Tuesday, 21 May 2013

A still small voice in procurement

Apple have revolutionised modern communications with iPods, iPhones, Macs and even to a certain extent Facetime.
But Apple have not been without supply chain problems: child labour, riots, strikes, pollution and even suicides.

Today we are yet again reminded of the on-going difficulties with Foxcom - more suicides, this time attributed to the a new 'silence mode'. Yes, one of the world's major revolutionaries in communications, Apple, has a key supplier who has banned workers from talking on the job!

While the unethical working conditions are certainly a concern to me, what really puzzles me is much more basic and relevant to procurement practitioners - are Apple a hostage to Foxconn?

One of the key objectives of the procurement professional has to be to place the buying organisation in a position of relative power and become a preferred customer. In that position the buyer should be able to bring all sorts of influence to ensure the supplier delivers what they are supposed to in a manner which is consistent with the buyer's priorities. The reality that one of Apple's key suppliers continues to damage their reputation and on occasion disrupt deliveries, can surely mean only one of two things. Either Apple don't care about ethical procurement - which appears unlikely, or Apple have little influence over Foxcom.  I'm afraid it is starting to look like the later,  if that is the case Apple have to redress the balance or continue to be held hostage to Foxconn. We all recognise being a hostage is the worst of all positions - 'how are the mighty fallen'!

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