Supply Chain by the Numbers

- March 19, 2015 -

  Supply Chain by the Numbers for Week of March 19, 2015

China Dumping Steel Worldwide at Record Pace; Wisconsin Says Yes to Right to Work; Unilever Says No to Landfill Waste; US Manufacturing Trending Down



That was the rise of steel exports from China year over year in January, to 9.2 million tons, according to data from the Global Trade Information Service. For all of 2014, exports of Chinese steel were up a giant 59% versus 2013 to 82.1 million tons - the most steel ever exported by any country this century. China produces as much steel as the rest of the world combined, more than four times the peak U.S. production in the 1970s. As growth keeps slowing at home, and the government there focuses on building a consumer economy versus continued massive infrastructure spending to drive growth, there is huge overcapacity in China, and mills there are sending their steel to the US and Europe at rock bottom prices. CEOs of leading American steel producers are saying they will testify at a coming Congressional hearing on the issue, a move that is likely a prelude to launching anti-dumping complaints with the International Trade Commission.




That's how many states now have passed "right to work" laws, now that Wisconsin signed its change into law last week. Becoming a right to work state basically means an employee cannot be forced to join a union and pay union dues even a manufacturing plant or other operation that is unionized. Proponents of the change argue freedom for workers to not be forced into a union, while labor interests say it gives such workers the benefits of union wages and other benefits without paying for it. Union forces have sued to stop the change, but such efforts in other states have not fared well. Now split down the middle at 25 each, right to work states were historically all in the South and Western regions of the country, but the last three to make the move are in once union-heavy Midwest states - Indiana, Michigan and now the Badger state.


That's how much waste is being generated at all of consumer products good giant Unilever's 241 factories worldwide, as it met in 2014 a goal set several years back. Unilever chief supply chain officer Pier Luigi Sigismond says that the company will save about 200 million euros annually from the effort. In addition, Sigismon also provocatively says that "In developed economies there is no excuse any more not to do this. If a company is not doing this, you start to think it is simply because they don't care." Unilever will host a conference for suppliers later this year to share their lessons for success to get to zero landfill waste - and Sigismon says that while it won't dump suppliers for now for failing to get on board, that could change in the future.



Number of consecutive months of a decline in US manufacturing output, after the latest numbers for February were released this week by the Federal Reserve. The declines have been small – 0.2% in February after drops of 0.3% and 0.1% in January and December, respectively - but worrisome nevertheless after many months of gains. The February decrease took the index number back down to 101.3, meaning manufacturing output last month was 1.3% above the average month for the peak and baseline year of 2007. US manufacturing output finally reach that 2007 level in July of 2014, after a long but steady climb from the bottom of the recession in June, 2009, when the index fell to just above the 80 mark - a stunning fall. Like other negative indicators, the February number is being blamed partly on the bad winter weather. There will be a lot of eyes looking at the March number though.