March 2009 | News | Trends

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Across the drab, windswept prairie of Alberta, Canada, the once ubiquitous grain elevator, a colorful beacon of the region's economic vitality, has gone the way of range-roaming buffalo. But as regional agribusinesses recognize the increasing, and perhaps forgotten, efficacy of moving grain by rail instead of more costly motor freight, a hallmark of the past may be reinventing itself.

Regina, Saskatchewan-based Viterra, Canada's leading agribusiness, recently announced plans to expand its high throughput elevator at Provost, Alberta. The project will increase the loading capability of the facility, which is served by Canadian Pacific (CP), to 112 railcars from 56 and raise its storage capacity by 13,000 tons to a total of 32,000 tons.

"Our expansion at Provost is consistent with our overall strategy to optimize our footprint in Western Canada and move a greater percentage of 100-car shipments to export position," reports Bob Miller, senior vice president, grain, North America. "With these improved capacities and operational efficiencies, we are generating value for our farm customers, end use customers, and the industry as a whole."

Construction is slated to begin in the spring of 2009 and is expected to be complete in the fall harvest period. The project will increase the number of 100-car loading facilities in Viterra's network to 36, as well as enhance the railroad's capacity to speed throughput and drive economy in its operations.

"Viterra's latest infrastructure investment is a welcome addition to the grain handling system," says Michael Adams, Canadian Pacific's assistant vice president, grain. "Efficient elevator operations and capabilities enhance CP's ability to create pipeline capacity in the overall grain handling network."

Retailers Address New PLM Standards

As green mandates and supply chain pricing pressures conflate, businesses are looking to reduce waste and standardize processes throughout the entire lifecycle of their products, especially on the design end. A new effort, spearheaded by TradeStone Software, a private label and global sourcing solutions provider, is gathering support from retailers to create better standards that support the creative design process when developing new merchandise.

Gloucester, Mass.-based TradeStone is working side by side with retailers to create standards for codes, information flow, and business processes, as well as address concerns on embedding safety, government testing, and regulatory requirements in the design process. Charter members in The PLM for Retail Standards Committee include department stores (Macy's, Kohl's), specialty apparel (American Eagle Outfitters, Pacific Sunwear), hardlines (Guitar Center, Lowe's) and grocery (Auchan).

The committee is an outgrowth of the TradeStone STARS User Group that first met in September 2008. More recently, retailers gathered at TradeStone's headquarters to identify and discuss how standards for process, content, and data can save time and resources, and support speed-to-market initiatives.

"By establishing a process that is both generic to the retail industry but specific to each retail segment, we feel we've made a significant step in the right direction," says Ann Diamante, chief product officer, TradeStone Software. "We had an interactive and informative two-day session that focused on working together to establish a consistent, unifying, easy-to-adopt infrastructure of collaboration among retailers, suppliers, and their supporting service providers including agents and component suppliers."

The committee is looking to invite more retailers, suppliers, and technology companies to its quarterly meetings to improve upon these standards.

Integrity and the Supply Chain

The recent flood of public and private sector corruption scandals gives supply chain integrity a whole new spin—with far greater gravitas than simply making sure shipments remain intact in transit.

A new study conducted by Integrity Interactive Corporation, a Waltham, Mass., company that helps global corporations manage and reduce the risk of compliance failures, reveals an international shift from inward-facing compliance concerns such as financial integrity to outward-focused areas including anti-bribery requirements—the primary concern in this year's annual study of the Top 12 corporate compliance issues (see sidebar).

Integrity analyzed the course-completion records of three million employees at more than 300 companies worldwide who have participated in the company's online compliance training since January 2000.

Greater focus on outward-facing compliance concerns occurs as companies address how their actions impact the world and focus on preventing harm to themselves and their shareholders.

Demand for supply chain integrity is driving business awareness of the potential ethics, compliance, and corporate social responsibility risks that result from supply chain misconduct. Concern over new supply chain regulations, negative media exposure from potential supply chain scandals, and business partner conduct play a role in pushing anti-bribery requirements, conflicts of interest and gifts, and product safety and liability to the top half of this year's list.

"Drastic changes in our global economy and recognition of the importance of supply chain integrity have companies demonstrating a renewed commitment to the basic principles of corporate ethics and compliance," says Integrity CEO David Curran. "Our research shows that companies across industry sectors and global regions are taking steps to ensure transparency, ethical behavior, and quality controls."

The Top 12 Corporate Ethics and Compliance Concerns

  1. Anti-bribery requirements
  2. Conflicts of interest and gifts
  3. Antitrust contact with competitors
  4. Mutual respect
  5. Records management
  6. Product safety and liability
  7. Privacy
  8. Proper use of computers
  9. Export controls
  10. Careful communication
  11. Information security
  12. Financial integrity

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