Anna Ponting

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This is an interesting article to read after our IKEA discussion, as it appears that Mars has adopted a similar strategy of sourcing materials that are certified as sustainable and reducing GHG emissions in its operations. As a brand, however, Mars does not strike me as one that would benefit from marketing itself as a sustainable brand. While a consumer immediately identifies their wooden table as having come from a tree, it is a much further stretch to imagine the crops in West Africa that became a packet of M&Ms. Assuming a negligible increase in consumer willingness to pay from Mars’ sustainability actions, then, it seems like the only justification to pursue even more aggressive emissions reductions targets are (a) cost savings, or (b) an ethical argument that might be quickly dismissed by investors.

On November 26, 2017, Anna Ponting commented on Too much opportunity? 3M’s supply chain goes digital :

As a company with tens of thousands of SKUs, it strikes me that 3M’s supply chain management is as much a product as is a Post-It. Like Domino’s does for its franchisees, it seems like removing the friction between 3M suppliers is a powerful way to achieve operational efficiency. Their scale is a benefit, in this regard; I imagine they have market power to push their supply chain management systems onto their suppliers with relative ease. You ask whether a company like 3M will know whether it is fully optimized. My reaction is that it is more important for 3M to consider how efficient it is vis a vis its competitors and whether it has achieved a return on its technology investment. 3M will theoretically always be able to further improve its supply chain, but if I were a company executive, I’d be more focused on creating a resilient and flexibile system to withstand the inevitable future disruptions.

On November 26, 2017, Anna Ponting commented on CitizenM: The digitalized hotel supply chain :

This is a very interesting look at real estate development, an industry that has somehow avoided broad-based disruption. Based on what i gathered from your article, CitizenM owns and operates hotels, but it is not a developer or general contractor. It was fortunate, then, to find
another company that actually carries out this modular construction. The profitability impact to CitizenM is clear: lower construction costs and faster time-to-market mean a stronger bottom line. However, I do wonder whether digitalization is improving the economics for the construction company building these modular properties. Are they able to command a price premium that captures some of CitizenM’s savings?

On November 26, 2017, Anna Ponting commented on Navigating the Storm: SEACOR and the Jones Act :

A fascinating read on a company that appears to only make financial sense because of a single piece of protectionist legislation. In the event of a Jones Act repeal, is it even possible for SEACOR to survive? Your recommendation for SEACOR to expand into lines of business not dependent on the Jones Act is a good one; it does make me wonder, though, whether they are remotely cost competitive in a global market. You ask whether the company should pursue a public campaign to defend their position and create a coalition of supportive voters. My instinct, despite the American Maritime Partnership’s skillful propaganda video, is that the Jones Act is most likely to survive if it disappears from the public eye. A public campaign would be countered by opponents pointing out the consumer impact of the cost differential between American and international shipping rates. Given stagnation in Congress, the Jones Act — like gun legislation — is likely to remain unaffected as the publicity storm passes.

This is a fascinating look at the impact of 3D printing on an industry that, at least in my mind, has always tried to achieve standardization over personalization. Medtronic’s goal of using 3D printing to speed up their prototyping process strikes me as an unambiguously positive move for the company — staving off, rather than welcoming, disruption. I’m curious about what a partnership strategy would look like for Medtronic. Would they hold the product’s IP and just use a 3D printing partner to fulfill production needs (similar to the idea of Chrysler producing Waymo’s cars)? You allude to this in your recommendations, but it seems that one of the risks is that Medtronic commit to a 3D printing strategy solely to keep up with competitors, without it being a core part of their competitive advantage.

Your article points out the critical role of auto industry lobbyists in Washington, but it makes me wonder exactly how companies like Ford and GM, let alone Magna, will influence a president that seems dead-set on ending NAFTA. What is the risk that OEMs switch to domestic suppliers only, or even seek to vertically integrate their supply chain? Your description of Magna as flexible and agile makes me think they’re better positioned than most companies to face the end of NAFTA. It sounds like they may be able to shift production of U.S.-destined parts to its existing U.S.-based plants, so they may be able to avoid new tariffs. I’d be curious to know if this is feasible for other OEM suppliers.

Gotham is a small first mover in an industry with huge volumes of production (170,000 sq ft of rooftop space in NYC versus the hundreds of millions of acres of farmland across the US). This valiant — and presumably very high cost — effort may be worthwhile for expensive produce, but it’s hard to imagine this method replacing the traditional agricultural supply chain. It’s no surprise that their basil reaches the Union Square Hospitality Group and Whole Foods, then. From a business viability perspective, I would agree with your conclusion that Gotham will need to expand beyond its partnerships with grocery stores and restaurant groups, but I slightly disagree that they’re working with “traditional” businesses. If we’re to take seriously Gotham’s value proposition about mitigating and adapting to climate change, I’d like to see them attempt to make this a feasible supply chain for Kroger, Safeway, and Chili’s.