(4/15/2000) Ascet Volume 2
By Stephen E. Reiter, ServiceMaster
From plaything of the academic and military communities to a revolutionary platform for business, wealth generation, and information exchange, the Internet is changing the way we do everything – and opportunities abound for the quick and resourceful. The supply chain is no exception to this transformation: the extension of Internet technology to the service value chain will increase geometrically over the next several years.
As we enter the new millennium, we are faced with a worldwide revolution of a proportion and rapidity that mankind has never witnessed before. The decades-old worldwide web or Internet that was created by the National Science Foundation was a network point of contact for various defense and governmental agencies, with a smattering of technical wizards. Over the past couple years the net transformed itself setting the entire globe in a spin within a twinkling of an eye. Imagine going from an academic curiosity into a major platform for enterprise, an immense wealth-creator and a tool for a free exchange of ideas. Because of this transformation occurring, no person, business enterprise or nation will ever be the same.
An eternity ago – in 1997 – I co-authored a book entitled Supply Chain Optimization with Chuck Poirier, a notable expert on management practices and supply chain management. As we performed our research, at over 100 of the best and most astute corporations in the world, we barely encountered any mention of the Web. We identified through our interviews the need and benefits to provide linkage between the four levels of a consumer supply chain – from the suppliers to the manufacturers (plants), to the distributors and finally, the retailers. This model became known as the Inter-Enterprise Solution (IES). It was developed to enhance the profitability of all major corporations in the hard goods industries. In the retail/consumer products industry alone we identified that there was potential savings in the $80 billion to $100 billion range. Our desire was to change the way management treated Supply Chain Management as a strategic tool to harness waste in their operations and to enhance value through the various levels of the value chain.
Yet, we had to utilize tools such as EDI and other expensive, sophisticated and difficult – to use communications enablers to link the various levels of the model. If that book were being written today, the Web would have been core to the model and deemed a requirement to successfully link disparate organizations.
What Does This Mean?
From its humble and technical beginnings, the Internet has created nothing less than a revolution in the history of the human race. Arnold B. Baker head economist at Sandia National Laboratories, stated that “there’s going to be a fundamental change in the global economy unlike anything we’ve had since cavemen began bartering”. If you read the print or listen to the broadcast media, there are many that have proclaimed a statement of this ilk, but what does that mean? If we examine the real impact of this phenomenon to date and what will most likely occur over the next three to five years, there are five major categories of disruption, which become obvious:
Death of traditional time and distance
The introduction of ubiquitous and virtually free telecommunications
The advent of a truly global market
We are (like it or not) all connected
Access to the best training and education
Death of Traditional Time and Distance
Back in ancient times (pre-Web), transactions between people, organizations and nations would require days or months to execute. The use of electronics solutions such as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), which had it’s origin in the rail transportation industry, was expensive and required significant investments of time and money to comply. Although there were and are still standards, they were co-opted most often with special custom modifications that made the standards virtually useless. At a division of $17 billion Tenneco (called Packaging Corporation of America) in 1991, there were hundreds of custom EDI modifications required to meet customer demands. Each of these required many weeks or man-months of efforts to implement, with even more time and cost to maintain these modifications. Today, many of those traditional borders no longer exist as the Web consolidates, within a 15-inch screen, the world of commerce and enables technology to break down pre-existing barriers. With the advent of the Web, we have realized an ANY5 environment – that is the access and availability of information and voice communications can now be 24×7 – providing: any information, at any time, any where, in any form, to any one.
Business and personal time can now have the advantage of dealing with truly a global set of needs or desires without concern about wall clock time. When I managed a staff of thousands of professionals who were domiciled in 14 different time zones, I could manage them closely, even though they rarely saw each other face to face for at times up to a year or more. This was accomplished through the use of web-based tools and developing a set of standards that provided a basis for understanding. We established a set of 60 basic pieces of information (key performance indicators or KPIs) on a company Intranet with a daily or weekly frequency. Complimenting these were another 18 pieces of information that were reported every 30 days. We were then able to maintain local autonomy in meeting our customers needs, yet satisfy management’s understanding of whether the managers in remote locations were hitting targets. If targets were not met, there was a set of diagnostics that flagged danger points.
For the last couple of decades the U.S. metals industry has suffered through a period of major changes. The results were a highly fragmented industry, with major global players affecting profitability through actions such as having the old Iron Curtain countries dumping aluminum and steel at prices that U.S. metals manufacturers could not even buy as raw material. This practice and other constraints help national metals companies face staggering losses and negative shifts in the market. Like so many other core industries, metals also faced numerous other fears, such as a set of larger consolidated buyers who perceived metals as a commodity, as well as the improvements in alternatives such as plastics that caused margins to fall precipitously during the late 1980s and the 1990s. Many of these competing products responded by developing highly efficient supply chains. Inventory levels at the metals companies grew 8-10 times during the period, with turns averaging 1.5-2.5, along with poor cycle times throughout the industry.
A start-up venture called MetalSite.com came along and elected to transform its selected industry. Metal products industry has been under substantial pressures since the early 1970s. Funded by a collaboration of venture capitalists and industry players (25% of domestic industry invested, 40% signed up as of 4Q 99). MetalSite covers each step in the business process for each participant in the industry.
The founders and partners created an entirely new paradigm based on the speed and accuracy of Web-based transactions to link the various levels of the value chain. Two of the U.S. companies as well as seven other global metals companies have, claimed to have already returned the cost of their investments through the improvements offered by MetalSite.
MetalSite operates a deep vertical market focusing solely on utilizing an eCommerce solution to manage the process of sourcing – or the buying and selling of metals and related products. Customers opening the MetalSite Web site cannot only buy and sell product; they can review news within their industry and connect with other professionals in the metals industry around the world. MetalSite was launched in 1998 to conduct online sales of steel products in the United States. Today customers can engage in the commerce of other metal products such as copper, aluminum and other metals from a wide range of suppliers. The company provides a buyer driven auction forum for metal products that enable sellers to post their products up to five times daily. Bidders submit their offers in a secure environment to the sellers responsible for fulfillment, with a set of capabilities that track the customer’s history of past transactions, usage and bids.
MetalSite sets up a set of standard processes and Web-based transactions that strongly encourage the buyers and sellers to go through a set of involved transactions. Buyers of steel and other metals must specify such information as type and grade of product they wish to buy. Through this process, MetalSite assigns a knowledgeable engineer to work with a set of expert buyers to create product specifications that drive the Request for Quote (RFQ). Acting as an agent, MetalSite researches availability globally and screens for those qualified to meet these well-defined specifications.
Figure 1.0 The Inter-Enterprise Solution
Adopting a similar model to MetalSite in a different industry has led to multiple competing eCommerce providers in the pulp and paper industry. This industry is almost as large globally as the automobile industry. In the past there have been multiple point solutions developed to provide eCommerce for this industry. Offerings include selling specialty rolls of paper, used equipment for paper mills and converting operations, or even the acquisition of off-grade board and trim as a raw material to be included in new containerboard rolls. Today, there are two primary sites that post various forms of paper rollstock for sale. These companies are Paperexchange.com and Paper deals.com. Each company has adopted different processes for the buyer and seller to interact with their site. One such example is the commission structure. Paperdeals offers a sliding scale that drops to as low as 1% for sales over $25,000. Paperexchange commissions is fixed at 3% regardless of the dollar value of the transaction. Paperexchange maintains the anonymity of the buyer and seller until after the deal has concluded with the web company acting as the intermediary, and does not reveal this information until the end of the bidding process. In contrast, Paperdeals has an entirely different process. The site posts the paper for sale along with the name of the party who wishes to sell then it acts as a bulletin board or consumer auction site. The parties engage in a rather conventional type of auction until the deal is agreed to. There are a number of different bidding processes that are allowed within Paperdeal’s site. The basic contractual agreement between the two sites is very different. Paperdeals is simple and straightforward, since they act only as a bulletin board.
Paperexchange is more complex and detailed since they act as more of an intermediary than as a posting site. An example of this complexity is, after a credit approved transaction is filed, payments are governed by credit approved purchase terms. This is handled as a separate document, with itemized credit-approved transactions. When this occurs, Paperexchange acts as a purchaser on behalf of a credit approved member. Payment terms are a minimum of 45 days. In the event Paperexchange does not collect the payment, they cover the transaction fee to the seller within 90 days from the date of the invoice.
Paperdeals is simpler. Participants can either create an auction anonymously, or it is also possible to simply post your name and that products you have for sale. Financially, Paperdeals requires that each party that have sufficient funds to pay the action fees for each sale when an account is opened during registration. Paperdeals immediately debits your account upon the closing of a transaction, compared with Paperexchange, which allows payment up to 30 days after invoicing.
Both believe that they can reduce time and cost of the transactions between buyers and sellers; yet neither one been embraced by the industry as a whole. Barriers, which are largely culturally based on a we’ve always done it that way mentality has not yet been overcome. When they are, estimates of cost reductions exceeding $30 per ton (or $450 million) are considered by experts to be very conservative. Reductions will come through such areas as yield management, reduced inventories, better use of working capital, as well as the advantage of a much greater access to the overall market. Another area of reduction not addressed in the $30 per ton will be the administrative and selling costs. Estimates are reductions in cost exceeding 50% – today it represents 4 to 4.5% of the total cost.
Ubiquitous Telecommunications – Virtually Free
Few industries have witnessed such disruption as telecommunications since the breakup of AT&T or Ma Bell in 1984. Over the past 15 years the entire complexion of this industry has changed. The cost of long-distance calls plummeting from $.25+ per minute of service to rates at sub-$.03 per minute on large corporate deals and even sub-$.02 rates for VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol rates. In pre-divestiture days, the AT&T monopoly was forced by the government to subsidize rural and local telephone service with fees garnished from business clients. Today we have realized a shift to a rate structure much more consistent with market forces. As many of us recall back in 1984 most television services were brought into the house using wireless devices called antenna and were essentially free. Phone service was always brought into the home via copper cables. That market has changed dramatically with the difference much more pronounced now that television is delivered by cable with a bill coming monthly and with telephone service going wireless.
For the first time, in the year 2000, local and long-distance companies will compete outside their respective markets. In late December of 1999, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted Bell Atlantic permission to enter the long-distance market in the state of New York. In response to this action, AT&T, MCI/WorldCom and Sprint elected to begin offering their own form of local telephone service. Almost immediately the cost of local services dropped 20% for those within NY. Many others across the country can expect a similar drop in costs as these competitive environments are duplicated in other markets. Two of the largest mergers in history – MCI/WorldCom’s offer of $116 billion for Sprint, and Vodafone AirTouch’s $148 billion offer for German wireless carrier Mannesmann are, according to Wall Street analysts, only the beginning.
Surge of demand in the industry is being driven by a rash of new commercial and consumer-based services for voice, data, video and image transmissions, global universal access (wired and wireless), multiple services per customer including high-speed internet access, as well as a growing base of new and innovative services. The growth in the U.S. market is anticipated to exceed 9% in the year 2000 alone to over $250 billion. The boundaries between wired and wireless services will begin to blur rapidly as we step through the year 2000. The battle lines have been formed, with victory defined as nothing less than ownership of the access to your household or business.
Due to the expanding use of web-based technologies, the growth curve of data traffic in the U.S. during 2000 will cause the volume of data related traffic in the U.S. to surpass voice related traffic. This will happen even though voice services will still grow at over 5%. All this is possible because of the monumental capacity of optical fiber that has been installed in the ground. These slivers of glass know no current limitations as a medium, and the current limitation of electronics placed on each end of the strands of fiber are growing capacity at geometric orders of magnitude offering ubiquitous service. This is all happening while the price of access and use is being driven down to be virtually free by the competition. Isn’t it a wonderful world!
You Can’t Hide in a Truly Global Market
Many companies have learned the hard way that in a global economy, you can no longer prevent the world from seeing your “dirty laundry.” The competition now has a real time view into your strategy. In it’s infancy the use of the web was left to people who did not understand the implications of the first two Ws in “www” or World Wide Web. Often the organizations did not control what was placed on the Web. Business Units, remote locations and/or functional departments would develop and post their own web presence. For that matter they did not understand that the audience could virtually include anyone from customers, to competitors, even terrorists. Company secrets that were treated with a great deal of security were transmitted for the world to see without realizing what had occurred.
Figure 2.0 Categories of Distribution
Also, there were many times when corporations did not understand that the entire world could view what was posted, not just their intended audience. A prime example of this happened about four years ago when the marketing group of a major food product corporation posted some recipes on the web using one of their core products as an ingredient. Their recipe was for a cream cheese cake. If you followed the ingredients and instructions for mixing and baking the cake in the United States it turned out as intended. Unfortunately, the basic ingredients of the U.S. market for cream cheese is different then that produced in England. Additionally, the English often use cream cheese as a topping for such items as baked potatoes. Needless to say the taste of the baked cake produced in the U.K. produced significantly poorer results than in the U.S.
On a much more positive note, the advent of the web has developed some wonderful new opportunities for meeting the needs of commercial and consumer markets. ServiceMaster, a $6 billion corporation, recognized these needs and has begun to offer to other corporations, as well as consumers, an opportunity to outsource their tasks. Many of these tasks offered are those many of us hate to do. In the consumer segment the tasks that ServiceMaster offers to help with include maintenance of both the interior and exterior of the home. They cover activities such as lawn care, painting, repairs or remedial and preventative-maintenance of the major appliances (from hot water heater and furnace to refrigerator), furniture repair, clearing clogged drainpipes or even cleaning the house. Given a common problem within Western society, the lack of personal time, along with an increasing amount of disposable income, ServiceMaster has taken the opportunity to offer an option to select any or all the services offered, as well as be a link to those they don’t. Access to all these services will be made through a local branch as well as through the web or via phone to a national call center.
As in other Web-based systems, while the ease of use and functional richness of the technology is critical, the key (supply chain) issue is fulfillment. These lessons were learned by analyzing mistakes and later corrections made by the early adopters of Web-based business, such as Amazon.com in the consumer segment and Cisco in commercial. These offerings typically used a package delivery service to bring their product to the buyer who ordered via the web. ServiceMaster was faced with the dilemma of having a service worker show up at a predefined destination (your home) at a specified time, to deliver a service of sufficient quality to satisfy the customer. ServiceMaster was faced with the challenge that although many of the services were offered by internal business units, a number of the customers either had needs that could not be fulfilled by these units or had needs that had to be fulfilled by a third party because of customer preference. The solution to this problem was one learned through things learned from their American Home Shield (AHS) unit. AHS sells home warrantees and has designed a business model that requires them to use over ten thousand third party fulfillment agents such as dishwasher/refrigerator repairmen, as well as heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) and drain cleaning personnel, rather then hire and employ the service worker directly. As the need to provide more refined scheduling and efficient use of the service workers time becomes more essential, ServiceMaster is beginning to use some sophisticated scheduling techniques which come from software and expertise obtained from extensive experience by manufacturing supply chain experts.
We’re All Connected
On May 12, 1999, Lou Gerstner, Jr. Chairman and CEO of the $90 billion IBM, met with industry analysts and issued the following statement, “the storm that’s arriving – the real disturbance in the force is when the thousands and thousands of institutions that exist today seize the power of the global computing and communications infrastructure and use it to transform themselves. That’s the real revolution.”
During the week of January 11, 2000, proof that we are all connected came in the form of a merger, or more appropriately an acquisition by AOL of the communications giant Time Warner. In terms of time and net income, AOL is an upstart. Yet this megamerger is highly ironic – it is the first time in history that an Internet-related corporation, barely a blip on the horizon only a handful of years ago has taken over an industrial-age corporate giant. David has once again met up with Goliath and won a major victory. AOL has been able to leverage its extraordinary stock valuation to obtain access to the content it wants to distribute.
This is not only supply chain management, this is providing integration of the entire value chain virtually in the hands of a single entity. Let’s take a peek at what the combined company looks like as a supply chain. First we address the distribution of the product or control of the channel of access to the consumer market, or what we refer to as channel management. AOL Time Warner will have:
Time Warner Cable
America Online, Roadrunner, CompuServe
Multiple alliances with Bells for DSL (high-speed service)
Stake in DirecTV
Then let’s look at the content or media assets:
Time, People, Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly, Money, Fortune and 27 other titles
Warner Brothers Studios, New Line Cinema,Turner Classic Movies
Warner Music, EMI (to be approved)
CNN, TNT, TBS, HBO, WB Networks
AOL, CNN, Magazine Web sites, MapQuest, Moviefone
What does this portent for the future? Well, first let’s ask the question, can it work? Almost immediately, many of the shareholders of AOL swung the emotional curve from enthusiasm to depression as the stock rode the roller coaster. There were even comments about filing legal motions to prevent this transaction from being finalized. Another issue will rise, the ability to merge two very different cultures, one a century-old conservative conglomerate, the other a fast-moving web-economy firm. What comes to mind is the acquisition of Rolm by IBM in the mid-1980s and how terrible the results were.
Yet, almost immediately after the initial announcement of the transaction, AT&T and other carriers began to look at other options such as Disney. Is there a possibility that a MCI/Sprint could buy or merge with a Viacom or with the News Corp. (owned by Rupert Murdoch)? We also should look at the consolidating RBOCs and the huge appetite they have to enhance their presence. Since Mike Armstrong was announced as the Chief of AT&T, he has been on the acquisition trail to obtain cable companies. When they complete the takeover of the Media One Group, AT&T will be the largest cable operator in the U.S. with connections to more than 25% of the nations’ cable customers. One thing is for sure, as the thirst of the world for Info-tainment grows, so will the willingness for the chairmen of major corporations, to provide them more and more at a price.
The extent of the connection does not stop at the back door either. When in San Francisco the week before Christmas, I had the occasion to meet with Vincent Barabba, Chief Strategist for GM. This Fortune 1, and its competitors, intends to capture a larger portion of your time, attention and pocketbook. By this time next year, GM and Ford will provide owners of their vehicles the opportunity to spend some of that 80 minutes a day the average car owner spends driving. This daily ride will be spent sending or receiving e-mail, stock quotes, planning for watching a movie or buying tickets for theatrical event, making dinner reservations, taking courses online or, of course, making or taking phone calls. Ford’s CEO, Jacques A. Nasser, on April 9, 1999, told reporters at the North American International Trade Show “we will do nothing short of transforming our cars into portals to the Internet.” There will no longer be any need to worry about steering and using keyboards; these vehicles will be equipped with hands-free voice-activated technologies. People will talk to their dashboards rather than using one of the many dangerous devices such as the current array of car phones or even portable units such as Palm Pilots or PCs. Therefore using mobile devices in automobiles will be no more dangerous or destructive than conversing with a passenger.
As of yet, many of the other car companies are unwilling to stake their future profits on what they have termed Net-Cars. Executives at DaimlerChrysler, Toyota and Honda have publically stated that they will not pin their hopes on this strategy. In fact, Richard Colliver, sales chief at American Honda Motor Company stated that they prefer to focus on their core competency – building and selling vehicles.
Figure 3.0 Status of functions
Of course the car companies will be able to obtain access to a new source of recurring revenue, as the seller or channel manager to car-based communications services. Either by buying up the source or developing alliance programs, the major automobile “manufacturers” will make billions in profits by providing wireless capacity to the motorist. Estimates by leading industry analysts add about $10 billion in revenue for these services by the end of the decade. All this is possible through very affordable hardware and access. The devices necessary will add minimal cost to the acquisition price of the vehicle (in the lower hundred-dollar range) while subscribers will be charged about $10 per month for basic services. The GM strategist detailed the technologies already on board today such as its OnStar navigation and safety systems that use wireless and satellite communications. You see you can run or ride, but you can’t hide!
The biggest question on Wall Street is, will the car companies be able to capture the consumer base, or will a much more fleet of foot set of providers get there first? The answer to that question will become clear over the next couple years. Just hold onto your hat (and steering wheel) we are in for one heck of a ride.
Access to the Best!
I have had the honor of teaching students at a graduate degree program in a mid-west graduate school of business, and received strong and positive feedback from my students in their evaluations at the end of the term. Yet, I realize that if my students were ever given a choice to attend my course, or one taught by such a notable as Peter Drucker or Henry Kissinger, there would not be a choice. Most students in their right mind would strongly prefer access to the quality, experience and knowledge transfer that arises from learning from one of the masters of our time. The opportunity is becoming available through the web, to provide “distance learning” to the ANY5 community.
The concept of distance learning is not new. During the mid-1980s, before the web became a household name, states such as Indiana offered via cable and telephone services, education to remote areas not anywhere near a major institution. In 1986 I lived in a town of 4,000 residents, Batesville, Indiana, home of a multi-billion dollar corporation. Yet we were over an hour away from any major population center, and even further from the state’s centers of higher education, one could learn without driving so far out of town. Through an arrangement with the local telecommunication’s provider (Contel), a student could register for a 2-year degree program from a community college, or a bachelor’s or master’s degreed program from such great schools as Purdue, Ball State or Indiana Universities. Of course, if you wanted to attend the basketball games and witness Bobby Knight throwing a chair across the floor, you’d have to drive two hours to Bloomington.
Education is a huge part of the nation’s economy, with a total spent last year of $780 billion. Yet only a small portion, 10% is spent on for-profit education with the amount of venture capital spent totaling only $3.3 billion. This represents a 4X increase over the year before. With venture moneys available at an ever-expanding rate, hundreds of entrepreneurial efforts will come forward. According to Michael Moe, an analyst with Merrill Lynch, the year “2000 will be the year when the revolution will become very visible.”
Today, there is already in place a $63 billion corporate training market that will embrace the use of the net for content and delivery. In 1998, only $550 million was spent in “e-learning.” That number is projected to grow to $7.1 billion by the end of year 2002, according to IDC. Companies such as Teach.com, Knowledge Universe and Digital Think have redefined the state of teaching. Many of the hardware and software companies have captured significant revenue in this market (i.e., Sun has already captured over a billion dollars per year in the education segment). Although much of the work to date has been done by internal operations, there are numerous firms that have elected to outsource that effort.
Thought of as a supply chain, the provider can and will often be different than those that developed the content or those who marketed the product. Enthusiasm is growing in the web-based education market. Howard Bloch, an analyst with Bank of America Securities, suggested, “there will be a tremendous migration away from classroom training to online learning.” Others have gone so far as to classify distance learning as the next “killer application.” Whether attacking the needs of industry or replacing government-sponsored education in the classrooms and homes of our children, many firms see huge electronic commerce opportunities, if they can capture a small part of the 53 million K/12 students in the U.S. alone. A leader in this area is Family Education Networks, which offers a series of education web sites, including one that allows parents to connect with their children’s school. Last year, over 2.5 million hits were counted from 9,000 schools that already participate in this exercise. Another fact that does not get lost on entrepreneurs, high school teenagers spend about $100 billion in disposable income.
There is good and bad news as we see the revolution rushing to the streets. Opportunities abound for those who are swift of foot and have the wherewithal to create fortunes beyond their wildest imagination. Some will succeed and many will either fail or not attempt to venture out at all.
The effect of the Internet on the supply chain has already hit many of our existing organizations whether we sell goods or services. Without a doubt, the extension of this technology on the service value chain will increase geometrically over the next several years. Expectations for total revenue over the web for Business-to-Business – Service Sector alone, are estimated to be between $300 billion to 400 billion dollars by the year 2002. The looming question is what piece of that market will your organization capture?