Positive Progress

From the February 2019 print edition

Michael Power is editor of Supply Professional magazine.

Welcome to another year! A comment I’ve heard several times about 2018, the year just past, is how quickly people would like to forget it. It seems that all the uncertainly and volatility during the past 12 months made many eager to simply put it in the rearview mirror.

But in my view, 2018 gave us cause to be optimistic. While the USCMA trade deal didn’t offer much that was new—rather, we ended up with a deal quite similar to the NAFTA trade deal that preceded it—it certainly avoided the worst, most disruptive and calamitous of the potential outcomes of last year’s negotiations.

Canada’s economy did well in 2018, with unemployment near a 40-year low for much of the year. As recently as last September, the Bank of Canada said the country’s economy was “on a solid footing.”

But it seems that the economic and geopolitical storm clouds began forming almost before the New Years Eve party streamers and confetti were cleaned up. As always, supply chain professionals must pay close attention to these trends and how they affect the field.

Recent tension with China over the fate of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, whom the US planned to charge with fraud as of our press time, increases the pressure on the technology industry, diplomatic relations between Canada and China as well as trade and supply chains.

Tensions remain with the US as well, even with the USMCA signed. A 25 per cent tariff remains on steel, as well as a 10 per cent tariff on aluminum. And the knock on effects of these tariffs are being felt by businesses on both sides of the border.

The UK’s exit from the European Union this year also casts uncertainty on its trading relationship with Canada. This is sure to have an effect on supply chains and practitioners here are looking to ways to prepare.

It’s against this geopolitical backdrop that we present our first issue of Supply Professional of the year. At the same time, against this backdrop of geopolitical uncertainty, it’s refreshing to take a glass-half-full look at supply chain. In this issue, our interview with Lori Benson looks, among other things, at how technology is shaping—as well as benefiting—supply chain.

Our look at the future of procurement article on page x also looks at technology’s impact on supply chain, along with how diversity is affecting the field, what skills supply chain professionals will need going forward, and other areas. We also take a look at ethical supply chains on page x, and how the ethical practices of some organizations are benefiting the communities they do business with.

While it can be easy to focus on the uncertainty out there, there is positive progress is some areas as well. It’s helpful to keep an eye on the forward momentum as well.