Tag Archives: employment

Global Supply Chain: A Documentary

While consumers might be sick of hearing “it’s the supply chain” when facing empty shelves while shopping, it is a real problem in business right now.  During the pandemic, demand for virtually everything has expanded. Consumers want more. They want it now. But they can’t get it and are getting frustrated. Marketing professionals need to keep a critical eye on distribution and logistics systems to stay ahead.

While it’s seldom that we would recommend a longer film for a class, the Wall Street Journal recently produced a 54-minute video that illustrates the entire length and breadth of the  supply chain – as well as the issues faced today by businesses at each step of the journey.

Because consumers are now used to one-click shopping, it is easy to forget that millions of products are touched by millions of hands every single day. This video explains the various steps of distribution and how an action at one point begets a chain reaction of events down the line:

  • Container ships
  • Sea conditions
  • Small crews on massive ships
  • Bottlenecks (remember the Evergreen ship disaster?)
  • Crowded ports
  • Dock workers
  • Long-haul truck drivers
  • Weather
  • Road conditions
  • Warehouses
  • Laws and regulations
  • Inventory tracking
  • Employees
  • Last-mile delivery
  • Inflation
  • Off-shore manufacturing
  • And the list goes on….

Watch the documentary and consider what is happening – and what will have to be done differently in the future.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students before video: Have students select a few common products. What are the steps in distribution – from manufacturing to sales?
  2. What are potential issues throughout the supply chain?
  3. Block out an hour to show the entire video. If that isn’t possible, segments can be shown a few minutes at a time with discussion following.
  4. Video: https://youtu.be/1KtTAb9Tl6E
  5. Work this video into supply chain chapter discussion.
  6. What are suggested improvements?
  7. Alternative idea: Students ca be assigned to watch the video and provide a synopsis of the documentary.

Source:  Wall Street Journal documentary. Why global supply chains may never be the same. (23 March 2022).

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Use Your Career to Change the World

The last few years have seen a crazy world take shape in front of us. Between climate crisis, the pandemic, economic upheaval, wars, racial inequality, gender issues, and political turmoil, it makes one wonder how to best contribute to building a better world for the future.

After all, it feels good when we make a positive impact. It can be a small change such as contributing a few dollars to someone in need, or it can be a larger change such as starting a new program or organization for social justice or community service. And of course our jobs and careers can also contribute to making positive changes, either through donating money or using our time to make inroads to solving issues.

A movement called “Effective Altruism” formed in the late 2000s by Oxford University philosophers uses science and data to determine how people can use their time and skills to do the most good in society. When the movement first began it focused on lucrative careers so as to generate more money to contribute to important causes. But that has morphed into other approaches to doing good with our careers. This has been particularly true in the past few years during the pandemic as workers consider their purpose and meaning of their work.

This led to the nonprofit called “80,000 Hours” which evolved from Effective Altruism to help people design careers where they can do good things in the world. Why 80,000 hours? On average, today’s workers are likely to spend 80,000 hours working over a 40-year period (40 hours/week x 50 weeks/year).

But how does someone find the right career to pursue? What is our best opportunity to have a positive impact in the world? 80,000 Hours gives advice to job-seekers who are looking for high-impact jobs that address the social problems that concern them. Perhaps it is working at a start-up company focused on a new medical intervention, or a technology company focused on climate change.

The four main factors for defining your impact are:

  1. Help solve a more pressing problem.
  2. Find a more effective solution.
  3. Find a path with more leverage.
  4. Find work that fits you better.

Think about it.

What issues drive you? Where can you do the most good?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. This is a slightly softer activity that the usual ones about creating a new marketing program. But, it is very relevant to today’s students.
  2. Discuss the importance impacting local and global issues for the future benefit.
  3. Poll students: What are their concerns for the future? With what issues would they like to get involved?
  4. The following two organizations and websites can take some time to review. Set aside some class time to allow teams to review the articles and approaches.
  5. Show the website for Effective Altruism: https://www.effectivealtruism.org/
  6. A video explanation: https://youtu.be/nwhoSX9AFXU
  7. Show the website for 80,000 hours: https://80000hours.org/
  8. A video for 80,000 hours: https://youtu.be/1xsR0XBwyo4
  9. Divide students into teams and have each team prepare a summary of what was learned from these websites.
  10. Consider a discussion board or assignment that focuses students on the topic of how to use their skills.

Sources: Varagur, K. (Oct. 10, 2021). Can your career help change the World? Wall Street Journal.

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The Changing Consumer Spending

Consumer spending drives the U.S. economy, accounting for roughly 68% of the GDP. The spending includes everything we buy: food, services, entertainment, groceries, haircuts, and more. From the beginning of the year (when the economy was up), the nation has seen rising unemployment, and that means less wages to spend.

The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are changing consumer behavior – what we spend our income on as well as how much we spend. As consumers have weathered the coronavirus pandemic and states have enforced lock-downs for shopping and entertainment, our spending and saving habits have shifted.

Interestingly, personal income rose 10.5% in April, the result of a rise in government rescue programs and household stimulus payments. But consumers also cut their spending on restaurants and hotels, as well as cut health care expenditures. In regards to large purchases, spending on autos declined 30% and furniture and appliance spending cut by 20%.

The first few weeks of the pandemic brought consumers out in mass to stock up on pantry items including toilet paper, soup, macaroni, beans, and other comfort foods. The next few weeks saw consumers buying more basic ingredients as they cooked more meals at home.

What’s next for consumer shopping changes?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: In the past month, roughly how much money have they spent? What items have they purchased?
  2. Is this spending different than what they experienced before the coronavirus pandemic? How is it different?
  3. Show video from WSJ about spending: https://www.wsj.com/video/consumer-spending-slid-in-april-here-why-that-matters/14661D9B-8251-43EB-B082-EDDE09187E2F.html
  4. Discuss trends in items being purchased.
  5. How should companies be using these changing habits to their advantage? Should marketing campaigns change?

Source: Wall Street Journal; other news sources

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