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Supply Chain


in Asia:
Challenges and

In this issue:
Robert J.Easton and Tian Bing
Zhang explore supply chain
challenges facing companies that
operate in Asia,and identify seven
opportunity areas that have the
potential to dramatically improve
supply chain performance and

Supply Chain Perspectives

helps senior management
optimise value through
supply chain innovation.
Supply Chain Perspectives Supply Chains in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

Supply Chains in Asia:

Challenges and Opportunities
Robert J. Easton is a Supply chain excellence has become a key driver of value Asia's supply chain challenges fall into five principal areas:
partner in Accenture's 1. Market and Regulatory Diversity
Supply Chain Manage- and competitiveness in most industries and geographies.
2. Supply Chain Network Complexity
ment service line Yet in Asia, the supply chains of multinational corporations— 3. Market Penetration
responsible for supply
chain services in as well as those of local private and nationally owned 4. Organisational Models
China, Hong Kong, companies—tend to be more fragmented and less competitive 5. Cultural Mind-Set
Korea and Taiwan. He
has more than 20 years of experience in than their counterparts in the United States and Europe.
supply chain strategy, process reengineering, 1. Market and Regulatory Diversity
performance management, system integra-
By some estimates, they are three to five years behind In Asia, diversity is the norm rather than the exception. For example, there is a
tion and change management, and publishes the West. growing gap among developed economies such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan
frequently on these topics. Robert earned a
master’s of business administration degree
and South Korea; developing economies such as China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the
Companies doing business or seeking to operate in Asia must acknowledge this Philippines, Thailand and Taiwan; and emerging economies such as Cambodia,
from the Macquarie Graduate School of
Management and is a graduate of the performance gap. They also must work to understand the special nuances and chal- India and Vietnam (Figure 1). These disparities make the movement of goods
Singapore Command and General Staff lenges that gave rise to the region's subpar supply chain performance. For example, within and across borders difficult at best. To meet the challenge, organisations
College. Based in Hong Kong, he can be dauntingly complex market and regulatory environments are common in Asia, as
reached at must address four primary areas of diversity:
are underdeveloped network infrastructures, technological inconsistencies, adversarial • Infrastructure
cultural agendas and convoluted distribution networks. Identifying those barriers and • Capabilities
understanding their impact is the first essential step toward building a supply chain • eCommerce
Tian Bing Zhang is
capability with business outcomes equal to those achieved elsewhere in the world. • Organisation
a Shanghai-based
manager in the
Accenture Supply This paper examines in detail the supply chain challenges facing companies that Diversity of Infrastructure
Chain Management operate in Asia. It then explores seven opportunity areas that have the potential to
service line. He National, regional and municipal diversities are the product of many factors. The The potential and the
specialises in supply
dramatically improve supply chain performance and competitiveness. Pursuing these first of these is infrastructure, the quality, efficiency and capacity of which varies
chain opportunity opportunity areas should be a top priority for CEOs and CFOs. In Asia, as with other greatly from country to country. For instance, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and rewards associated
assessment, regional supply chain strategy, parts of the world, supply chain excellence can provide a competitive weapon to Singapore have highly efficient ports, airports, road connections, rail services and
network optimisation, strategic sourcing,
deliver market advantage and achieve quantum leaps in cost and revenue performance. with infrastructure
procurement, inventory management, and customs operations, while the transportation infrastructures of Indonesia, the
modelling and simulation. Bing has a Philippines and Thailand are largely inadequate. Recognising the problem, some coun- improvements are clear,
bachelor’s degree in physics from Tongji tries are investing heavily to enhance their rail, port and air infrastructures. In the
University, and a master’s of business The Critical Supply Chain Challenges in Asia near future, for example, Malaysia will spend RM21.2 billion (US$5.6 billion) to
particularly since the
administration degree from the Australian
For a company to be competitive, its supply chain must be cost-efficient, responsive,
Graduate School of Management, with an upgrade its transport infrastructure. 1
economies of many
exchange programme to the University of flexible, agile, and support customer requirements to receive the product they need,
Chicago Graduate School of Business. He can in the quantity they want, and when and where they want it. Ensuring the presence China stands out as the country most affected by a subpar road, rail, air, port and countries rely on
be reached at of all these characteristics is difficult anywhere. But in Asia—a region of enormously technology infrastructure. In 1999, its aggregate road network was 1.526 million intra-Asian trade.
diverse languages, cultures, currencies, regulations, taxes, infrastructures, business kilometres, less than one-fourth that of the United States. China's infrastructure is
practices, organisational forms and economic-development levels—attempting to ranked last of seven of the world's most highly industrialised nations. As a result,
optimise the supply chain can seem almost futile. Complicating matters further, this
diversity exists not only among countries, but also among cities within the same
country; in countries such as China, it exists even within cities. Broadly speaking, 1
June Lim, ”Malaysia Continues to Improve Logistics Infrastructure,” MHD Supply Chain Solutions
(November 2001), 14.

2 3
Supply Chain Perspectives Supply Chains in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

Diversity of Capabilities
Differences in:
Economic development and political stability Taxation and regulatory systems Superior supply chain capabilities exist in only a few of Asia’s more-developed
Customs duties and taxes (some free trade zones) Logistics and communication infrastructure countries, most notably Singapore and Hong Kong. Elsewhere, peak capabilities are
Language, complexity of documents, country- Banking practices
specific branding and packaging Sophistication of consumers, customers largely the province of multinational corporations, conglomerates and a small
Currency and stability and vendors number of foreign logistics companies. For the most part, capability shortcomings
are the result of a shortage of skilled people, a dearth of enabling technologies
and/or insufficient access to third-party logistics providers.

Uneven market penetration • People:

Complex sourcing, The shortage of experienced supply chain professionals is a global issue that
manufacturing, logistics
and distribution networks simply is more acute in Asia. In fact, the region’s quest for supply chain
organisational models excellence was nearly nonexistent until recently, which meant that few skilled
Unwritten business managers were recruited and hardly any supply chain courses of study existed
rules and entrenched
business practices in top Asian universities. Fortunately, many Asian universities now are working
Market pressure and
changing business imperatives to add supply chain management to their curricula.

• Enabling Technologies:
For the most part,
Poor infrastructure and distribution Mix of traditional, modern and Modern distribution channels In North America and Europe, implementation of materials resource planning
emerging distribution channels
Limited data, low levels of automation
Fragmented industries (e.g., super/hypermarkets)
Intense competition
Demanding consumers
systems began in the 1960s. By the mid to late 1990s, many companies across capability shortcomings
High degree of government More demanding customers,
Availability of sophisticated these regions had completed enterprise resource planning (ERP) and business
Resistance to third parties, low
increasing competition, consolidation
and rationalisation of industries
capabilities and technology
reengineering initiatives, and were poised to build "intelligent supply chains"
are the result of
Difficult to access sophisticated Easier to attract quality labour
third-party capability
Very low Internet uptake
supply chain capabilities
More advanced technology but with
Greater propensity to outsource
High Internet uptake
using focused applications for demand management, procurement, interenter- a shortage of skilled
Focus on fire-fighting varying levels of integration Processes and infrastructure that prise collaboration and customer relationship management.
Low to medium Internet uptake support collaboration people, a dearth of
Movement from reactive to
collaborative In Asia, however, local, regional and global players were far less inclined enabling technologies
to embrace leading-edge technologies, primarily due to skill limitations, infra-
Figure 1: Factors influencing supply chain competitiveness in Asia.
structure shortcomings and a general reluctance to invest in intangible assets. and/or insufficient
In fact, many Asian companies have not reengineered their logistical operations
access to third-party
and are only starting to implement ERP solutions. Even some multinationals
companies entering the Chinese market often find that standard theories of supply have yet to integrate their ERP platforms regionally. Without a reliable ERP logistics providers.
chain management do not apply, because the country cannot always support the system as a central repository for accurate transactional data and standardised
timely and economical movement of materials. China's government has announced business processes, even basic operational improvements materialise more slowly.
major initiatives to improve the infrastructure; for the time being, though, supply
chain performance improvements are innately handicapped. All in all, the information, costing, procurement and distribution systems of
many Asian companies are antiquated, fragmented and largely unrationalised.
But China is not the only country with an inferior logistics infrastructure. In fact, It is therefore no surprise that in Asia, compared to North America and Europe,
there really is no pan-Asian integrated transport and distribution network to leverage. costs are higher, reliability is lower, transfer pricing and sourcing decisions are
However, the potential and the rewards associated with infrastructure improvements exceptionally difficult to make, and reliable reports on regional performance
are clear, particularly because the economies of many countries rely on intra-Asian trade. are hard to obtain.

4 5
Supply Chain Perspectives Supply Chains in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

• Third-Party Logistics Providers: is network complexity. This problem is endemic in Asian distribution channels, which
Compared to North American and European companies, Asian companies have generally are multilayered, with three or four intermediaries between manufacturer
been slow to embrace outsourcing. There are only a few established logistics and customer. (In the US and Europe, one or two intermediaries are the norm.)
firms in Asia, a minority of which are internally networked and none of which In China, regulations prohibit foreign companies from owning distribution channels,
are pan-Asian in scale. This dearth of outside resources means that companies and they have little choice but to rely on local concerns to distribute their product.
have little alternative but to develop convoluted webs of relationships with Even if the performance of those local organisations were not suspect, foreign
multiple vendors and/or to rely heavily on subpar, internally developed supply companies still lose their ability to view and understand actual demand levels and
chain capabilities. Fortunately, there appears to be both a consolidation and customer requirements (Figure 2).
expansion of third-party resources in Asia, which in the near future should mean
broader—and more broadly available—capabilities at the country and regional levels. In China and Korea, distribution channels are particularly inefficient, fragmented
and costly. Because neither country has national distributors, the market is owned
Compared to North eCommerce Diversity by a plethora of small- and medium-sized local wholesalers. Consider the pharma-
Internet penetration levels vary greatly across Asia, with highs of more than 25 ceuticals industry in China and Korea, which is served by 16,000 Chinese wholesalers
American and European percent in Hong Kong and lows of less than 1 percent in China and India. Moreover,
Accenture client experience indicates that most Asian companies use the Internet
companies, Asian solely to share information and not as a mechanism for streamlining or managing
companies have been their supply chains. As a result, efficient online payment systems, third-party
“eServices” providers, mechanisms for managing supplier risk, and regulations that
slow to embrace protect against electronic payment fraud often do not exist. Nor is reliable data for
outsourcing. due diligence available publicly as it is in the US and Europe. Thus companies
typically use letters of credit, which heightens security but adds complexity, time
and inefficiency.

Some industry analysts report that, within a couple of years, 20 percent of the
world's business-to-business transactions will involve Asia. But with an eCommerce
infrastructure that significantly lags the US and most of Europe, Asian players will
have little choice but to tolerate supply chain inefficiencies and bring on extra
players to build and maintain supply chain relationships.

Organisational Diversity
Asia’s linguistic, cultural and regulatory diversity has forced many multinationals
Local and imported materials Often responsible for own Warehousing/distribution Nonexclusive distributors Little visibility of end-
to organise along geographic lines, with each division set up as an independent, Some contract manufacturers operations, including purchasing joint venture or handled Distribute product to stores customers apart from
for specific projects Sometimes based in by local or joint venture Credit with stores key accounts
country-specific profit centre. This approach helped many organisations penetrate multiple provinces third parties
Execute in-store promotions Actual demand and service
local markets, but it also perpetuated supply chain inefficiencies by fragmenting Rudimentary automated Some have willingness and performance masked
product development, buying, manufacturing, logistics and planning efforts. In capability to improve
Delivery lead-times in weeks Little visibility of
effect, opportunities to build cost-saving, sales-enhancing synergies continue to not days subcontracted distribution,
be undermined by the organisational barriers to a regional supply chain strategy. Manual accounting unpredictable service

2. Supply Chain Network Complexity

Asia's market and regulatory diversity has created serious supply chain complexities. Figure 2: A typical supply chain network for a hypothetical consumer products company operating in China.
Tariff and non-tariff barriers, for example, hinder cross-border and regional trade,
and severely complicate make-versus-buy decisions. The prime impediment, however,

6 7
Supply Chain Perspectives Supply Chains in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

In China and Korea, distribution channels 4. Organisational Models

In North America and Europe, conglomerates are a declining organisational form.
are particularly inefficient, fragmented and In Asia, however, vertical and horizontal conglomerates continue to dominate and
shape their markets. In fact, about 30 percent of Asia's 50 largest companies could
costly. Because neither country has national be classified as conglomerates. In Korea, the top 30 conglomerates account for
more than 90 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). In Southeast Asia,
distributors, the market is owned by a plethora Hong Kong and Taiwan, family-owned conglomerates also are the rule, while in
China the equivalent State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) dominate.
of small- and medium-sized local wholesalers.
Despite the efficiencies that Asian conglomerates might derive from their scale,
scope, wealth and long-standing relationships, this organisational model inhibits
supply chain efficiency. That is because the entities within most conglomerates
take a portfolio approach to investment decision making, which has encouraged
the development of disparate technology systems and architectures that inhibit
companywide transparency of information. This results in fewer enterprise performance
and 400 Korean wholesalers—all with margins of more than 25 percent. In South measures and less opportunity to collaborate at the group level (e.g., by leveraging
Korea, a manufacturer that desires nationwide distribution must work with as many aggregated spend, rationalising and sharing supply chain assets, jointly developing
as 50 wholesalers. By contrast, there are only eight such wholesalers in the entire and sharing forecast and planning data, and leveraging core competencies
United States, four of which distribute 80 percent of pharmaceutical manufacturers’ across entities).
output at an average margin of less than 5 percent. With China’s accession to the
World Trade Organization (December 2001), some regulatory restrictions controlling Lastly, family-like perspectives, consensus decision-making approaches and highly Indeed, many companies
distribution channels and logistics services are being lifted. But until the transition is insular relationships dominate the thinking of Asian conglomerates. In effect, a need
complete, the development of advanced supply chain networks will remain constrained. to preserve the current order and not disrupt existing relationships can override
around the globe
conglomerates' pursuit of outsourcing opportunities or the establishment of new confront the pressure
Overall, the development of pan-Asian networks has been routinely subjugated by collaborative endeavours.
mandatory adherence to local interests. Those regulations have forced the operating of achieving supply
units of multinationals and conglomerates to enter Asian markets at different times, 5. Cultural Mind-Set chain excellence to
set up shop as independent operations, and/or enter enforced joint ventures. The Across Asia, three culturally based barriers stand in the path of meaningful, sustain-
result has been widespread duplication of supply chain infrastructures and burden- able improvements in supply chain efficiency: increase revenue,
some levels of network complexity.
• Trust is the foundation upon which information sharing and collaboration
reduce net operating
3. Market Penetration are built. However, trust, particularly between supply chain partners, remains costs, reduce working
For most global companies, Asian market penetration is deepest in the more-developed a significant issue in Asia.
countries, such as Japan, Singapore, Korea and Hong Kong, as well as in urban • Win-lose perspectives are common in Asia, particularly when dealing with
capital and increase
centres along China's east coast. Not surprisingly, supply chain networks and infra- suppliers. For example, a survey of 582 Asian companies found that most want capital utilisation.
structures also are more fully developed in these areas, and thus they often are their suppliers to add Internet capabilities (e.g., to help them obtain product
hubs from which broader, pan-Asian capabilities are launched. Still, as countries prices, search and compare product features, and conduct online price negotia-
such as Indonesia, China, India and Vietnam become key markets or new points of tions). However, few plan to actually add such capabilities themselves. 3

penetration, current supply chain networks and infrastructures will have to be

reconfigured and new capabilities will have to be developed.

2 3
“Asia Industry: Redefining the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain,“ Economist Intelligence Unit Regional Economic News David Manion, “Asia Pacific Supply Chain Survey,“ CommerceNet (November 19, 1999).
(October 15, 2001).

8 9
Supply Chain Perspectives Supply Chains in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

• Respect, in Asia, often refers to the importance of “minding one’s own 6. Source Capabilities Intelligently (Buy, Build, Borrow)
business.” Across the region, people generally are expected to stay within their
own boundaries and avoid challenging the way others do business, especially
7A. Extend the Traditional Supply Chain
when the relationship involves superiors. This mind-set has been inculcated
within companies, among departments, and across external entities and trading
1. Strategise and Optimise the Network
partners. Because it discourages change, coordination and the development
of new approaches, it can undermine a company’s pursuit of greater supply 3. Integrate Demand and Supply, Manage Surges
chain efficiencies. Supplier's Customer's
Supplier Buy Make Move Sell Customer
Supplier Customer

Asia has several Further Exacerbating Asia's Supply Chain Challenges 2. Achieve Functional Excellence
Consumer demand for “better, faster, cheaper” products and services is a worldwide
highly entrenched phenomenon, as well as a major incentive for supply chain improvements. Indeed,
many companies around the globe confront the pressure of achieving supply chain IT Follow-on 4. Integrate Technology and Systems Architecture IT Follow-on
business practices
excellence to increase revenue, reduce net operating costs, reduce working capital Organise Follow-on 5. Organise and Measure for Supply Chain Efficiency Organise Follow-on
that profoundly and increase capital utilisation. But in Asia—a global hub for the manufacture of
consumer products (and particularly electronics)—the pressure to improve in these
affect the evolution areas is even greater. The global economic slowdown left many Asian companies Alternate Alternate Alternate Alternate
Channel Channel Channel Channel
of supply chain holding excess inventories at a time when spending on local goods also dropped.
However, the region’s astonishing diversity and complicated distribution network 7B. Extend beyond the Traditional Supply Chain
optimisation initiatives. schemes make responding to these pressures even tougher than in other parts of the
world. In contrast to the United States and Europe, for example, Asian companies face: Key: Establish Foundations Organise and Measure Extend the Supply Chain
• In-store stock-outs. IT and Systems Source Capability – Outsource Extend beyond the Supply Chain
• Lower levels of visibility over inventory and demand.
• Poor levels of forecast accuracy and demand management.
Figure 3: Supply chain opportunity areas for Asia.
• Higher inventory carrying costs, lower inventory turnover,
and lower levels of accuracy and control.
• Less understanding of customer and consumer needs and
required service levels.
• Excess infrastructure (i.e., too many nodes and assets in the network). The Opportunities:
• Lower levels of process and system standardisation and data Seven Approaches for Supply Chain Success in Asia
transparency across enterprises.
• Lower use of reliable performance measures. As the previous overview of challenges makes clear, realising supply chain improve-
ments in this part of the world is not easy. Yet it can be done. As summarised in
Lastly, Asia has several highly entrenched business practices that profoundly affect Figure 3, the remainder of this paper profiles seven ways that companies operating
the evolution of supply chain optimisation initiatives. For example, improving in Asia can significantly improve their supply chain efficiency and competitiveness:
the buying of materials and services is a significant savings opportunity in Asia; but
it also threatens the livelihood of procurement officials who might accept “off-book” Opportunity 1: Strategise and Optimise
incentive payments. Unwritten rules and entrenched practices such as those vary across Opportunity 2: Achieve Functional Excellence
countries, but they are a major source of resistance in virtually any business context. Opportunity 3: Integrate Demand and Supply
Opportunity 4: Integrate Technology and Systems Architecture
Opportunity 5: Organise and Measure for Supply Chain Efficiency
Opportunity 6: Source Capabilities Intelligently
Opportunity 7: Extend the Supply Chain

10 11
Supply Chain Perspectives Supply Chains in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

Obviously, Asia’s diversity complicates the task of prescribing solutions that success- Opportunity 1: Strategise and Optimise
fully relate to more than one group or business context, which is why many of Companies in Asia often embark on multiple supply chain projects without a coherent,
the cited opportunities must be addressed on a country-by-country, company-by- guiding supply chain strategy. In fact, few organisations operating in the region have
company and/or supply-chain-by-supply-chain basis. such a strategy. The problem with this approach is that it produces little more than
incremental improvements. Unless supply chain projects are implemented within the
The numbering of opportunities in Figure 3 is deliberate—an attempt to proffer a context of a broader, clearly defined strategy, their impact becomes diluted, localised
logical order to approaching supply chain tasks and determining what is achievable. and easily lost.
For companies dealing with underdeveloped infrastructures and tough regulatory
constraints, simply excelling at the basics would be a significant achievement. For oth- However, when they are implemented within the context of a broader strategy, the
ers (operating in more sophisticated environments), the task of synchronising supply results can range, for example, from reductions in inventory costs and improved
chains and connecting networks of eMarkets might be a more appropriate goal. The inventory visibility and control, to a competitively advantageous transportation
greatest likelihood, however, is that multinational corporations operating throughout structure. Plus, a more strategic supply chain approach leads to tax and duty optimi-
the region will have to address both scenarios. sation and better end-of-life product management, which can reduce inventory
obsolescence. This can be a big deal in Asia, but to date, few broad-scale efforts
As Figure 4 shows, there also must be a clear path that companies follow in their have been undertaken. Accenture’s client experience shows network and inventory
quest for supply chain effectiveness. This is particularly true in Asia, where operating savings ranging from 10 percent to 40 percent have been realised by companies in
environments can be varied and unsophisticated, and basic infrastructure systems Asia that have focused on developing a strategy and optimising their network. More
and capabilities are of utmost importance. In effect, the development and mastery importantly, companies have experienced improvements in revenue and market share
of core capabilities—consistent processes and procedures, integrated IT, accurate from 2 percent to 5 percent by aligning and optimising their supply chains.
and reliable data, straightforward performance measures, and thoughtful manage-
ment of people—are even more important to companies doing business in Asia. Thus, To realise these benefits, companies in Asia need to determine what drives real
true leaders and innovators do not question the need for a logical, evolutionary advantage in their supply chains and what drives real value to their customers—and
approach to supply chain improvement. Instead, they look for ways to do it quicker then configure their supply chains accordingly. As part of this effort, they need to
and smarter. align all relevant capabilities, processes and structures to an overall strategy.
Sourcing, conversion, distribution and replenishment planning should be coordinated
within the overall network design to ensure the optimal spread of resources, assets
and lower cost-to-serve (Figure 5). Complexity in algorithms caused by the impact of
Across Alliance tax regimes and regulatory diversity on make-buy decisions justifies the use of robust
Partners optimisation tools. Yet, to date, limited use has been made of network optimisation
tools in Asia.
Customers Elite Industry Shapers
and Suppliers Given the diversity of geography, language, culture, customs, regulations, and tax
and tariff regimes, postponement is a key component of most pan-Asian strategies.
In fact, the lack of local packaging, labelling, region-specific parts and/or multilin-
Leading Companies
Between gual documentation routinely adds cost, complexity and bloated inventories to the
supply chains of companies that perform final configuration at their manufacturing
sites. Asian companies that have implemented postponement techniques have
Typical Companies realised inventory savings that average 10 percent to 30 percent. Additional savings
Within have resulted from higher fill rates and lower product obsolescence.
Functions Process

Figure 4: The path to supply chain transformation.

12 13
Supply Chain Perspectives Supply Chains in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

The Stock Holding Balance

Opportunity 2: Achieve Functional Excellence
Variability Time Companies operating in Asia have a great opportunity to improve efficiencies
Availability of material Service objective or across the core supply chain processes. The effort to achieve functional excellence
for on-time fulfilment stock-out cost
of demand in these areas provides the foundation to pursue other improvement opportunities
as well. Following are some examples of the opportunities that exist in each of
these areas.
• Raw materials • Manufacturing costs
Companies with well-managed, relationship-focused procurement practices outper-
• Work-in-process • Sourcing material costs
form other companies in financial terms (total shareholder return, return on equity,
• Finished goods • Transportation costs
• Sourcing • Material handling costs
return on assets, cash flow, return on investment) and in productivity terms (sales
Economics • Process execution costs per employee, income per employee, real growth in sales).

However, it is clear that Asian companies lag their US and European counterparts
Strategy Considerations for Asia Supply Chain Network Issues in consolidating and leveraging purchasing activities across the enterprise. They also
• Local vs. regional factories, warehouses, etc. • Identify lowest-cost sourcing strategy have been slower to adopt strategic sourcing practices—making suppliers true business
• Revenue vs. profit maximisation • Determine number of manufacturing sites partners and thus bringing greater transparency to the overall procurement process.
• Role/relevance of each country/location and lowest-cost conversion strategy
to the overall strategy • Determine lowest total cost finished-
In the short term, those companies may be foregoing the benefits of solutions that
• Global implications and strategic directives goods source locations accompany strategic sourcing techniques, such as online auctions. Further down the
• Determine stock-holding locations road, they probably will be unable to match the lower cost-of-goods-sold profiles
across the network attained by industry leaders that have implemented highly efficient eProcurement
• Determine new infrastructure requirements solutions. In fact, the Aberdeen Group calculated that eSourcing applications have
• Identify cost-to-serve and service trade-offs 4

for specific customer segments

the potential to save US businesses more than $690 billion per year.

Figure 5: Strategising and optimising the network.

Excellence in sourcing offers multinationals, especially conglomerates, significant Companies operating
opportunities for immediate supply chain improvements and value creation—often
by leveraging and transforming cross-entity procurement activities and capabilities. in Asia have a great
Strategic sourcing and procurement transformation will continue to grow across opportunity to improve
Asia. Here, in particular, the opportunities are too attractive to ignore. To remain
There are two types of postponement: competitive, companies must find ways to overcome the challenges of unwritten efficiencies across
rules, trust and transparency.
1. Intracompany postponement is easier to achieve because it keeps activities the core supply
in house: Final product and package configuration simply is moved from manu- Make chain processes.
facturing centres to distribution facilities, thus creating a ready supply of Manufacturing dominates the industry landscape in Asia, and inexpensive labour is
semiconfigured products that are customised just in time. abundant throughout the region. Accordingly, there are many pockets of real manu-
2. Intercompany postponement moves final configuration from a company’s manu- facturing excellence, particularly among the multinationals, which routinely apply
facturing site(s) to an outside distributor, reseller or retailer. In the personal advanced principles such as lean manufacturing and six sigma. But there also are
computer industry, for example, assemblers ship semiconfigured products to numerous, large, local companies and State-Owned Enterprises whose processes are
distributors, which add components such as disk drives and memory only when basic and for which improvement opportunities remain abundant.
actual orders are received. This approach is more of a challenge and requires
higher levels of governance and trust, but it also can create savings in several
supply chain areas. 4
Aberdeen Group, “Strategic e-Sourcing Could Save Business $1.7 Trillion on a Global Basis,“ press release
(April 3, 2001).

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Supply Chain Perspectives Supply Chains in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

For many Asian Many of those opportunities involve make-versus-buy decisions and plant rationalisation. Other sell-related opportunities also are available as the result of Asian companies’
As noted earlier, for example, outsourcing is significantly underrepresented in Asia, limited success at:
companies, the greatest despite its potential to help companies (particularly small and medium enterprises) • Understanding the relationship between line fill and revenue. (Increases in line
realise production and cost efficiencies. This opportunity has not escaped the atten- fill generally lead to an increase in revenue.)
cost-reduction tion of contract manufacturers such as Flextronics, which plans to build a major • Acknowledging a connection between inadequate service and increased costs.
opportunities are those manufacturing and logistics hub in Malaysia. • Measuring customer satisfaction from an external perspective. (Many companies
simply do not query customers on a regular basis, preferring instead to rely on
associated with logistics Move internal measures of service performance.)
and distribution. For many Asian companies, the greatest cost-reduction opportunities are those • Measuring what is shipped as demand, rather than true demand (what
associated with logistics and distribution. Consider Korea, where the cost of trans- customers first ask for prior to negotiation, back orders, or other manual or
portation, storage, unloading and packaging accounts for 16.3 percent of the automated manipulation of the customers’ initial requests).
country's GDP, compared to 9.9 percent of the United States’ and 9.6 percent of
Japan’s. In most parts of Asia, in fact, distribution centre productivity, layout and
operations are rudimentary at best. Opportunity 3: Integrate Demand and Supply
As leaders such as Wal-Mart and Dell Computer have demonstrated, successful
In many cases, the key to better logistical performance is technology. For instance, demand and supply management requires thorough integration across the enterprise.
Mayne Logistics recently implemented EXE Technologies’ supply chain execution Unfortunately, many companies in Asia are silo-based, and thus do not have process
software at Unilever's facilities in Malaysia. On-time performance rates subsequently owners to orchestrate an integrated demand/supply planning process. Moreover, the
rose from 75 percent to 99.8 percent. Route planning and transport-management few that have implemented some form of integrated planning often retreat to silo
systems also are underrepresented in Asia, which could mean large opportunities to formation because they lack the measures to drive full integration, or because they
reduce net landed costs. Data mapping technologies for transport management have failed to organise around the integrated processes. Lastly, forecast accuracy and
systems are in their infancy, but documented increases in transport efficiency should inventory management in Asia generally are poor, which further complicates matters.
drive their use higher in the near future. Given the amount of product movement
that occurs in Asia, transportation optimisation should be a top priority. To lay the groundwork for integrated demand and supply planning, companies
should start with a fundamental, effective sales and operations planning process.
Sell That means having marketing, sales, logistics, manufacturing and procurement
In the US and Europe, tailoring supply chain responses to customer requirements has personnel talking with one another, planning together and identifying every
yielded revenue increases from 3 percent to 5 percent for companies. But in Asia, a opportunity to replace inventory with information. With this foundation in place,
"one size fits all" approach often prevails. As a result, broad opportunities exist for demand/supply planning software from companies such as i2 Technologies,
companies to increase revenues and market share by understanding: a) the costs Manugistics, SAP and Oracle can help organisations make complex operating decisions,
associated with serving each customer; b) what specific services customers require; ensure process consistency, adhere to key measures, and increase data integrity and
and c) services for which customers are prepared to pay. Market leaders then will use transparency. The extensive use of demand and supply planning software in the US
those insights to align their supply chain culture, capabilities, infrastructure and and Europe has not occurred to the same extent in Asia; but, as companies reengineer
people with the specific responses required by their best customers. The Asian com- their processes and improve their technology and data integrity, wider use of these
panies that have followed a programme to segment and tailor their supply chain tools is expected.
responses to specific customer requirements—developing a more holistic cost-to-
serve perspective that integrates sales and the supply chain—have seen significant
cost and revenue benefits.

Robert J. Bowman, “Despite Obstacles, Shippers Score Success in Asia,“ Global Logistics & Supply Chain Strategies
(July 1999).

16 17
Supply Chain Perspectives Supply Chains in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

Opportunity 4: Integrate Technology and Systems Architecture

Leading organisations recognise the importance of developing an end-to-end supply Fulfilment and Network and Tax People and
Procurement Planning and
Transportation Optimisation Capability
chain view by linking planning/scheduling technologies with their ERP systems, as Replenishment
well as the systems of their customers and suppliers (Figure 6). However, in Asia—
• Implement improvements • Rationalise distribution • Optimise supply/demand • Rationalise or relocate • Build capability rapidly
and particularly in developing countries—many companies have yet to implement across business units/markets: centres across business balancing across business plants and supply chain across business
ERP systems. The penalty they pay for this is greater than just the cost and difficulty - Reduce costs through units/markets units/markets assets across business units/markets
aggregation, auctioning • Lower transportation • Plan and schedule at units/markets • Optimise training costs
of managing disparate and often archaic systems. It is the inability to integrate and and strategic sourcing contract rates and improve regional levels • Reduce network costs and increase training
optimise the newer technologies—including those in front-office, market-facing - Improve supplier manage- performance across Asian through use of effectiveness across
• Improve forecast accuracy
ment and performance markets through load postponement strategies business units/markets
areas such as supplier relationship management and customer relationship management. and line fill across business
- Achieve greater compliance and creation tendering, units/markets • Reduce invested capital • Facilitate transfer of best
Without integrated systems, organisations lose the opportunity to make better deci- to supplier contracts carrier selection, and
• Reduce raw material, across business practices across business
- Leverage eProcurement optimisation services units/markets
sions, reduce overall operating costs, and further leverage resources and information. finished goods and units/markets
• Optimise finished goods packaging inventory across • Optimise cost-to-serve
sourcing strategy across business units/markets trade-offs for particular
business units/markets customer segments
• Deliver sophisticated
• Reduce intercountry and planning capabilities to • Optimise tax and duty
in-country transport times emerging economies regimes across Asian
and costs markets through effective
• Reduce costs and improve
• Achieve operational service through use of corporate
• Customer Demand Forecast excellence in fulfilment organisation and location
Customers collaborative planning
• In-Transits/Deliveries and transportation across with suppliers
• Goods Receipts business units/markets and customers
(e.g., track and trace,
payment services)
Integrated Order
Figure 7: Opportunities for a cross-business unit or regional supply chain organisation.
ERP Legacy Systems
Management System
Integration Tools

Enterprise application integration (EAI) technologies, or middleware, are another

Advanced Planning and Scheduling effective way to integrate applications and capabilities, and thus improve interenterprise
• Supply Chain Planning • Order Processing • Constraint-Based
data transfer and data transparency. However, before ERP or EAI can be effective,
• Forecasting • Demand Planning Master Planning
companies must separate their operational and technical challenges. If basic opera-
tional measures—forecast accuracy, make adherence, line fill, inventory accuracy,
Supply Chain Planning Demand Planning Demand Forecasting
inventory turns, operating cost and delivery accuracy—are off-base, it is unlikely that
any software package will provide much relief. Companies must recognise that, in
• Transport Optimisation • Customer Collaboration general, 30 percent of the benefits to be derived from a software solution will come
• NEON Systems
Demand Collaboration from the software and technology itself, and the remaining 70 percent will come
• Peregrine Transportation
from process reengineering. Without appropriate process improvements, a company
Systems Management/Optimisation Product Collaboration
• SeeBeyond may merely be speeding up or automating its current antiquated processes.
• webMethods
• Shipment Requests, • Forecast/Material Requirements • Supplier Collaboration
Track and Trace • Procurement Processes
Opportunity 5: Organise and Measure for Supply Chain Efficiency
Third- and Fourth-Party Logistics Supplier Companies striving for supply chain competitiveness must first organise for efficiency
(Figure 7). That means optimising the whole, not the constituent parts of their supply
chains. Asian organisations, however, historically have done the opposite: They have
Figure 6: Illustrative example of integrated IT. organised their supply chains around local markets, functions and business units. As
a result, there is a deeply ingrained legacy of duplicated and inefficient supply chain
infrastructures, technologies, operations, processes and people.

18 19
Supply Chain Perspectives Supply Chains in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

Following are four ways that Asia business leaders can rationalise their supply chain
operations to increase efficiency: Regional Capabilities

1. Regionalise Supply Chain Functions and Processes Emerging Developing Developed

Several high tech and consumer goods companies operating in Asia have adopted Markets/Companies Markets/Companies Markets/Companies
regional manufacturing, distribution and marketing strategies. However, the area’s Developed

exceptional diversity makes it difficult to prescribe a single pan-Asian operating

Localise Regionalise Rationalise
model or rationalisation solution. Figure 8 summarises Accenture research into what the supply chain the supply chain the supply chain
various companies have done to organise for efficiency.
Key Characteristics
for Supply Chain
Perhaps the most important effort companies can make to balance centralisation Management Optimise local operations, Integrate, collaborate, Rationalise, collaborate
integrate processes where think centrally or and synchronise
and regionalisation is to consolidate the supply side to reduce variable costs and
possible regionally, act locally
improve economies of scale. Several companies have successfully centralised demand
and capacity planning, while still executing locally. Similarly, various intracountry
logistics efforts now are planned and executed locally, but are centrally planned
when material movement is between countries.
Figure 9: Applying sophisticated capabilities to less-developed markets.

Product Logistics and Demand

Procurement Manufacturing
Development Distribution Management
These important efforts currently are being pursued by multidivisional multinationals,
• Typically handled centrally • Direct or strategic • Typically handled • Typically handled locally • Typically performed regionally
• Modification or material procurement regionally or locally, as the market in different • Product planning conglomerates and regional companies, and are showing strong potential not only to
customisation performed typically handled globally depending on the nature of countries varies typically performed locally reduce costs and increase efficiencies, but also to:
regionally or locally to fulfil or regionally the products and degree based on regional/central
customer preferences • Indirect or nonstrategic of configuration required demand plan • Standardise processes.
purchases handled locally • Adhere to best practices and create "centres of excellence."
• Develop tighter controls.
• Improve access to higher-quality management.
Possible Configuration: Possible Configuration: Possible Configuration: Possible Configuration: Possible Configuration:
• Country centre • Regional or global centres • Regional • Handled and planned • Regional sales and
• Leverage scarce skills.
localises formula manage direct material • Some activities outsourced regionally when operations planning • Build critical mass.
• Regional centres procurement (e.g., assembly/packaging) between countries • Regional scheduling • Clarify management's focus on areas of value creation.
harmonise for their region • Indirect and packaging • Handled and planned of production at
materials procured regionally locally when within local factories • Provide sophisticated capabilities to less-developed markets that, if viewed in
• Demand aggregated countries, often by the isolation as independent markets, would be constrained to the supply chain
regionally manufacturing entity
capabilities that characterised their stage of development (Figure 9).

Rationale: Rationale: Rationale: Rationale: Rationale:

• Ensure consistency • Reduce costs • Achieve cost efficiency • Limited benefits • Optimise regional production
2. Rationalise across Business Units
and fulfil local • Ensure regional consistency through economies in regionalising • Maintain balanced Balancing regionalisation and centralisation increases the transparency of a company’s
customer requirements of scale supply chain
• Provide scheduling supply chain and planning requirements, while helping it to develop a more
flexibility at factories • Provide scheduling
flexibility at factories consolidated view of customer requirements across regions and divisions. This, in
turn, can help the organisation recognise and realise opportunities to rationalise
Figure 8: Summary of operating models and trends in regionalising supply chain management.
6 assets, infrastructure, people and operations across business units. As the Asian
market grows and matures, the likely result will be more supply chain shared services
centres and greater supply chain visibility in executive boardrooms.
The authors thank Jeremy Rowe and his Accenture team for the research that informed this chart.

20 21
Supply Chain Perspectives Supply Chains in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

3. Elevate People and Structures performance are altered during a highly iterative transaction process. As orders
Regardless of geography, sustainable increases in efficiency can only be achieved if are changed or cancelled during the fulfilment process, new documents generally
companies: a) successfully develop, attract and retain key talent; and b) migrate from are produced, while the original record is discarded. This prevents future analysis
a functional or subprocess orientation to one where direct, high-level accountability of the root causes for cancellations or shifts in demand.
is established for each supply chain process. Boundary issues, resource conflicts and
divergent opinions about the need for change naturally increase when higher levels • Archiving practices that are inconsistent. Historical records often are not
of regionalism and centralisation are indicated. Without talented people and a single, kept or are lost.
cross-boundary process owner, most initiatives will not increase the effectiveness of
the company as a whole. New cost-effective options for rapidly building supply chain • Inconsistent calculation and reporting of measures. From month to month,
talent and capability across a dispersed supply chain organisation are emerging to reported data may be drawn from varying sources and reflect different time periods.
provide immediate infrastructure and virtual supply chain training, which can be
tailored to individual and corporate needs. These options also provide companies • Targets that are not grounded in best practices, and do not represent the
with the ability to rapidly transfer best practices across divisions and markets. 7
consensus of all participants. Rules of thumb for calculating key performance
measures such as days of inventory coverage and forecast accuracy are applied
4. Focus on Performance Measures and Benchmarks instead of robust measures that have quantitative validity and reliability.
We know of no organisation that has achieved high levels of supply chain efficiency
and effectiveness without an effective performance measurement and benchmarking • Lack of a performance-management culture. People often do not know
capability. In fact, Michigan State University's multiyear study of supply chain how measures in their companies are derived, nor what their purpose may be.
excellence cited “performance metrics and benchmarking” as one of the top four There also may be a lack of designated process owners responsible for overall
drivers of supply chain excellence. However, Accenture’s client experience confirms performance measure management from data capture through to reporting.
that few Asian companies have pursued this capability with any level of vigour. In
fact, it is not uncommon to find:

• A lack of standard measurement definitions across countries, business units,

plants or distribution centres. Where defined metrics do exist, there usually is
not enough consistent data to develop reliable comparisons.

• Few integrated, supply-chain-wide measures to improve cross-functional

performance. The imperatives of “saving face” and “minding one’s own business” The best firms in Asia recognise that performance measures
are so strong and prevalent that measures sometimes are manipulated to
produce favourable results. provide the link between strategy and operational reality,
• Key performance indicator (KPI) source data that are not captured and/or which is why most use monthly, weekly and daily scorecards
maintained as history. For example, “true demand” often is not ascertained,
since only the negotiated demand is recorded. Moreover, true order histories to hone in on the right activities and help set common
are lost, because source documents and records that are used to calculate
goals for supply chain performance.

Accenture’s Supply Chain Academy solution tailors virtual supply chain training on almost any supply chain
management subject and offers a cost-effective option for Asian companies.

The Global Research Team, Michigan State University, “World Class Logistics: The Challenge of Managing
Continuous Change,“ Council of Logistics Management (1995).

22 23
Supply Chain Perspectives Supply Chains in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

The best firms in Asia recognise that performance measures provide the link between Dell Computer is an excellent example of a company that successfully turned the Access to the best supply
business strategy and operational execution, which is why most use monthly, weekly acquisition of supply chain capabilities into an art form. When given the task of
and daily scorecards to hone in on the right activities and help set common goals for setting up two assembly plants in Malaysia and China, Dell obtained various supply chain capabilities is more
supply chain performance. Those leaders also apply rigorous measures based on high- chain capabilities in several ways.
quality data rather than rules of thumb. Most importantly, they clearly define what is
important than ownership
needed to achieve total supply chain efficiency and competitiveness. First, Dell purchased off-the-shelf software applications (buy). To overcome gaps of those capabilities.
in the capabilities of its people, the company recruited a key supply chain manager
For Asian companies, effective performance measurement and benchmarking could (buy) and used consultants to help with high-impact projects (borrow), thereby
be the best opportunity to translate supply chain strategy and improvement initia- accelerating the implementation of short-term projects. At the same time, the company
tives into real business results. But without those capabilities, they cannot see how invested heavily in training supply chain personnel to ensure strong management
they are doing today, nor can they know how they are progressing or when they capabilities going forward (build). To bridge gaps in the technology capabilities of
actually have achieved success. In effect, they are driving blind. local suppliers, Dell provided them with access to demand information via the Web
(ally). Lastly, the company recognised the basic limitations of its logistics infrastruc-
ture, so it outsourced some of its transportation and distribution operations
Opportunity 6: Source Capabilities Intelligently to third-party providers (borrow).
Many opportunities avail themselves solely to companies that are smart about how
they acquire key supply chain capabilities. As shown in Figure 10, there are four The result: Dell successfully has implemented its direct sales model across Asia,
different ways that those capabilities can be obtained; each has a clear-cut set of and Dell factories in China and Malaysia are capable of delivering made-to-order
advantages and shortcomings. personal computers to business customers within tight time frames. Currently,
Dell's plant utilisation levels are at 90 percent, while production planning cycle
time is down to two hours.

Outsourcing in Asia
High Dell obviously understands that access to the best supply chain capabilities is more
important than ownership of those capabilities. In fact, outsourcing has become a
mainstream way for companies in the US and Europe to obtain supply chain capabil-
Development ities that help them:
Ally/Acquire Build
Support • Bring new capabilities online quickly and productively.
• Minimise capital investment.
Ability to Differentiate

• Convert fixed costs into variable costs.

• Respond quickly and economically to changes or surges in demand.

Agilent, Colgate-Palmolive, Compaq, Danone, Ericsson, Herman Miller,

Preference for Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson, Lucent, Motorola, Nokia, Procter & Gamble
Outsourcing and Sun Microsystems also have outsourced some of their Asian supply chain
management operations. The most commonly outsourced activity is fulfilment:
tapping the transportation, warehousing and inventory-management expertise
Low of local and foreign logistics services providers. Microsoft, for example, outsourced
Low Moderate High its logistics operations in Asia to BAX, and subsequently doubled its inventory
In-House Ability turns, increased order-fill rates, raised the percentage of on-time shipments, and
reduced obsolescence levels and the amount of returned scrap.
Robert J. Bowman, “For Asian Supply Chains, Good News and Bad,“ Supply Chain Brain (July 2000).

Figure 10: Alternative approaches to acquiring supply chain capabilities.

24 25
Supply Chain Perspectives Supply Chains in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

A noteworthy outsourcing leader in southern Asia is the pharmaceuticals industry,

many of whose members routinely outsource traditional distribution functions and
IDC predicts that the outsourcing market for logistics will
(in many countries) the formulation and packaging of product. Distributors such as rise from US$8.6 billion in 2002 to $29.2 billion in 2005,
Zuellig Pharma (with operations in 14 countries), Diethelm Keller Pharma Asia
(operations in 13 countries) and JDH Healthcare, a division of Li & Fung (operations with the most significant opportunities appearing in
in seven countries), have invested heavily in technology, supply chain management
systems and eCommerce platforms. Each offers a wide range of supply chain services, greater China, Singapore and Malaysia.
including manufacturing, warehousing, transportation and distribution. All in all, the
outsourcing push is having a dramatic effect throughout Asia, with more and more
regional distributors using scale and critical mass to develop highly competitive opera-
tions. Nevertheless, large pockets of opportunity remain in places like China and
Korea, where the pharmaceutical industry is highly competitive and fragmented due Using Transformational Outsourcing to Create New Efficiencies and Revenue Streams
to regulatory controls on distribution channels. Following the lead of successful supply chain transformational outsourcing ventures
in the US and Europe, a number of Asia's key business players and some large
Looking ahead, several factors are likely to drive even more Asian business conglomerates are considering the development of solutions that provide: a) quantum
operations toward outsourcing. They include: leaps in the supply chain performance of their individual business units or markets;
• Intensifying competition. and b) a capability that can be marketed to other players in the industry. Selling
• Tighter focus on profitability. supply chain services to other players clearly helps the originator build scale and
• Increasing customer demands. synergies, which it may be able to then leverage as a service provided to the
• Enhanced abilities to disseminate, acquire and utilise information via ERP numerous small and medium enterprises that might be unable to achieve scale in more
systems and the Internet, thereby communicating with and managing third- conventional ways. In fact, there is every reason to believe that in some industries these
party providers more effectively. new supply chain service providers eventually may sell services to their competitors.

IDC predicts that the outsourcing market for logistics will rise from US$8.6 billion in Currently, the greatest potential for these services appears to be in the energy and
2002 to $29.2 billion in 2005, with the most significant opportunities appearing in resources industries, as well as utilities, high tech, telecommunications, automotive
greater China, Singapore and Malaysia. In addition to the worldwide benefits noted spare parts, beverages and pharmaceuticals. However, there are many questions about
above, these dramatic increases will be driven by Asia-resident companies' need to the structure, ownership and even the business feasibility of these endeavours in
surmount linguistic, cultural, regulatory, political and economic barriers more readily, Asia. For one thing, a successful supply chain service provider requires an unusually
and to forge new inroads into other Asian markets. In the short term, many conglom- broad array of capabilities that generally do not exist in one organisation and hence
erates will rely on internal departments for logistics support, particularly in Korea and will need to be obtained from outside the organisation, including: technology integrators,
China. But over time—as external logistics providers become more adept at managing logistic services providers, programme managers, supply chain experts with deep
supply chains—conglomerates will outsource logistics support. Despite being suspicious functional knowledge, and people with deep industry knowledge (Figure 11). However,
of external parties, there are major opportunities for internal logistics departments of Asia’s unique and formidable barriers, combined with the need for low-capability
conglomerates to break free of their parents, and for large conglomerates to involve organisations to transform themselves rapidly, could be a catalyst for outsourcing
themselves in comprehensive outsourcing deals. models that transform rather than tinker with a multinational corporation’s
supply chain.

Douglas A. Jaffe, Caron Harrison and Wilvin Chee, “Taking Logistics into the 21st Century: A Study of Logistics in
Asia-Pacific (Excluding Japan),“ IDC (July 2001) 27-28.

26 27
Supply Chain Perspectives Supply Chains in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities consolidated management of the supply

There is a strong rationale for creating an independent supply chain service organisa- chain across markets/business units by a new
From independent market/business unit management of
tion that consolidates management of the supply chain across business units or the supply chain with points of resistance... supply chain service organisation
markets. For those companies that independently manage supply chain activities Market/Business Unit 1 Market/Business Unit 1
Supply/Demand Planning
Supply/Demand Planning Supply/Demand Planning
within each business unit or market, such a transformation can result in numerous Distribution Customer Distribution Customer
Buy Make Logistics Management Buying Make Logistics Management
benefits, as outlined in Figure 11.
Culture, Entrenched Practices
Market/Business Unit 2
Supply/Demand Planning

Distribution Customer Distribution Customer

Buy Make Buying Make

Logistics Management Logistics Management

Opportunity 7: Extend the Supply Chain People and Capabilities

Across Asia, major Across Asia, major opportunities exist to build collaborative supply chain capabilities Market/Business Unit 3
Supply/Demand Planning
that span multiple business entities. If issues relating to trust, data capacity and Distribution Customer Distribution Customer
opportunities exist to win-lose thinking can be overcome, then companies' regional and national supply
Buy Make Logistics Management Buying Make Logistics Management

Systems and Transparency

build collaborative chains could become significantly more competitive and cost-efficient. Here are two Market/Business Unit 4
basic extension opportunities. Supply/Demand Planning

supply chain capabilities Buy Make

Management Buying Make

1. Extend the Traditional Supply Chain

that span multiple Rationale/Benefits
Extending the traditional supply chain refers to collaboration with suppliers and • Accelerating savings and release of cash
Supply Chain Service Organisation
business entities. customers—a strategy with three principal permutations: • Overcoming resistance to change in regions, countries and
functions overcomes strong organisational inertia
• Provide a reason and rationale to change the operating • Sourcing and procurement
• Industry Collaboration. Thus far, industry-level collaboration across Asia has model by introducing a new supply chain service organisation • Fulfilment and transportation
• Achieve rapid development of people and skills, instant • Supply/demand planning; inventory, network and tax optimisation
been approached only informally. Moreover, there are few organisations working
access to capabilities and infrastructure • Supply chain technology and execution management
toward standardised rules, protocols and/or accepted practices. There are two • Achieve fact-based, rational decision making by including • Supply chain people capability-building and knowledge management
an outside party that isn't influenced by existing models
exceptions, however: Singapore and Hong Kong. In the latter, several initiatives
• Direct centralised savings to areas that can achieve the
are under way to increase collaboration levels, including the formation of the highest economic value-add
Hong Kong Logistics Development Council, comprising key industry and govern-
ment leaders. There also are some indications that the Association of Southeast
Figure 11: Transforming the supply chain across markets and/or business units.
Asian Nations (ASEAN) may spur collaboration efforts in the near future. A study
has been launched to examine this issue. Similar experiences in the US, Europe
and Australia show that industry-level collaboration around data standards,
protocols, pallet and container standards, and the like can produce significant Not surprisingly, this movement of raw materials, semifinished goods and finished
savings and efficiencies. products poses a significant supply chain challenge, particularly to smaller
• Supply Chain Collaboration for Dispersed Production. Dispersed production businesses. However, many Asian players are working hard to fill the void. A premier
refers to the process of developing goods and materials at a sequence of facilities. example is Li & Fung, Hong Kong's largest export trading company, which works
According to a Harvard Business Review article, for example, yarn purchased from with more than 7,500 suppliers across 37 countries. Working primarily over the
a Korean producer is shipped to Taiwan, where it is woven and dyed, and zippers Internet, this innovative firm coordinates the pan-supply-chain efforts of
produced in Japan are purchased through a Chinese manufacturer. Then, numerous suppliers, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and customers. It
because of quotas and labour conditions, woven yarn and zippers are shipped collaborates with virtually all of them on forecasts, capacity management
to Thailand, where garments are made in one of five factories. and resource availability, thus enhancing each party's flexibility, responsiveness
and agility.

11 12
Joan Magretta, “Fast, Global and Entrepreneurial: Supply Chain Management, Hong Kong Style—An Interview with Victor Fung,“ “A Surprising World Leader in Supply-Chain Management,“ The Economist (June 6, 2001).
Harvard Business Review (September-October 1998), 105-106.

28 29
Supply Chain Perspectives Supply Chains in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

Because real collaboration As a spokesperson commented on Li & Fung’s model of borderless manufacturing: Making the hub concept work involves developing solutions that move synchro-
“We’re not asking which country can do the best job overall. Instead, we’re nisation beyond supply chain participants to “trade chain” participants—
means sharing demand pulling apart the value chain and optimising each step. Not only do the benefits connecting customers, suppliers, enterprises, bankers, third-party logistics
outweigh the costs of logistics and transportation, but the higher value added providers, air and sea ports, freight forwarders, and customs/tax officials. In
information, companies also lets us charge more for our services.”13
places such as Hong Kong, there is no higher supply chain imperative, even
must develop a trust-based though overcoming hurdles relating to trust, data standardisation, language,
In addition to overall cost savings, value is realised in the reduction of delivery currency, security, bureaucracy, ownership and leadership will be a major challenge.
“win-win“ perspective. cycle-times from months to weeks. Plus, Li & Fung uses information—not
assets—to create competitive supply chains. Its adroit use of eCommerce helps Even further out, the distributed nature of Asian manufacturing, and the
to counteract the threat of major retailers going directly to suppliers, which subsequent trade flows that occur among Asian countries, suggest that a major
might cut Li & Fung out of the loop. opportunity may exist to connect several hubs into a network of co-opetition
(cooperation and competition). In the long term, this sort of synchronisation
• Collaborative Planning and Synchronisation. Collaboration among supply chain could help make Asian supply chains a formidable business force.
partners (i.e., customers and suppliers) can involve vendor-managed inventory,
collaborative demand planning, manufacturing and design, joint capacity planning • Alliances for Logistics Providers. Seeking to leverage new market opportunities
and/or synchronised order fulfilment (which involves the most risk because it and the growing popularity of hubs are the logistics arms of several nationally
makes parties dependent on each other). backed conglomerates. These forward-looking organisations desire to use their
logistics capabilities to develop a network or alliance of national supply chain
In any context, however, collaboration represents a new way of thinking for services providers. This network likely would resemble the oneworld™ alliance
many Asian companies. It also involves several prerequisites. Companies must and Star Alliance™ developed by the airline industry, which bring together
reengineer and integrate their internal supply chain planning processes and a number of competing, national flag-carrying airlines. Just as competing
technologies prior to involving themselves in collaborative activity. They also national airlines collaborate on (and synchronise) the flow of passengers to optimise
must be able to ensure that the data produced by their respective supply chain capacity utilisation, an alliance of logistics providers could synchronise the
technologies is valid, consistent and transparent. Lastly—because real collabora- complex flow of goods into, out of and across Asia (Figure 12).
tion means sharing information on demand—companies must develop a
trust-based "win-win" perspective. When these requirements have been met,
it becomes possible for trading partners to understand each other's basic operating
mechanisms and thus develop unified processes that drive down costs and Alliance Relationships Alliance Relationships
Logistics Logistics Logistics
increase the effectiveness of both parties. Leader Leader Leader

2. Extend beyond the Traditional Supply Chain

Followers Followers Followers

Market Dominance

Market Dominance

Market Dominance
Extending beyond the traditional supply chain involves creating new revenue
channels and cost-reduction opportunities by interacting in new or less-conventional
ways. Here are four examples:

• Trading Hubs. The establishment of logistics and distribution trading hubs is a

Profitability and Growth Profitability and Growth Profitability and Growth
hot topic in Asia. China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and
Taiwan are competing to develop supply chain hubs that will control and shape
Supply Chain 1 Supply Chain 2 Supply Chain 3
the movement of goods in and around Asia. In the case of Hong Kong and
Singapore, the challenge is to maintain their edge by improving the efficiency
and competitiveness of existing hubs. Many observers believe that the economic Figure 12: A vision of “the best working with the best” across Asia: This model demonstrates how several nationally
well-being of these regions depends on the success of trading hubs. backed conglomerates could link their logistics capabilities into a network of supply chain service providers to synchronise
the flow of goods into, out of and across Asia.
Magretta 106.
Source: Andrew Berger and John Gattorna, Supply Chain Cybermastery: Building High Performance Supply Chains of the Future, Gower (2001), 25.

30 31
Supply Chain Perspectives Supply Chains in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

• eMarkets. Most of Asia’s eMarkets, or electronic markets, are focused on

procurement: SESAMi in Singapore, BayanTrade in the Philippines, Cyberlynx
Asia is one of the world's most dynamic and
and CW Optus in Australia, and Pantavanij in Thailand. However, no pan-Asian diverse markets, and certainly will remain so
eProcurement marketplace yet exists—and the market and regulatory diversity
makes development of such an entity unlikely in the near term. However, there for quite some time. From a supply chain
is an opportunity for a hub that connects and synchronises the activities of
multiple eMarkets. standpoint, it also is one of the most challenging
Toward this end, SESAMi recently announced that it has linked six of the most markets; that, too, is unlikely to change
active eMarket operators in the world to form the Global Interoperability Group
(GIG). A network of horizontal marketplaces within the Global Trading Web anytime soon.
Association, GIG will move eCommerce transactions seamlessly around the
world. The theory is that companies working with any of the participating
eMarkets will be able to use GIG to interact online with trading partners around
the world—with one consistent business contract and no concerns about
technical compatibility. The Time to Act Is Now
Asia is one of the world's most dynamic and diverse markets, and certainly will
There are several • Horizontal Conglomerates. With superior supply chain capabilities developed remain so for quite some time. From a supply chain standpoint, it also is one of the
within and/or across verticals, companies doing business in Asia can further most challenging markets; that, too, is unlikely to change anytime soon. In
immediate actions leverage their scale, efficiency and knowledge by improving information flows fact, different (and generally divergent) cultures, business practices, regulations,
among horizontals. The goals are to: a) provide a simpler, more integrated, technology capabilities and transportation infrastructures often combine to make
organisations can take
one-stop service to customers by synchronising the delivery of services; and effective Asian supply chain management seem more like a lofty ideal than an
to accelerate along b) make services available to others—particularly Asia's myriad small-to- achievable objective.
medium-size businesses.
the path to success. Certainly, the seven opportunities discussed in this white paper will not completely
In Hong Kong, for example, Hutchison Whampoa Limited’s Global Trade alleviate the basic differences or conflicting priorities that characterise the Asian
Exchange is creating new sales channels and opportunities by integrating its marketplace. But they do constitute a viable framework for reaching levels of supply
ports business with its other transport-related businesses. Similarly, Hutchison chain efficiency and competitiveness that might otherwise be unattainable. They
Port Holdings’ LINE (Logistics Information Network Enterprise) subsidiary have been used successfully by others—both outside and within the region.
provides a wide variety of supply chain management services, including online
procurement; inventory management; transportation management and load The Path Forward
optimisation; order visibility and track and trace; sourcing of spare parts for Diverse companies obviously will position these opportunities in varying ways and
ports and vessels; and a trading community. Targeting banks, freight forwarders, contexts. While some will focus on mastering the basics, others will move more
buyers and sellers of transportation services, insurance companies, and govern- quickly to develop advanced optimisation and synchronisation capabilities. But in
ment agencies, LINE demonstrates the dramatic extent to which traditional all cases, there are several immediate actions organisations can take to accelerate
supply chains can be extended. along the path to success:

32 33
Supply Chain Perspectives

• Establish the imperative or pressure for change. Complete a supply chain value Bibliography
targeting exercise so that the benefits potential and business value are evident
and owned by key stakeholders.
“A Surprising World Leader in Supply-Chain Management,“ The Economist
• Develop a time-phased business case and road map in which priorities are based (June 6, 2001).
on driving significant value early from the supply chain. Success breeds success.
It is vital that all supply chain initiatives in the road map are integrated with “Asia Industry: Redefining the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain,“ Economist Intelligence
other organisational initiatives. Unit Regional Economic News (October 15, 2001).

• Articulate a supply chain vision that supports the company’s operating model Bowman, Robert J., “Despite Obstacles, Shippers Score Success in Asia,“ Global
and is compelling for all stakeholders. Logistics & Supply Chain Strategies (July 1999).

• Appoint an executive sponsor and process owner who will champion the change. Jaffe, Douglas A., Caron Harrison and Wilvin Chee, “Taking Logistics into the 21st
Century: A Study of Logistics in Asia-Pacific (Excluding Japan),“ IDC (July 2001),
• Create the capacity to change. That is, clearly define responsibilities, train the 27-28.
appropriate people and provide worthwhile incentives.
Kim, M., “LG Electronics' Global Supply Chain Management System Goes Live,“
• Establish an end state through performance measures that are clearly tied to Business Wire (September 5, 2001).
strategic and operational goals. Communicate these measures and goals, and
then rigorously monitor performance. Lim, June, “Malaysia Continues to Improve Logistics Infrastructure,“ MHD Supply
Chain Solutions (November 2001), 14.
• Continually monitor customer reactions, market conditions and outcomes—and
adjust as necessary. Magretta, Joan, “Fast, Global and Entrepreneurial: Supply Chain Management, Hong
Kong Style—An Interview with Victor Fung,“ Harvard Business Review (September-
• Celebrate success and then continue to innovate and drive value. October 1998), 105-106.

Lastly, the time to act is now. For those companies that do not begin to capitalise on Manion, David, “Asia Pacific Supply Chain Survey,“ CommerceNet (November 19, 1999).
these opportunities in Asia, be assured that the competition will do so.

This white paper is adapted from a chapter in the forthcoming Gower Handbook of
Supply Chain Management, Fifth Edition, edited by John L. Gattorna. The book is to
be published by Gower Publishing Ltd., UK, in early 2003.

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