Helping yourself to the top spot by helping others

We have learned a lot of different strategies that firms can use in order to be competitive in the marketplace. They varied from having a quick response to offering the cheapest product. However, companies these days are trying to do everything in their power to stay competitive. There is no reason that they shouldn’t do anything in their power to be known as a great company and thus get better sales. A big new aspect for businesses is volunteering.

IBM is one of the biggest companies that has been volunteering and helping out communities since its inception five years ago. Just last year, IBM’s 430,000 employees spent 3.2 million hours volunteering. In her article Volunteerism as a Core Competency, Diana Brady said, “The company (IBM) makes sure its philanthropic efforts align with its business objectives”. They are incorporating their employees into helping out the community and those that are less fortunate. This is fantastic for a number of reasons. For starters, people who need help get reached out to and their lives are improved. There are also reasons that benefit the company. By working on these small projects together, the employees are building relationships with one another. A task force that knows each other and cares about each other can work as a well oiled machine and get things done faster than just a bunch of employees who barely know each others names. Lastly, there is also the benefit of goodwill. Goodwill is when a company is in the positive eye of the public because of the actions that it has taken. Customers want to purchase from companies that are helping the environment and the communities in which they are located. Purchasing from those companies makes the customer feel like part of their money is going into these causes that the company is helping.

As the article states, a lot of Wall Street firms need to rebuild their credibility in the wake of the financial crisis. Volunteering and getting involved is a perfect way of getting that done. But what kind of projects should they start? Regarding what to do, Diana Brady said, “Projects have more impact when they draw on a company’s strength”. That means that companies should try to get involved in a way that is similar to their business objectives just like IBM. An example is FedEx delivering emergency medicine to disaster areas. In that example, FedEx is able to help out using delivery which is something that they excel at. They get to show off their strengths to the public and possibly attract a lot of new business for themselves.

One aspect of this is that people would believe that a company is truly good and has good morals. With all the recent popularity of volunteering, more and more companies are doing what they can to help out. This is fantastic. However, are these companies helping out solely based on trying to get more sales? Either way people are receiving aid but should companies only volunteer in order to stay competitive?


A weak link in the chain

Companies all of the world have created enormous supply chains to meet the ever increasing demand of the public. These supply chains are global and consist of manufacturers from many parts of the world. As we have learned in Chapter 2, Globalization is a big part of the operations strategy for many companies as it is a great way to increase profits and grow your whole company. Improving a supply chain is usually done by locating facilities closer to unique resources which in turn lowers the costs of production and allows for more profits. Steve Culp, the author of the article “Supply Chain Risk a Hidden Liability for Many Companies”, explains that  global supply chains have a risk factor involved that companies should pay attention to. This risk factor is what creates the weak link in the chain.

The risk factor is created by the possibility of disastrous events. Whether it be an earthquake, a flood, or a tsunami, the results are devastating. As an example, the article states that the flooding in Thai created shortages in hard drives that lead to millions of dollars worth of losses for electronics manufacturers. Surely this can null any previous savings that are established by outsourcing part of the production process, but at the same time this risk needs to be looked at face value. Companies need to balance the efficiency and low cost that they desire with the risk that they are willing to take. The article gives a couple of suggestions on how to assess this supply chain risk. Out of all of the points, one stands out the most. Companies should integrate risk management into operations planning and management. This would allow risk to flow into key supply chain decisions. If supply chain risk is accounted for, companies could even set some of their profit aside as a way of dealing with the potential loss in the future.

It is all seemingly  based on luck. Take two hypothetical companies, Company A and Company B. Company A only focuses on low cost and chooses suppliers based on that factor while Company B chooses suppliers based on cost and risk. If no tragic events happen, Company A will be in the better position in the marketplace and make more profit. However if tragic event halt the production of Company A’s suppliers, Company A could possibly lose millions of dollars which could result in a net loss during the current period. Because of the random factor of these events, I think that many companies will opt to just ignore the risk involved and focus on making as much profit as they can. In my opinion, ignoring this risk would be a big mistake.

What do you think, should companies incorporate supply chain risk into their key decisions on which suppliers to use?