The not so successful attempt of modular construction by FCR demonstrates how success of technological innovation relies on adaption throughout the supply chain. As the author points out, the traditional players in the real estate industry including designers, engineers, property developers and constructors need to now integrate their work real-time and iteratively as the off-site pre-fabrication and on-site assembly of modular units require constant input from all parties to ensure operational efficiency.
To realize the benefits of modular construction, all players along the supply chain need to not only re-examine their critical tasks (e.g. to what extent should designers be involved off-site and on-site) but also consider how accountability could be enforced given the highly iterative and integrative nature of the production process (e.g. who should bear responsibility for deficiencies in modular units? Does it make a different if it is on-site or off-site?). Clear attribution of accountability will be crucial in this industry to uphold necessary quality and safety standards as defects in building construction could cost precious lives.
The political and commercial climate of globalization today is fraught with uncertainties. As the author rightfully pointed out, collaborative robots (“cobots”) offer companies a great option to delay costly fixed commitments to wait for greater political clarity while maintaining efficient and low-cost operations. As the collaborative robot technology mature, it may be able to eventually transform a full-scale manufacturing facility into a summation of portable robots and programmed learning. This will greatly ease the pressure of companies to make the often difficult decision of factory locations by removing the trade-off between cost and compliance with protectionist measures, as manufacturing base can be easily re-located with similar cost structure and minimal loss in operating efficiency.
However, cobots, by themselves, do not support or buck the trend of globalization. They are merely tools that help companies build flexible and cost-efficient manufacturing facilities as well as level-playing the cost curves across locations. Each individual company will need to make its own decision on whether to embrace or resist globalization which often entail many considerations beyond operating costs, and how collaborative robots can fit into its specific strategy.
It is truly intriguing to see opportunities rather than threats brought by global warming.
Shorter shipping routes via the northern sea lanes certainly present promises of lower cost and faster delivery for global supply chain. However, not all type of goods are suitable for these shipping routes. For instance, some commodities may be damaged or otherwise negatively impacted by the extremely low temperature during part of the northern sea lanes.
In addition, companies also need to consider the reputational risks associated with exploiting the northern sea lanes. Driven by rising consumer advocacy towards environmental preservation, many companies, especially the largest ones, today have made commitment to operate their business in a sustainable, traceable and transparent manner. Such companies face risks of upsetting and even losing their end customers by projecting an image of exploiting earth as they ship their products through a shipping route created as a result of global warming. As they are often the most important customers of shipping companies, whom in term are customers of Atomflot, the future demand for northern sea lanes may be more volatile than current expectation.
The case of US solar industry provides an interesting example to examine the merit of protectionist measures. Proponents of the import tariff argues that such measures are necessary to allow US domestic solar panel manufacturers to compete against the cheap solar panels imported from China, especially as Chinese manufacturers benefit from structural cost advantages due to heavy subsidy from the local government. It may also be argued that US requires a strong domestic solar industry given the strategic importance of solar energy as the most promising renewable energy source currently. However, one need to recognize that such protectionist measures also reduce competition and hence incentive for US solar panel manufacturers to continuously innovate and drive cost down. US consumers, as a result, will lose out at least in the short term by losing access to cheaper solar panels and potentially in the long term if the US solar panel manufacturers continue to fall behind their Chinese counterparts given the less intense market environment. US, as a result, will also experience slower adoption of solar energy in households. In addition, even players within the US solar industry may suffer. The article illustrates how the solar panel installation companies will face diminished demand due to higher price of solar panels while solar panel manufacturers gain greater profits.
One has to ask, whose interest such protectionist measures are really advocating for? Is it the end consumer? The solar industry? Or the strategic priority of the country? The answer remains elusive to me.
The recognition of “double threats” that climate change imposes on the RUTF supply chain is crucial; it puts the RUTF supply chain under the greatest stress where it is needed the most (e.g. drought areas). Thus, I agree with the importance to diversify its supply in the near term, be it the location of the sources or the type of ingredients sourced (though new formulation), as such diversified supply is essential to help mitigate production or transportation risks in concentrated regions due to weather disruptions.
However, diversification also increases complexity of the supply chain, requiring more planning and coordination to ensure that the right amount of food reach the right destination at lowest cost available. The supply chain today may not be ready to handle the added amount of complexity, as suggested by the high cost of emergency orders that current system suffers likely due to weakness in anticipating demand and building right amount of inventory. Given the mission to maximize reach while minimizing cost to deliver food, the relevant organizations need to be keenly alert to the ramification of changes to its RUTF supply chain and implement changes thoughtfully to minimize operational disruptions.
Ridesharing services provide real promises of lowering transportation cost while improving efficiency to riders, as they allow drivers to monetize the idle capacity (e.g. time, space in the car) at minimal incremental cost and at the same time significantly increase supply of transportation capacity in the market.
However, the application of ridesharing in package delivery service is not as straight-forward as many may think. UberRUSH service inserts Nordstrom as a new stakeholder in the ridesharing ecosystem of drivers, customers and platforms. Due to the decentralized nature of driver supply through Uber, Nordstrom has very limited control over the delivery experience through UberRush, be it on-time delivery or security of items delivered. This may potentially put the key competitive advantage and customer promise of Nordstrom – high level of customer service – at risk. Thus, issues mentioned by Conner, such as package insurance and driver incentive alignment, must be addressed to make UberRush an integral part of Nordstrom’s competitive advantage.