APICS is the premier professional association for supply chain management.

Bangladesh Fire Exposes Complex Fashion Supply Chain

by APICS Staff | N/A 2012 | 12 | 23

After the Bangladeshi fire that killed more than 100 workers at the Tazreen Fashions factory last week, experts wondered how so many brands headed for major US retailers could be found among the ashes at such a facility. As the Associated Press reports, Tazreen was part of a complex, ever-changing supply chain made up of links of interchangeable parts, one characterized by particularly low labor costs, high flexibility, delegated authority__and considerable risks.

As the article describes, the question of how so many disparate brands such as Wal-Mart, Sears, and Disney obtain clothes from Tazreen is a difficult one to answer. Some large retailers buy directly from multitudes of factories such as Tazreen to secure the large production capacity to meet heavy fast-fashion demand. Other companies engaging in vertical manufacturing make most of their wares in-house, but leverage other facilities to handle specialty lines.

There also are many companies that place themselves as intermediaries between brands and make use of factories. Adding extra layers between links can create additional complexity and mask supply chain problems. “All of these layers … result in a system that is pretty irrational, where you have a real lack of transparency about exactly what is going on,” says Josh Green, CEO of Panjiva, which provides customers with access to a detailed supplier database. “And when you have a lack of transparency, you have a lack of accountability,” he adds.

Contamination Highlights Manufacturing Issues at Overseas Drugmakers 

A drug company plagued by manufacturing issues at its facilities has stopped production of a generic version of Lipitor after glass particles were discovered in pills, reports the New York Times. Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals has been carefully monitored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2012 after manufacturing issues surfaced in its facilities and false data were discovered on the company’s FDA drug applications. Now, Ranbaxy is prevented from making any drugs at its most troubled plants until it can demonstrate it is meeting US standards.

The contamination highlights what are perceived as quality and oversight disparities in US plants versus those overseas. Currently, the FDA only inspects foreign generic drug plants every 7 to 13 years, versus once every two years domestically. A law passed this year will require the FDA to apply the same standards to all plants, but it has not yet gone into effect.

There have been no reports of injuries from the contaminated drugs.

Industrial Internet to Revolutionize Maintenance and Repair: GE

Not far into the future, complex systems and machinery will anticipate their need for repairs and spare parts, which will be located and shipped before anything breaks. At least, this is General Electric’s vision for what it calls the “industrial internet,” reports the Wall Street Journal [subscription publication]. Under the company’s plan, devices will contain proprietary technology that self-monitors and transmits status updates over the internet to enable higher efficiency and billions of dollars in savings, particularly in industries such as aviation, power generation, and health care.

“The ability to marry real-time customer data with real-time performance data of our products__to me that’s the Holy Grail in our business,” says Jeffrey Immelt, GE’s chief executive officer. He adds that industrial internet technology and advanced analytics will enable GE to learn more about the performance of its products.

GE expects the technology to benefit large-scale industries and also have application to appliances in homes and offices.

Zara Commits to Eliminating Toxic Chemical Discharge

Clothing retailer Zara’s parent company Inditex has announced it will eliminate all hazardous chemicals released into the environment from its products and its supply chain by 2020, Environmental Leader reports. The company also will disclose its supply chain chemical discharges beginning in March 2013. 

These actions are in response to a Greenpeace report that targeted Inditex, as well as a number of well-known brands including Calvin Klein, Benetton, Giorgio Armani, and the Gap, for containing high levels of carcinogenic compounds in their clothing. Zara’s clothing was singled out for containing multiple types of toxic chemicals.

Greenpeace has called on clothing manufacturers to support a global ban on the family of chemicals known as alkylphenol ethoxylates.

Measuring the Benefits of Employee Training and Education

Is it possible to improve the skills of workers without taking measurements first? Unfortunately, not enough companies are engaging in this simple practice, according to a survey by the Association of Accounting Technicians. As Advertising Age reports, one in five employers surveyed do not take any actions to measure the benefits of improving employee qualifications or skills. Even those that do may not be going far enough: Most employers do not discuss training or skills during the appraisal process.

Companies do, however, perceive the benefits of training and staff development. According to the survey, 71 percent think a higher standard of performance comes from improving staff skills. And about 51 percent say training and education make staff members more committed to the company.

Survey: Consumers Want Supply Chain Transparency

There is increasing demand from manufacturers and consumers for supply chain transparency, according to a recent survey conducted by Underwriters Laboratories, a safety testing and certification organization. The study examines manufacturer and consumer attitudes about product manufacturing, sales, and consumption.

“We are seeing manufacturers showcase aspects of their supply chain as consumers demand more transparency,” says Keith Williams, CEO of Underwriters Laboratories. “Where a product’s made, how it’s made, and what’s in it are paramount,” he adds.

According to the survey, manufacturers and consumers in both developed and emerging economies are taking increased notice of supply chain issues, including component sourcing, ethical working conditions, developed versus emerging markets, and product safety.

e-News Solutions

Upcoming Webinars

APICS Extra Live: Supply Chain Sustainability: Strategic Implications for the Consumer Goods Industry

Marco Ugarte, Ph.D., CPIM, CSCP, CQIA, Research & Business Development Manager, The Sustainability Consortium
December 13, 2012
1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m. CT

Click here to register.

Webinars On Demand Available

APICS Extra Live: Defining and Achieving True Supply Chain Agility
Watch the webinar now.

APICS Vendor Webcast: The Right Ingredients for Supply Chain Success [Sponsored by Logility]
Watch the webinar now.

Watch more APICS webinars on demand.

Upcoming APICS conferences

Learn more about APICS conferences.

APICS Asia Supply Chain & Operations 2013
April 4–5, 2013 | Mumbai, India

Best of the Best S&OP Conference Europe
May 16–17, 2013 | London, England

Best of the Best S&OP Conference

June 13–14, 2013 | Chicago, Illinois, USA

2013 APICS International Conference & Expo
September 29–October 1, 2013 | Orlando, Florida, USA

Upcoming APICS seminars and workshops

Learn more about the APICS seminars.

Supply Chain Risk Management Seminar Chicago: Identify, Assess, Mitigate, and Manage Risk
Tuesday, April 16, 2013 | 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Supply Chain Risk Management Seminar Orlando: Identify, Assess, Mitigate, and Manage Risk
Friday, September 27, 2013 | 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. ET

APICS folios Explore APICS folios

Assess supply chain risk, develop your organization’s supply chain strategy and sustainability, and understand how you can successfully implement or grow your organization’s sales and operational planning process with APICS folios. 

$19.95 APICS member - Save 50%
$39.95 nonmember

Discover the new 2012 APICS Supply Chain Risk and Reward Folio

Optimize your supply chain by minimizing risk while maximizing reward. This APICS folio contains valuable tools to aid informed decision making, including

  • Monte Carlo simulation exercises
  • Value at Risk (VaR) examples
  • a risk-reward scoring chart
  • a checklist for identifying, assessing, and mitigating risk
  • articles from the award-winning APICS magazine. 

Explore the APICS Supply Chain Risk and Reward Folio: Measuring Risk in Your Supply Chain for real-world perspectives on risk management best practices and innovations.

APICS Supply Chain Sustainability Folio: Uncovering the Triple Bottom Line
Supply chain and operations management professionals are increasingly called on to carry the torch of innovation to reduce costs, demands on resources, and waste; while increasing the reuse of existing assets, and enabling lean operations. Employing sustainable practices is critical to meeting these business needs.

APICS Supply Chain Strategy Folio: Make the Most of Supply Chain Strategy
Understand challenges and identify areas where senior management and operations management can work together to maximize the effectiveness of your supply chain strategy. Access this APICS folio to delve into critical supply chain functions and tasks that may not be effectively supporting your supply chain strategy.

APICS Supply Chain Risk Folio: Protect your Business with Risk Management
Mitigate and anticipate supply chain risks at your organization—from rising and falling demand to natural disasters, market uncertainty, and varying levels of trust among supply chain partners. Purchase this APICS folio to identify tools to deal with risk at your organization.

APICS S&OP Folio: How to Be an S&OP Champion
Predicting the future generally is thought impossible; yet, S&OP users seek to do just that by strategically directing businesses to achieve competitive advantage. Purchase this APICS folio to understand how you can enable your organization’s bottom-line effectiveness with S&OP.

Supply chain professionals: Take the APICS CSCP Learning System Free Demo today
By earning the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) designation, you will demonstrate significant commitment to your profession and your career, distinguish yourself as an industry expert, and excel with your newly acquired specialized knowledge.

APICS CPIM exam study options
APICS offers a variety of study options to help candidates prepare for the APICS Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) exams and enables them to choose the option that matches their preferred learning method.

Instructor-led courses
For students who learn best in a classroom-based environment, there are instructor-led courses.
Find courses at your local APICS chapter or find an APICS partner outside North America to find courses in your area.

Online certification review courses
Online courses are ideal for professionals who enjoy taking a structured class, but need more flexibility.
Other APICS self-study options
APICS offers a wide variety of tools for candidates interested in studying on their own, including the
  • APICS CPIM Exam Content Manual
  • APICS CPIM practice questions
  • APICS CPIM study notes.

All comments will be published pending approval. Read the APICS Comment Policy.


  1. RadEditor - HTML WYSIWYG Editor. MS Word-like content editing experience thanks to a rich set of formatting tools, dropdowns, dialogs, system modules and built-in spell-check.
    RadEditor's components - toolbar, content area, modes and modules
    Toolbar's wrapper 
    Content area wrapper
    RadEditor's bottom area: Design, Html and Preview modes, Statistics module and resize handle.
    It contains RadEditor's Modes/views (HTML, Design and Preview), Statistics and Resizer
    Editor Mode buttonsStatistics moduleEditor resizer
    RadEditor's Modules - special tools used to provide extra information such as Tag Inspector, Real Time HTML Viewer, Tag Properties and other.