Thanks for this excellent and thought-provoking post, Caue! I think that you highlight a very interesting approach to ‘breaking the wall’. As for potential concerns, I am fairly optimistic that continued innovation will drive down the cost and increase the scalability/speed and ease of use of 3D printers over time. This PwC report highlights some of these trends: http://usblogs.pwc.com/emerging-technology/the-road-ahead-for-3d-printing/. GE might potentially be ahead of the curve, but it’s in my view only a matter of time until innovation makes 3D-printing a very attractive alternative. However, my main concern is, as you highlight above, that protectionist governments will further shift their attention from trade of physical goods to trade of IP/data, and impose barriers on e.g. cross-border sharing of CAD files. There are some indications that this is happening already (see e.g. report from nonpartisan think tank ITIF: https://itif.org/publications/2017/05/01/cross-border-data-flows-where-are-barriers-and-what-do-they-cost). While such a scenario might adversely impact GE’s effort to ‘break the wall’, there is in my view still merit in pursuing a long-term strategy focused on a global network of additive manufacturing capabilities, e.g. over time lower shipment costs and less variability in delivery times.
Great article and interesting topic! I guess many companies are today struggling with the same issue: how do I stay relevant in the value chain when digitalization allows my suppliers to bypass me and serve my customer directly?
I agree with above; GameStop should expand horizontally into categories (e.g. collectibles) that are less likely to be disrupted by digitalization near term. In addition, to defend their core business, I think more needs to be done to upgrade the in-store *experience* – focus should be on offering something that is difficult to replicate in online channels rather than solely on product delivery. To this point, I think the ideas around e.g. LAN cafes, e-sports competitions are very interesting. In addition, it could potentially be worth exploring/expanding the current offering of e.g. in store “test stations” for new games.
A more transformative move, which I think GameStop should pursue, is to, as you point to above, expand “upstream” in the value chain, by acquiring/partnering with 3rd party game publishers to bring exclusive content to customers. GameStop should leverage its well-known brand and x million established customer relationships, and approach especially smaller game publishers. Through GameStop, these publishers can immediately gain access to a sizeable consumer market. Win-win. In addition to the store network, GameStop should also consider launching an online platform for distribution of its games.
Very interesting post. Thanks Amanda! In addition to your thoughtful commentary, I also think it’s relevant to consider the increasing level of automation in US manufacturing plants. As NY Times article ‘How to Make America’s Robots Great Again’ (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/25/technology/personaltech/how-to-make-americas-robots-great-again.html) highlights, the reality is that new factories in the US does not necessarily equate many new jobs. Instead, companies are more likely to invest in robots (many of which are manufactured in e.g. China). As you point out, a $1.2bn investment to build three new plants in Michigan only creates 130 new jobs. In this context, could there be a middle-of-the-road solution for Ford to satisfy both the current administration and achieve an attractive ROI? For example, could one feasible solution be to build plants wherever it’s most cost efficient, and re-invest parts of the incremental savings into US robotics innovation (as Ford will ultimately also benefit from more efficient robots)?
Great article (and great company)! I think predictive analytics will and should play an increasingly significant role for H&M’s product development going forward. Conversely, ‘creatives’ will play a smaller role. H&M competes in a very different market than high-end fashion houses such as Prada, Burberry etc. As a fast-fashion company focused on affordability, H&M’s key success factor is, in my view, the ability to very rapidly deliver products to market at low cost – it doesn’t have to be a fashion-setter (relying on ‘creatives’) to be successful, only a quick (and cheap) follower.
Also, in addition to the actions that you raise above, H&M and its owner (Persson family) have over recent years also been very aggressive in investing in retail and supply chain tech start-ups, e.g. Budbee (https://digital.di.se/artikel/hms-vd-backar-budtjansten-budbee) and Pinmeto (https://www.nyteknik.se/digitalisering/h-m-investerar-i-svenska-pinmeto-6866388). To me, this effectively addresses two points that you bring up above. First, as H&M has been too slow in adapting to the evolving digital landscape, acquiring companies is arguably the quickest way to ‘catch-up’ (compared to e.g. developing technologies in-house). Second, acquiring tech start-ups is also an effective way to gain access to ‘the right people [with digital expertise] essential to success’. H&M is catching up!
Excellent post! Agree with Katie – most of Starbucks current initiatives seem to be adaptive, and more could be done to mitigate further climate change. Few companies touch as many consumers on a daily basis as Starbucks, and one could argue that Starbucks is uniquely positioned to educate the public (e.g. through campaigns) about climate change and how to reduce emissions in our everyday life. Furthermore, as Katie highlights above, Starbucks own emissions have increased over the past years: according to an article in the MIT Technology Review (https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601404/starbucks-responds-to-climate-change-with-mixed-results/), this is partly caused by Starbucks adding heated food (requiring refrigeration and ovens) to the menu to further grow sales and profits (Starbucks’ share price has more than doubled over last 5 years). To me, this casts some doubts over Starbucks’ commitment to mitigate climate change.
Also, the same article in the MIT Technology Review also highlights that the Costa Rican farm used by Starbucks to develop coffee varietals with increased productivity and disease resistance has so far had some success: small batches of varietals more resistant to infections have been developed (but these are also slower-growing and lower-yielding). I remain optimistic about Starbucks’ efforts to adapt to climate change, but think they could do more to mitigate it.
Great article! I think BMW is approaching this in the right way, pushing on transparency in its supply chain to generate competition among suppliers, and providing training programs. In my view, this is the most effective way to drive change and spur more innovative and sustainable operations in the automotive supply chain. However, I agree with you that BMW could be tougher towards suppliers who do not comply with sustainability metrics. As long as suppliers can ‘get away’ with not meeting metrics, they will be less incentivized to develop more sustainable operations. In fact, since conventional automotive manufacturers all share the objective of reducing CO2 emissions in their supply chains, I believe there is merit in them together establishing industry standards for acceptable CO2 levels among suppliers – and sticking by this when making sourcing decisions. This would create significant pressure on suppliers to develop more sustainable operations.