Articles in Category: Sourcing Strategies

Every global business worth its name has or is going digital — the mining sector is no different.

But is the mining sector getting it right while it goes about the transformation? Not exactly, claims advisory agency Ernst & Young in a new report.

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In the report titled, “Digital mining: the next wave of business transformation” — not to be confused with the mining of data — it says digital maturity across the mining and metals sectors means that current digital solutions are merely “functional or siloed,” and only address parts of the value chain.

Global mining companies have started to make some headway in using digital technologies to improve productivity. But, as the report says, focusing on productivity alone is not enough to generate competitive advantage. Companies need to adopt “a more cohesive, end-to-end approach to integrate digital initiatives,” the report states.

In this paper, the E&Y team has explored more of the “how” to commence a digital transformation rather than the “why” businesses should embark on the change.

The report has identified around 60 digital themes and initiatives across the sector, though it finds few examples of a clear, integrated and businesswide approach among mining and metals organizations.

The team has proposed a “wave approach,” which seeks to balance risk and return, and the need for rapid action but also thoughtful planning for players in this sector.

“Mining & metals has so far lagged other sectors in the realm of digital effectiveness,” said Anjani Kumar Agrawal, partner and national leader for metals and mining at Ernst & Young. “The value from digital will only be realized when companies change how they work, rather than succumbing to the lure of individual technology programs and pursuing local optimization, which is not necessarily transformational.

“While a revolutionary approach to digital would be too disruptive, we believe companies with mining activities should adopt a progressive, multiyear strategy that also accounts for business risk and the primary drivers of value.”

Paul Mitchell, Ernst & Young’s global mining & metals advisory leader, stressed the importance of adaptability.

“We see the end-state vision for the mining sector as constantly changing and businesses will need to be ready to adapt and change course as required,” Mitchell said. “While we don’t believe the sector will see radical disruption, the opportunity for new entrants to disrupt existing players poses a real threat. Market leadership can be lost quickly if dominant players respond slowly or ineffectively to industry disruption and external changes. However, the pathway through the waves of digital transformation should not be viewed as inflexibly sequential or static.”

The “waves” that are referred to in the E&Y report are a series of digital transformation waves, which the agency feels “is the optimal way to transition a business from current to future state” and steadily introduce more digital hotspots and interconnections, all as part of a coherent overarching strategy.

Focusing on productivity and profitability alone is not enough to generate competitive advantage, say the experts, but focus must be given to innovation, too.

This approach is structured around these key components:

Digital pre-start: building out connectivity to prepare for digital transformation, which typically involves investment in infrastructure, communications and data.

  • Wave 1: activities that focus on the productivity or performance improvement agenda, and are typically operated within a single function. At this stage, digital can enable a mining operation to manage inherent variability & move toward manufacturing levels of productivity.
  • Wave 2: these activities are broader & span the whole value chain & include initiatives to better manage margin through interactions with customers & suppliers.
  • Wave 3: this stage refers to the rise of disruptive factors that may create significant changes in how the sector operates & may require a step change in business strategy.

MetalMiner’s Annual Outlook provides 2018 buying strategies for carbon steel

This new report comes in the wake of another report, ‘Top 10 business risks facing mining and metals 2017–2018”, in which E&Y identified “digital effectiveness” as the No. 1 risk facing the mining and metals sector.

The full E&Y report, “Digital mining: the next wave of business transformation,” is available here.

In the automotive world, cost is everything.

That’s why, in a recent case study — titled “Using Advanced Sourcing Optimization to Negotiate Metal Contracts” — an automotive supplier approached MetalMiner for advice on its annual contract negotiations for carbon steel and stainless steel. Using Keelvar sourcing optimization software to evaluate contract awards and supply options, the study assessed both carbon and stainless.

The automotive supplier sources parts and components used by General Motors, Ford, and others, with a product mix including: multiple stainless steel alloys 300/400 series in coils, carbon steel included CRC, HRPO, etc.

To baseline prices for carbon steel, MetalMiner used receipt-level data provided by the supplier to create an average price by SKU by quarter, allowing for price comparison from the bid process against the historical timeline.

In markets with rising costs, organizations can reduce their risk in three ways: placing more spend under contracts with suppliers holding firm the value-added processes (included freight); placing forward buys and hedging.

So, how did the study work?

MetalMiner developed a project timeline and used relevant tools, including MetalMiner’s Benchmark service and metal price forecasting service, in addition to Keelvar, which served as the bid platform.

Using Keelvar, organizations are able to do a number of things. For one, there is the ability to run multiple scenarios for each category with multi-supplier award scenarios. In addition, it allows buying organizations to leverage benchmark prices to inform target rates automatically, not to mention identify errors and wrong quotes comparatively (and thus work with suppliers to readjust pricing) — who doesn’t want that?

In short, bid optimization allows for the receipt of fast and efficient feedback and the ability to manage complex bids.

With the aforementioned background information in mind, what about results? At the end of the day, as mentioned at the start of this post, cost is often everything in the automotive world.

That means results are everything.

So, the bottom lines for this particular study:

  • $2 million in identified savings
  • $1.5 million in implemented savings
  • 69% supplier rationalization for carbon steel

At the end of the day, sourcing optimization does a lot of things, including streamlining the contract awarding process, reducing complexity and quickly rationalizing a buying organization’s supply base.

Check out the full study here.

Over the past half-year or so, it seems as though the cannabis industry is putting out a new press release every other day. And due to relatively recent state-by-state legalization, cannabis’ economic boom and the growth of its supply chain seems legit enough to spawn this spate of news.

In fact, just before beginning to write this article, I received another release on the latest industry growth numbers. And news just broke that the county in which MetalMiner HQ is based may get legal marijuana on an advisory referendum next March. Salad days for the green goddess!

Why go into all of this? Cannabis may have a lot to learn from the industrial metals sector when it comes to commodity price volatility and risk.

Cannabis (vs. Other Commodity) Price Volatility

In their recent report shared with our sister site Spend Matters, Cannabis Benchmarks (in some ways the MetalMiner Benchmark for the green sector), we can see how volatile cannabis prices are compared with other agro commodities:

Courtesy of Cannabis Benchmarks

Not surprisingly, the report states that “market price volatility can be troublesome for all the participants in the value chain.” That is precisely why most supply chain players should begin thinking strategically about managing supply — and not just price — risk (more on that in the next section).

Also not surprisingly, while traditional supply and demand factors such as weather drive many agricultural markets, “significant price jumps in regional cannabis markets appear to still be driven largely by regulatory decisions,” which we’ve reported on in detail. With cannabis remaining illegal under federal law, this is a trend unlikely to change in the short term, according to the report.

The paper goes on to outline the basics of hedging for participants in the cannabis supply chain — including the 101 on spot versus forward buying and contracts, OTC markets and swaps — with some examples to lay out what’s possible for the buyers and sellers within the nascent market.

Managing commodity price volatility and risk requires beginning to think about it strategically. Lisa Reisman, executive editor of Spend Matters’ sister site MetalMiner, knows a thing or two about that.

3 Reasons for a Commodity Management Strategy

Here’s more on how to begin framing the need for hedging strategies from Reisman (read the full article for more detail and examples):

  • Cost
  • The notion of supply chain transparency. Knowing how each entity within the supply chain prices its products and services only helps the buying organization better understand total cost of ownership (TCO).
  • Margin risk. By leaving the burden of extending quote validity periods or holding current pricing for longer periods of time to suppliers, the buying organization cedes control of its own ability to manage margins.

Ultimately, the cannabis industry is such a nascent frontier that now is the time for participants can begin hashing out their own agreements, using benchmark indexes, specifications and the basics of hedging, according to the Cannabis Benchmark report.

“In other commodity markets, such contract standardization has been created by participant pools, cooperatives, federal entities, and international organizations,” the report states. “Given the projected volume of transactions and currently planned centralization of distribution, the first actively traded hedging markets for cannabis could conceivably occur in California within a year.”

“It is contingent upon the industry to come together and create the framework and standards for this potential to be realized.”

Read the original article over on Spend Matters here. Need more specific guidance around commodity price risk management strategy? Contact us!  

Everything about India’s growth script is gigantic.

Benchmark Your Current Metal Price by Grade, Shape and Alloy: See How it Stacks Up

Take the Indian Railways (IR) expansion drive, for example.

The IR a few days ago floated a global tender to procure rails, and, get this – 700,000 metric tons of it.

Two things unique about this development – the quantity and the fact that for the first time the IR has decided to invite private parties to supply the rails.

The Indian government has earmarked about $132 billion to upgrade a creaking network, established when the British ruled India, which includes huge track-laying projects to modernize passenger and freight movement.

So far, the state-run steel supplier Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), held a monopoly of supplying rails to IR. But now, with the Ministry going in for a global tender, not only foreign players but even domestic steel companies — such as Jindal Steel & Power Ltd., one of the biggest non-state steelmakers — could benefit.

The additional rail tracks will help the railways towards clearing the track renewal backlog.

Some important notes:

  • Indian Railways is the country’s largest employer with 1.4 million personnel.
  • The carrier has a track length of around 115,000 kilometers, making it the world’s largest railway network under a single management.
  • It runs around 20,849 trains daily and transports 23 million passengers and 3 million tons of freight.
  • It operates 10,773 locomotives, 63,046 coaches and 245,000 wagons.

Going forward, IR is contemplating a mega-renovation in partnership with state and central administrations. The plan includes constructing elevated corridors for Indian cities like Mumbai and Delhi, alongside existing rail tracks, for which a portion of the new rails will be used.

SAIL, according to a report by news agency Reuters, has failed to supply rails to Indian Railways.

India’s steel ministry, said the news report, had asked SAIL to make sure it met its target of 1.14 million tons of supplies in 2017-18. Reuters earlier reported the upgrade for the IR was at risk because of rail shortages from SAIL. Between April and August, SAIL could supply only 70% of its monthly targets set for Indian Railways.

For 2017-18, SAIL has committed to providing only 1.14 million tons, against a requirement for 1.46 million tons.  SAIL, which has posted losses for nine straight quarters, is targeting capacity additions of 2 million tons a year.

Free Sample Report: Our Annual Metal Buying Outlook

IR expects annual demand for steel rails to rise to 1.5 million tons in the year ending March from about 800,000 tons in the prior 12-month period.

Irina K./Adobe Stock

Steel Market Update’s 2017 Steel Summit kicked off in Atlanta this week and the topic on everyone’s minds was Hurricane Harvey and the far-reaching impact it will have on the Houston region.

The humanitarian impact of Harvey cannot be overstated, but the economic impact on Houston, an industrial hub in the southern United States, will be felt in both the short- and long-term, with freight transportation at a virtual standstill (Port Houston operations resumed today, according to an alert on the Port Houston website).

Want a short- and medium-term buying outlook for aluminum, copper, tin, lead, zinc, nickel and several forms of steel? Subscribe to our monthly buying outlook reports!

According to SMU, FTR Transportation Intelligence reports up to 10% of U.S. truck capacity will be disrupted in the next two weeks.

“Look for spot prices to jump over the next several weeks with very strong effects in Texas and the South Central region, Noel Perry, partner at FTR, told SMU. “Spot pricing was already up strong, in double-digit territory. Market participants could easily add 5 percentage points to those numbers.”

Gas Prices Surge

In response to fuel supply disruptions from Hurricane Harvey, average national gasoline prices grew to $2.37 per gallon earlier this week, and continued to surge to $2.51 Friday morning, according to the AAA website.

“It’s still really early to tell what this is going to mean for long-term supply,” Denton Cinquegrana, chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service, told SMU. “If some of these refineries are flooded, it’s going to take weeks to get the water out of there and then get into damage assessment.”

How will steel and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth steel price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

Nickel prices maintained near nine-month highs mid-week, due in part to Chinese stainless steel mill demand and decreased supplies from the Philippines, a top exporter of ore.

According to a report from Reuters, nickel prices peaked earlier in the week to $11,885 a ton, its highest point since November 2016. Year-over-year, nickel prices are up more than 15%.

Want a short- and medium-term buying outlook for aluminum, copper, tin, lead, zinc, nickel and several forms of steel? Subscribe to our monthly buying outlook reports!

“Stainless steel demand in China and elsewhere has surprised on the upside and talk about nickel consumption in lithium-ion batteries has helped,” Societe Generale analyst Robin Bhar told the news source.

“Supplies have been under stress,” Bhar added. “The Philippines exported less for various reasons, including monsoon rains, mine inspections and shutdowns. Some NPI (nickel pig iron) capacity has been shut in China because of environmental inspections.”

Nickel Lagging Behind in the Bull Run

Our own Irene Martinez Canorea recently wrote that nickel, along with tin and lead, are more reticent to join the bull rush with aluminum, copper and zinc.

She writes: “Even though the industrial metal outlook remains bullish, lead and tin seem to be behaving on their own terms. Buying organizations will want to pay careful attention to trading volumes in the coming month.”

How will nickel and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth nickel price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:


The International Lead and Zinc Study Group (ILZSG) released its August report, which found the global market for refined zinc metal was in deficit during the first half of the year. Total reported inventories declined over that time, as well.

Global production from zinc mines grew 5.4% compared to the first half of last year, mostly due to a boost in output from Peru, India and Eritrea.

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Furthermore, zinc production suffered in places like Canada, Thailand, Peru and the Republic of Korea, leading to an overall worldwide increase of just 0.5% after factoring in growth in places like France, Brazil and India.

The ILZSG report stated: “Despite a decrease in Chinese apparent demand for refined zinc metal of 2.1%, global usage rose by a marginal 0.6%. This was mainly due to increases in the United States and Taiwan (China).”

Gauging the Zinc Price Ceiling

Our own Fouad Egbaria wrote just last week that zinc has really hit its stride, recently hitting its highest price point in more than a decade ($3,180.50).

Just how high can the zinc price fly? Reuters’ Andy Home states:

“But right now the LME zinc market is bubbling away with stocks falling and spreads tightening. Volatility seems assured but can zinc return to the heady days of late 2006/early 2007, when the price peaked out at $4,580?”

How will zinc and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth zinc price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

The lead price grew this week following a Chinese-issued ban on North Korean exports.

According to a report from Reuters, lead’s sister metals also rebounded, in response to once-rising geopolitical tension easing up a bit and Chinese data, a top metals consumer, coming in higher than expected.

Want a short- and medium-term buying outlook for aluminum, copper, tin, lead, zinc, nickel and several forms of steel? Subscribe to our monthly buying outlook reports!

“Those Chinese numbers (on Monday) were quite soft … I suppose the only glimmer of light came in the new yuan loans, which beat consensus, and maybe that suggests that things will remain stable as we go forwards,” Robin Bhar, head of metals research at Societe Generale in London, told Reuters.

“The metals seem well poised. After a period of consolidation this week perhaps we’ll have another push towards those (recent) highs going forward,” Bhar added.

Lead Price Movement in August

Earlier this month, our own Fouad Egbaria reported that Chinese primary lead posted a price increase, growing 3.3% to $2,694.90/metric ton.

How will lead and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth lead price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

A once abandoned U.K. mine with a rich tin mining history may get another shot at resurrection thanks to a Canadian company.

The South Crofty tin mine in Cornwall has been shut down for nearly two decades, but Canada-based Strongbow Exploration is well on its way to reopening the mine still rich in tin.

Want a short- and medium-term buying outlook for aluminum, copper, tin, lead, zinc, nickel and several forms of steel? Subscribe to our monthly buying outlook reports!

According to a report from The Telegraph, the South Crofty mine didn’t shut down because its tin bounty depleted — in fact, it shut down because of falling tin prices.

The news source states that if all things go according to plan, the mine could be reopened by 2020. The hope is that the continual recovery of tin prices will buoy the mine’s resurgence.

“It’s going to be a modern mine in the location of an old mine,” Richard Williams, Strongbow Exploration’s chief executive officer, told The Telegraph.

Once operational, the mine could employ as many as 300 individuals, not counting suppliers.

“We know there’s a resource there, we can identify it with new technology and make the project economic,” Peter Wale, its director, told the The Telegraph.

Once it opens again, the South Crofty mine will be one of just several functioning mines in the U.K., joining Wolf Minerals and ICL, the news source stated.

Tin Price Movement in 2017

How will tin and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth tin price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

TTstudio/Adobe Stock

Copper prices are on the ascent, thanks in part to the latest Chinese trade data and genuine excitement among investors over worldwide growth and capacity cuts.

According to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal, China’s debt crackdown earlier this year led to an adverse effect on metal prices and general worry from investors.

That worry has turned to elation, with copper prices up 7% due to capacity cuts in China. Meanwhile, iron ore prices are up more than 20% since the end of June.

Want a short- and medium-term buying outlook for aluminum, copper, tin, lead, zinc, nickel and several forms of steel? Subscribe to our monthly buying outlook reports!

The most recent Chinese trade data, representing July, painted a different picture with year-over-year growth of Chinese imports of copper concentrate slowing from June’s growth.

Nathaniel Taplin wrote for the Wall Street Journal: “Overall import and export growth also slowed, hinting that the lift to China from rebounding global trade may be close to its peak.”

The takeaway for copper investors impressed with Q2 Chinese growth? Not to get too excited until the whole story is revealed as China’s demand for metals, specifically copper, is weaker than expected.

Copper Prices Still Experiencing a Stellar 2017

Our own Irene Martinez Canorea wrote earlier this week that copper is outperforming all other base metals this month with copper traded on the London Metal Exchange up 7.8% in July.

She wrote: “The sharp increase in copper prices came after an announcement of a possible ban of copper scrap in China by the end of the year. The increase in copper prices was accompanied by heavy volume, which may signal a stronger uptrend.”

How will copper and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth copper price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds: