This Week on SCDigest:
Understanding Supply Chain Analysts
Supply Chain Graphic of the Week, plus more Supply Chain News Bites
SCDigest On-Target e-Magazine
Guest Expert Insight - 2-Part Series on Warehouse Management: Part 1, Cost Sinks or Profit Sources?
Guest Expert Insight - Can You Really See or Are You Supply Chain Blind?
This Week on "Distribution Digest"
Trivia  Supply Chain Stock Index  Feedback

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  Newsletter Archives November 19, 2009 - Supply Chain Digest Newsletter

Featured Sponsor: Kinaxis

This Fall's Featured Videocasts

Pride, Profit and Passion:
The New Framework for Working Together in the Consumer Goods-
to-Retail Supply Chain

A Four-Part Series

Part 4: Connecting Supply Chains

December 8, 2009

Operational Excellence with
Smart Planning and Scheduling

A Four-Part Series

Part 4: Advanced Topic - Gain Efficiency Through a Holistic
View Across Production and
Inventory Planning

December 9, 2009

This Week's Supply Chain News Bites
Only from SCDigest

Supply Chain Graphic of the Week: US Factory Utilization Recovering from Worst Levels Since 1982


This Week's Supply Chain by the Numbers - Christmas Sales, Forbes Best Supply Chain Companies, Abercrombie & Fitch, Chinese Influence



Our Supply Chain and Logistics stock index had a fairly good week as the overall market continued its rebound.

In the software group, JDA climbed 8%, followed by Descartes (up 4.6%).  In the hardware group, both Intermec and Zebra had a good week – up 2% and 3.8%, respectively.  In the transportation and logistics group, Prologis finished the week up 17.4%, followed by FedEx (up 6.3%).  On the other end of the spectrum, Yellow Roadway added to last week’s losses and fell another 6.6%.

See Full Stock Report

Each Week:

Global Supply Chain
Trends and Issues

Guest Column

by Chandradeep Bandyopadhyay, Infosys


2-Part Series on Warehouse Management: Part 1, Cost Sinks or Profit Sources?

Measuring Operations and Costs is Key to Rediscover the Warehouse as a Profit Source


Guest Column

by Greg Johnsen, GT Nexus


Can You Really See or Are You Supply Chain Blind?

Take the Seven-Second Global Supply Chain Visibility Test


HolsteHolste's Blog: Is 2010 the Year to Move Forward With DC Improvement Projects?

Top Story: To Find ROI for RFID in Distribution, You Have to Go Well Beyond Just Eliminating Scanning

Video Review: New IC Fork Truck from Crown - Holste Takes a Look


Visit Distribution Digest



What are the top 5 global 3PLs in terms of revenue (based on 2008 numbers)?

Click to find the answer below
Understanding Supply Chain Analysts

This is a column I have meant to write for years, but have just never quite got around to it. As we roll here in the US towards the Thanksgiving Holiday, I thought it would be a good time to tackle the subject of supply chain industry analysts. I was also prompted, in part, by the fact that in a few days we will also launch the same survey on supply chain strategies and plans that we have done for the past two years with one of the supply chain analysts firms, Gartner (please take a few minutes to complete the survey when it is ready).


As most, but not all know, there is a group of firms that are typically called supply chain analysts, and analyze and organize is largely what they do, though, as I will note below, that role is changing to a degree. Familiar analyst names are firms such as Gartner, AMR Research, Forrester, etc.


I am well familiar with these companies, as I actually was an analyst for over two years at a company called META Group (second largest at the time), which was later acquired by Gartner. In other roles, including now, I have interacted in depth with the analysts, personally know lots of them, and consider many to be friends.


In fact, Supply Chain Digest was launched with the idea of fitting somewhere between the traditional “trade press” and the analyst community. “Valued-added journalism” someone once said, and that’s about right in what we do.

So, why should you care about the analysts? A number of reasons, which include:

  • They provide useful information and insight, if you can get access to the research/publications. That often includes nice graphics, which help visualize a process/opportunity and can be used to explain the concepts to others.
  • At some analysts, if you are a client, you can set up phone interactions to have your specific needs for information/
    insight addressed one-on-one with an analyst.
  • Their research/opinions can often have a significant impact on how a company views specific technology vendors/options.
  • Technology vendors themselves often change product development plans and/or their “messaging” to appease analyst critiques (delivered as the vendors “brief” the analysts).
Gilmore Says:

"Good luck finding any negative opinions in print today – it is about an extinct life form."

What do you say?

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That said, I am often amazed how often “end users” (the words vendors use to describe regular companies and supply chain professionals like yourselves) and even SCM technology providers do not well understand the analyst community and how it works.


In fact, I will argue that SCM professionals in most companies that subscribe to the analyst offerings don’t leverage the full opportunities they have very well. That is often because the primary target for the analysts is frequently the CIO/IT group. Sometimes, SCM managers don’t even really know they have access to the service, or certainly the full scope of what they are entitled to, such as the one-on-one “inquiries,” as they are usually called.


The reality is that the analysts firms which charge a lot of money (as much as a hundred-thousand dollars or more annually for big “clients”) do not do much interacting with mid-sized and smaller companies as clients, though some have tried programs tailored for that market. SMBs often see some of the work, however, as the research often gets around in legitimate and illegitimate ways.


All the analysts have their strengths and weaknesses. I always say you need to understand the analyst company, how they make their money, and other factors when viewing any research or considering the analysts’ opinions.


In my view, the SCM industry analyst firms can differ along these attributes: 

  • Size and scope: Gartner is huge, some are very small, and others in-between. Some are very broad based IT/technology analysts, others more narrowly focused on operations/supply chain.
  • How they Make Their Money:  Some rely mostly on a client subscriber model, which depends on things like what specific services you subscribe to or how many research “seats” you buy. Others rely primarily on vendor sponsorship of various reports and other activities. Some are in-between. A third group primarily makes money selling research reports, usually around market sizing and such, which are usually purchased by vendors, investment firms, etc., looking to understand growth potential for RFID or whatever.
  • Content Access: Closely tied to “how they make their money,” in general, the subscription-based firms closely limit most content access only to clients and, even within clients, limit the number of people authorized to access the research. In reality, the documents can be made available to most anyone in the company – if you know to ask. The companies that make money by vendor sponsorship generally make the research available with free registration. Increasingly, even some of the subscription-based analysts are making individual pieces of research available “by the drink” – say $395.00 for an individual report.
  • Subscriber Mix: Some analysts have primarily vendor clients, others have a high percentage of “end users” as clients. Some have no end-user clients.
  • Inquiry Opportunities: Related to all the above, some have formal programs for client inquiries (e.g., We are looking at these three demand planning vendors, what can you tell me?). How this works, in practice (ease of setting up an inquiry, quality of answers) can vary substantially. Usually only available from subscription-based firms.


There have been some changes since I was in an analyst role, and it largely relates to the near death of analysts writing any “negative” research/opinions on specific vendors. Ten years ago, this was fairly common, even though it likely would bring fire and brimstone from any vendor so described. Today, the need to keep vendors as clients has largely eliminated any real criticism of vendors today, and that’s too bad, though I well understand those pressures (we have them here too in a different way.) But, it is something to keep in mind, though most analysts will speak more freely in one-on-one inquiries. But, good luck finding any negative opinions in print today – it is about an extinct life form. I even had one analyst who had some negative things to say about Walmart’s RFID program tell me I couldn’t quote him, lest Walmart get mad at his firm.


I was going to include a list of the most important analysts, along with a brief summary of each, but lack of space will have to leave that for another day. I will end with these general recommendations:

  • Find out what analysts firms to which your company subscribes, what access the company and you personally may have, and how you can access the info you need. Don’t let this stay bottled up in IT.
  • Find a way to keep abreast of what is published. The challenge many companies have with analyst subscriptions is that only a few people really see what material has been published. I think the gatekeepers should make that info freely available internally though a internal portal, emails, whatever.
  • Take documents that in some way rank vendors (e.g., the Gartner “Magic Quadrant”) as just one input into the process. They should be used to add more color to internal analysis; to use them as a basis to reject specific vendors outright is usually silly, as the analysts themselves will tell you, but companies still do this.
  • If you have access to them, take advantage of one-on-one inquiries (can usually have several individuals on your side). Your specific questions can be addressed, and you will get a lot more “unvarnished” answers here, I promise.
  • If you are not a subscriber, and you have some need for specific third-party research information, there is often a buy-by-the-drink option, and/or vendors you are working with can usually find a way to get some document to you – if it supports their cause.


Did you find this overview of the SCM analyst world helpful? What else would you like to know? What are your thoughts on the SCM industry analysts? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button below.

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We publish a few letters this week on our column explaining how a Cap-and-Trade system might work and its impact on supply chain, with a link to a new report by our

That includes some great thoughts from Tom Miralia, who has our Feedback of the Week, plus others, including one from a long-time engineer who questions the CO2 math.

We also print a few of the many letters we have received relative to the struggles at YRC Worldwide (several articles) – many of which we can actually print without worrying about our language standards. One shipper says she is hopefully optimistic that YRC will make it.


Feedback of the Week - On Cap and Trade and the Supply Chain:


Wow... Where to start?

While being mindful that our consumer-geared, industrialized (free market) economy is based on seemingly prodigious consumption of relatively cheap fossil-fuel based energy, I see these new initiatives as simply barriers to productivity and new sources of revenue not unlike sin taxes for government.

We can choose to hamper our current productivity and prosperity in the name of conservation and the wobbly concept of man-made global warming, but I don't see any of this having an impact on the juggernaut of industrialization and growth of consumer markets in the developing economies.

Maybe I am way off, but I believe that, for the most part, they want what we have! Rising sea levels aside, at some point sooner or later, regardless of US leadership in carbon footprint 'management,' the cheap energy will become more costly.

Perhaps emerging technology will, in time, mitigate the effect of this, but likely, economies will experience a major shift away from consumerism --to what I don't know -- perhaps a more community-oriented and relationship-based society and less 'stuff' oriented.

Perhaps that is not so bad. I wouldn't look to hasten the US shift to that in the face of so much of the rest of the world's lack of desire to follow suit via tax policy though. Cap and Trade looks 'unadministratable.'

I remain largely nonplussed by the European approach to business, government and economy. I think that the freedom to pursue excellence is too greatly suppressed for them. And then there are those who are profiting from the 'global warming' business, and those who will gain power via administration of these programs... Surely the burgeoning interests of those participants need to be taken into account as well.

You asked!

Tom Miralia
Distribution Technology

More on Cap and Trade and the Supply Chain:


I think you did extraordinary work on this.

Now, I do not have much knowledge about Cap & Trade, but I have some experience here in Canada when I used to work in a pulp mill.

What we have is a pollution permit and ceiling. Now, in this, for example, if I have 10 points and I used 9, then I can carry that 1 point forward and, similarly, if I use 11 points, then I get minus from my account for next year.

But, I cannot sell this to others and you can carry forward or minus up to a certain year and limit.

What benefit I see is that no one can make a windfall profit or loss; secondly, in case of cold weather, if they use more energy, they are not penalized or work towards efficiency for next year. I know this is different, but can we not apply some of them in Cap and Trade? It is just my thought.

Mehul S. Pandya
Award Windows

Thank you for a simply fantastic overview of these issues, and even better full report. Never seen anything else like this on Cap and Trade.

I remain amazed at the quality of information SCDigest continues week after week to produce.

John Gomes
, MA

Awesome article on Cap & Trade in SCDigest!  I was just explaining this to someone yesterday.

Sara Curtis

Supply Chain Strategist Product Manager

i2 Technologies, Inc.

Pardon me for my confusion, but all this talk about blaming CO² for global warming seems to be centered on increased temperatures.  I served my apprenticeship in industrial chemistry 55-years ago.  Part of my job was the analysis of the gas turbine products of combustion.  Naturally, we had to take into account the amount of CO² existing in the atmosphere in calculating the combustion efficiency.  In those day, the figure for CO² was 0.04%.  A search of the Internet today reveals that the value has not changed to this present day.


Therefore, as I see it, CO² cannot be responsible for global warming, or is this reasoning too simplistic, or are we blaming the wrong thing?


Kevin Ward

On YRC Worldwide Struggles:

Many carriers have been quick to “be the town crier” that the sky is falling and YRC is hitting the ground hard.


I listen as any professional would; I have had service declines with this merger; I have shifted freight when it got “dicey” out there, but I am starting to see an improvement in service and hope that YRC can prevail.


Every company has to judge the risk, YRC is proving many people wrong with the union concessions they have gotten.


I believe the timing of the merger has made the situation that much worse than it would have been and the fact that everyone in the freight world is hungry for the opportunity that YRC would give them if they were to fail. 


I haven’t counted YRC out yet and I am sure when things improve economically, there will be freight for everyone who rightfulyl has earned it.


Maureen Miller


There is plenty of LTL capacity in the market at much lower cost than YRC.


Michael Thacker


What are the top 5 global 3PLs in terms of revenue (based on 2008 numbers)?


(1) DHL Supply Chain & Global Forwarding; (2) DB Schenker Logistics; (3) Kuehne + Nagel; (4) Panalpina; and (5) UPS Supply Chain Solutions, according to the annual list from Armstrong and Associates