Category Archives: How to

No more free-lunch bailouts

With governments spending on a massive scale to mitigate the economic fallout from Covid-19, they should be positioning their economies for a more sustainable future.
By Mariana Mazzucato and Andreo Andreoni – The Covid-19 crisis and recession provides a unique opportunity to rethink the role of the state, particularly its relationship with business. The long-held assumption that government is a burden on the market economy has been debunked. Rediscovering the state’s traditional role as an ‘investor of first resort’—rather than just as a lender of last resort—has become a precondition for effective policy-making in the post-Covid era.

Fortunately, public investment has picked up. While the United States has adopted a $3 trillion stimulus and rescue package, the European Union has introduced a €750 billion ($850 billion) recovery plan [albeit still under deliberation], and Japan has marshaled an additional $1 trillion in assistance for households and businesses.

However, in order for investment to lead to a healthier, more resilient and productive economy, money is not enough. Governments also must restore the capacity to design, implement and enforce conditionality on recipients, so that the private sector operates in a manner that is more conducive to inclusive, sustainable growth.

Government support for corporations takes many forms, including direct cash grants, tax breaks and loans issued on favorable terms or government guarantees—not to mention the expansive role played by central banks, which have purchased corporate bonds on a massive scale. This assistance should come with strings attached, such as requiring firms to adopt emissions-reduction targets and to treat their employees with dignity (in terms of both pay and workplace conditions). Thankfully, with even the business community rediscovering the merits of conditional assistance—through the pages of the Financial Times, for example —this form of state intervention is no longer taboo.

And there are some good examples. Both Denmark and France are denying state aid to any company domiciled in an EU-designated tax haven and barring large recipients from paying dividends or buying back their own shares until 2021. Similarly, in the US, the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren has called for strict bailout conditions, including higher minimum wages, worker representation on corporate boards and enduring restrictions on dividends, stock buybacks and executive bonuses. And in the United Kingdom, the Bank of England has pressed for a temporary moratorium on dividends and buybacks. more>

Updates from McKinsey

Taking supplier collaboration to the next level
Closer relationships between buyers and suppliers could create significant value and help supply chains become more resilient. New research sheds light on the ingredients for success.
By Agustin Gutierrez, Ashish Kothari, Carolina Mazuera, and Tobias Schoenherr – Companies with advanced procurement functions know that there are limits to the value they can generate by focusing purely on the price of the products and services they buy. These organizations understand that when buyers and suppliers are willing and able to cooperate, they can often find ways to unlock significant new sources of value that benefit them both

Buyers and suppliers can work together to develop innovative new products, for example, boosting revenues and profits for both parties. They can take an integrated approach to supply-chain optimization, redesigning their processes together to reduce waste and redundant effort, or jointly purchasing raw materials. Or they can collaborate in forecasting, planning, and capacity management—thereby improving service levels, mitigating risks, and strengthening the combined supply chain.

Earlier work has shown that supplier collaboration really does move the needle for companies that do it well. In one McKinsey survey of more than 100 large organizations in multiple sectors, companies that regularly collaborated with suppliers demonstrated higher growth, lower operating costs, and greater profitability than their industry peers.

Despite the value at stake, however, the benefits of supplier collaboration have proved difficult to access. While many companies can point to individual examples of successful collaborations with suppliers, executives often tell us that they have struggled to integrate the approach into their overall procurement and supply-chain strategies.

Several factors make supplier collaboration challenging. Projects may require significant time and management effort before they generate value, leading companies to prioritize simpler, faster initiatives, even if they are worth less. Collaboration requires a change in mind-sets among buyers and suppliers, who may be used to more transactional or even adversarial relationships. And most collaborative efforts need intensive, cross-functional involvement from both sides, a marked change to the normal working methods at many companies. This change from a cost-based to a value-based way of thinking requires a paradigm shift that is often difficult to come by. more>

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New US Semi Fab: Reality or Illusion?

Official talks on construction and operation of a new TSMC semiconductor chip manufacturing fab the in U.S. is promising but riddled with political and technical intrigue.
By John Blyler – Will the news of a new semiconductor fab on U.S. soil be a boost to the economy and technological stability or is it merely a fanciful political scheme? To answer that question, let’s start with the news that has created so much discussion in the electronics space.

Recently, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) announced its intention to build and operate an advanced 5nm semiconductor fab in the U.S. state of Arizona. TSMC, headquartered in Taiwan, is the largest chip manufacturer in the world. The company currently operates a fab in Camas, Washington and design centers in both Austin, Texas and San Jose, California. The Arizona facility would be TSMC’s second manufacturing site in the United States.

The new manufacturing plant would be supported with funds from Arizona and the U.S. government. The fab will have a 20,000 wafer-per-month capacity, create over 1,600 jobs directly and thousands more indirectly, explained the company in a press statement.

This by TSMC is welcomed in the U.S. but not without controversy. Shortly after the announcement of the new fab, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced new restrictions on TSMC’s second-largest customer, HiSilicon of China – which is fully owned by Huawei. Some industry experts feel that the two events are related to the issue of U.S. export control.

Here’s where the political side of the TSMC fab announcement begins to emerge. Huawei, already part of the US trade war with China, was recently placed under new and more stringent export control. On May 19, the Commerce Department issued new rules to more fully close off Huawei’s access to the semiconductor chips it needs to build cellphones and 5G infrastructure. This could conceivably block China’s big telecommunications company from entering the much desired global 5G mobile network space. more>

‘Shareholder value’ versus the public good: the case of Germany

Support for companies amid the pandemic must come with social and ecological strings attached.
By Emre Gömec and Mustafa Erdem Sakinç – With uncertainty around the world about how and when the coronavirus outbreak will decelerate, whole business sectors have been affected by lockdowns and are facing ruin. In Germany, more than 750,000 companies have put over 12 million employees on reduced working hours (Kurzarbeit), dwarfing the 3 million hit by the 2008 crisis.

Society’s loss goes beyond the toll on employment. As the crisis lengthens, innovative capabilities accumulated over years and even decades may atrophy and disappear, making it far more difficult to emerge from the pandemic with a healthy economy.

This ‘innovation drain’ can be avoided if, and only if, corporations devote every available resource to retaining, and reinvesting, in productive capacity. Implementation of the rescue packages adopted in Germany in March and June must thus fundamentally address future practices of corporate resource allocation.

Making government support conditional on replacing value-extractive practices, such as excessive dividend payments and executive compensation, is the most effective way to block damaging business decisions which undermine investment in productive capabilities and secure employment.

Germany’s case was, it’s true, not as dramatic as that of the US, where S&P 500 companies, having fallen victim to the American disease of corporate financialization, distributed 92 per cent of their net income between 2009 and 2018 in stock buybacks and dividends. Still, in the decade from 2010 to 2019, 65 German companies in the DAX 30 and MDAX 60 indices paid out a total of €338.8 billion, or 46 per cent of their combined profits, in dividends, in addition to €35.3 billion, or 5 per cent of profits, in stock buybacks. more>

Updates from McKinsey

How to build a data architecture to drive innovation—today and tomorrow
Yesterday’s data architecture can’t meet today’s need for speed, flexibility, and innovation. The key to a successful upgrade—and significant potential rewards—is agility.
By Antonio Castro, Jorge Machado, Matthias Roggendorf, and Henning Soller – Over the past several years, organizations have had to move quickly to deploy new data technologies alongside legacy infrastructure to drive market-driven innovations such as personalized offers, real-time alerts, and predictive maintenance.

However, these technical additions—from data lakes to customer analytics platforms to stream processing—have increased the complexity of data architectures enormously, often significantly hampering an organization’s ongoing ability to deliver new capabilities, maintain existing infrastructures, and ensure the integrity of artificial intelligence (AI) models.

Current market dynamics don’t allow for such slowdowns. Leaders such as Amazon and Google have been making use of technological innovations in AI to upend traditional business models, requiring laggards to reimagine aspects of their own business to keep up. Cloud providers have launched cutting-edge offerings, such as serverless data platforms that can be deployed instantly, enabling adopters to enjoy a faster time to market and greater agility. Analytics users are demanding more seamless tools, such as automated model-deployment platforms, so they can more quickly make use of new models. Many organizations have adopted application programming interfaces (APIs) to expose data from disparate systems to their data lakes and rapidly integrate insights directly into front-end applications. Now, as companies navigate the unprecedented humanitarian crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for the next normal, the need for flexibility and speed has only amplified.

For companies to build a competitive edge—or even to maintain parity, they will need a new approach to defining, implementing, and integrating their data stacks, leveraging both cloud (beyond infrastructure as a service) and new concepts and components. more>

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Updates from Ciena

How governments can solve layer 3 network complexity
What if government agencies could monitor and analyze their IP networks to ensure peak efficiency and service continuity—all while trying to modernize the network, balance cost, performance, and resiliency? Jim Westdorp, Ciena Government Solutions’ Chief Technologist, explains how this is possible.
By Jim Westdorp – The dynamic nature of IP networking makes it virtually impossible to know at any point in time how traffic is traversing your networks. Troubleshooting problems by issuing pings and router CLI commands, scanning log files, and manually correlating the results is imprecise and inefficient. Many government networks disable services like Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP), which makes these inefficient tasks impossible. The results can impact service delivery, the agility of the network, and mission.

Traditional management tools have several limitations. For example, they can’t:

  • Provide real-time visibility into routing paths across the network
  • Provide unique alerts for Layer 3 technologies related to: state changes, pathing, performance, and the availability of the network elements to route packets
  • Show and model how routing errors and changes impact service delivery
  • Understand the resiliency of the network
  • Correlate routing events with performance metrics of network services to assure service performance
  • Compute and provision transport paths to deploy new services
  • Provide unified visibility and analysis for multi-vendor, multi-layer networks

Think about all the things you’d like to be able to do with your network, and ask yourself a few questions:

  • What if you could get a graphical view of all the IP flows in your network and gain deeper insights into traffic patterns, flows, and congestion?
  • What if you could drill deep into specific flows to understand the detailed route and particular pieces of network equipment those flows traversed?
  • What if you could troubleshoot your network using DVR-like functionality to see the exact state of the network at the time of an event, even if it was days in the past?
  • What if you had automated analytics to help identify the best paths to route traffic through your network?
  • What if your cyber team could utilize the same platform to be alerted to conditions indicative of external interference with a government?

Often, “what-ifs” are hypotheticals. Not in this case, with Blue Planet’s Route Optimization and Analysis (ROA).  This technology has been field-proven for more than a decade with government entities that have strategic imperatives to monitor and analyze their IP Networks to ensure peak efficiency and service continuity—all while trying to modernize the network, balance cost, performance, and resiliency. more>

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Updates from Chicago Booth

Ever closer to an optimally cost-efficient assembly-line operation
By Chuck Burke and Vanessa Sumo – Companies such as Dell and BMW use an assemble-to-order production strategy that keeps common components on the factory floor, ready for final assembly into the type of personal computer or vehicle that a customer orders. This is great for companies looking to satisfy a large volume of demand but that don’t want to build whole units in advance, to avoid any unsold products.

However, the difficulty of estimating how much of each component to hold in stock and how to allocate components to each product can keep companies from maximizing ATO’s benefits in practice.

A cross between two alternate production strategies

Make-to-stock strategy: MTS managers forecast consumer demand and match anticipated orders with an inventory of fully assembled products.

Make-to-order strategy: On the other hand, MTO systems wait for a customer’s order to arrive before starting production. Because this can include procuring parts and assembling components, MTO often results in a longer lead time.

Assemble-to-order strategy: An ATO strategy aims to combine the best of both systems—its flexibility lets companies fulfill large orders relatively quickly with minimal unsold inventory, yet still allows customers to partially customize orders. Here is how it works:

Managers must decide the quantity of components to order even before they can ascertain customer demand for their products.

When customers’ orders arrive, managers must then choose how to allocate the supply of components to each product for assembly. more>

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Věra Jourová’s love letter to platforms

By Kassandra – “Internet and the platforms can be very important player(s) in the countries where we will see increased power of the government, decreased power of the media, shrunk space of the civil society, and all these factors which we don’t think belong to healthy democratic system. So we should not only think about how to regulate and whether to regulate, and how to minimize the power of big tech – or tech in general; not only big. But we should think about how to enhance and support the positive role which we see necessary.”

It is not, dear Commissioner (European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová), the platforms who are the heroes in these societies where democracy has fragmented but the people who champion democratic values on these platforms. The people whose lives are in danger when they speak out. The journalist, activists, and citizens who, tired of the reality they face, take a stand. If you turn platforms into heroes, perhaps then you should consider them as noble publishers, and not just conduits of information.

It’s as if she has forgotten the ‘bad surprise’ of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica days, or that Google has been found to be functioning anticompetitively in a whole range of issues. This is not a matter of fine and collect. This anticompetitive behavior has been very damaging to European companies and citizens and that is why Jourová’s colleagues running the EU’s competition authorities intervened.

And if Jourová would like to pretend these ‘bad surprises’ are a thing of the past, we have only to look at the latest clashes with the platforms: The EU opening two competition cases with Apple and the awaited outcome of the EU’s probe on Amazon.

In the US – mounting pressure for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to testify in Congress eventually led to a nod from the company signalling this is going to happen.

Meanwhile, in Europe, instead of asking for accountability, and for Bezos to appear – much like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg – in the European Parliament to answer some questions, politicians like Jourová are happy to turn a blind eye. more>

Updates from McKinsey

An operating model for the next normal: Lessons from agile organizations in the crisis
Companies with agile practices embedded in their operating models have managed the impact of the COVID-19 crisis better than their peers. Here’s what helped them cope.
By Christopher Handscomb, Deepak Mahadevan, Lars Schor, Marcus Sieberer and Suraj Srinivasan – For many companies, the first, most visible effects of the COVID-19 pandemic quickly created a challenge to their operating and business models. Everything came into question, from how and where employees worked to how they engaged with customers to which products were most competitive and which could be quickly adapted. To cope, many turned to practices commonly associated with agile teams in the hope of adapting more quickly to changing business priorities.

Agile organizations are designed to be fast, resilient, and adaptable. In theory, organizations using agile practices should be perfectly suited to respond to shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding the experiences of agile—or partially agile—companies during the crisis provides insights around which elements of their operating models proved most useful in practice. Through our research, one characteristic stood out for companies that outperformed their peers: companies that ranked higher on managing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis were also those with agile practices more deeply embedded in their enterprise operating models. That is, they were mature agile organizations that had implemented the most extensive changes to enterprise-wide processes before the pandemic.

That suggests implications for less agile companies as economies reopen. Should they set aside the agile practices they adopted during the pandemic and return to their traditional operating models? Or should they double down on agile practices to embrace the more fundamental team- and enterprise-level processes that helped successful agile companies navigate the downturn?

We analyzed 25 companies across seven sectors that have undergone or are currently undergoing an agile transformation. According to their self-assessments, almost all of their agile business units responded better than their nonagile units to the shocks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic by measures of customer satisfaction, employee engagement, or operational performance.

Executives emphasized that the agile teams have continued their work almost seamlessly after the shock, without substantial setbacks in productivity. In contrast, many nonagile teams struggled to transition, reprioritize their work, and be productive in the new remote setup. The alignment between agile teams’ backlogs and their business priorities allowed them to shift focus quickly. more>

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Updates from Georgia Tech

Why Restarting the Global Economy Won’t be Easy
By Jerry Grillo – As the world contemplates ending a massive lockdown implemented in response to COVID-19, Vinod Singhal is considering what will happen when we hit the play button and the engines that drive industry and trade squeal back to life again.

Singhal, who studies operations strategy and supply chain management at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has a few ideas on how to ease the transition to the new reality. But this pandemic makes it hard to predict what that reality will be.

“There is really nothing to compare this pandemic to,” he said. “And predicting or estimating stock prices is simply impossible, unlike supply chain disruptions caused by a company’s own fault, or a natural disaster, like the earthquake in Japan.”

But COVID-19 represents a new kind of mystery when it comes to something as complex and critical to the world’s economy as the global supply chain, for a number of reasons that Singhal highlighted:

  • The global spread of the virus and duration of the pandemic. “We have no idea when it will be under control and whether it will resurface,” Singhal said. “With a natural disaster you can kind of predict that if we put in some effort, within a few months we can get back to normal. But here there is a lot of uncertainty.”
  • Both the demand and supply side of the global supply chain are disrupted. “We’re not only seeing a lot of factories shutting down, which affects the supply side, but there are restrictions on demand, too, because you can’t just go out and shop like you used to, at least for the time being,” he said. “And all this is taking place in an environment where supply chains are fairly complex – intricate, interconnected, interdependent, and global.”
  • Longer lead times. “We get close to a trillion dollars of products annually from Asian countries, about $500 billion from China,” Singhal said. “Most are shipped by sea which requires a four-to-six-week lead time. The fact that logistics and distribution has been disrupted and needs to ramp up again will increase lead time. So, it will take time to fill up the pipeline, and that is going to be an issue.”
  • Supply chains have little slack, and little spare inventory. While manufacturing giants such as Apple, Boeing, and General Motors have more financial slack to carry them through a massive economic belt tightening, their suppliers, spread out across the globe, come in different sizes, different tiers, “and these smaller companies don’t have much financial slack,” said Singhal, pointing to a report of small and medium sized companies in China, “which have less than three months of cash. They’ve already been shut down for two months, and cash tends to go away quickly.

“Many of these companies may go bankrupt,” he added. “So we need to figure out how to reduce the number of bankruptcies. Government is going to play an important role in this, and the stimulus package the U.S. has approved will be helpful.” more>

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