China. As with any overseas market, the magazine advises companies to consider the culture of the country they are trading with; in this case, explore China’s culture. The general consensus is to be aware that what works in the UK may not work in China’s business ground, and as relationships can take a long time to build, jeopardising them with an ill-placed comment or miscommunication can slow that pace even further.

The business world is going to change for the UK very soon. Whether or not we retain trade deals with the EU, and to what to degree, the wider world is coming to the UK. Will it be a great opportunity for businesses, as some predict?