Modern slavery risk on rise in European supply chains

modern slavery human rights

The European migrant crisis is forcing a sharp rise in human rights risks in European supply chains. This includes the UK and Germany, which have moved up from ‘low’ to ‘medium’ risk in the annual Modern Slavery Index, released by global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.

In fact, modern slavery risks have risen in 20 of the 28 member states of the EU over the last year, the research finds – a reminder of the importance of transparent supply chains and efficient due diligence.

The study ranks 198 countries, assessing them on the strength of their laws, the effectiveness of their enforcement and the severity of violations. The higher the rank, the higher the risk.

Verisk Maplecroft points to the arrival of migrant populations in Europe as a key contributor for the increase in slavery, who it says are “extremely vulnerable to exploitation” across multiple sectors, including agriculture, construction and services.

The five EU countries posing the highest risk are Romania, Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Bulgaria – countries that are key entry points for migrants into the region.

Romania and Italy, in particular, are highlighted as being the two EU countries with the worst reported violations, including severe forms of forced labour, such as servitude and trafficking. Romania rose as many as 56 places to rank 66, and is thus deemed as the country with the most deteriorating slavery situation globally.

Italy, which comes at place 133, is up 17 places from last year, and Verisk Maplecroft expects the country’s score to only worsen over the next year due to “geographic shift in migrant sea arrivals”, with the agriculture sector being at especially high risk.

Greece remains a key destination for human trafficking, the consultancy says. The country moved up 16 places in the index to 129 – this despite a dramatic fall in immigrants in Greece since the 2016 signing of the EU-Turkey Refugee Agreement.

“Even the EU’s biggest economies are not immune to the rise in slavery risk,” the report says, pointing to Germany and the UK, which slipped from the ‘low’ to ‘medium’ risk category after a slight negative shift in their scores. This is attributed to gaps in the UK’s labour inspectorate and Germany’s uptick in recorded trafficking and servitude violations.

Outside of the EU, Turkey experienced the world’s second-largest jump in the index, from 110 place up to 58, thus moving into the ‘high risk’ category. This was triggered by various factors, including the Syrian refugee influx, Turkey’s restrictive work permit system and the low priority for policing labour violations.


New supply chain focus

While key manufacturing hubs in Asia have traditionally been in focus when companies assess human rights risks, there is good reason to take notice of the developments in Europe, says Sam Haynes, senior human rights analyst at Verisk Maplecroft.

“The migrant crisis has increased the risk of slavery incidents appearing in company supply chains across Europe. It is no longer just the traditional sourcing hotspots in the emerging economies that businesses should pay attention to when risk assessing their suppliers and the commodities they source,” he says.

Human rights issues not only pose a huge reputational risk– they could also become a legal one, especially with emerging legislation on modern slavery and human rights appearing in the UK, France, the Netherlands and Australia.

Verisk Maplecroft’s findings come just a few weeks after a study revealed huge weaknesses in companies’ efforts to secure responsible supply chains. Surveying business executives from corporates around the world, the Economist Intelligence Unit found that only 22% are addressing child labour concerns in the supply chain, 23% are actively tackling climate change, and just 32% ensure they aren’t sourcing from areas affected by conflict and violence. Despite this, only 2% of respondents thought their companies had irresponsible supply chains.

On its findings, Verisk Maplecroft notes that despite the higher risk in Europe, the “top sourcing locations in the emerging markets should remain firmly on the radar of companies”.

Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand, for example, all feature in the ‘extreme’ or ‘high’ risk categories. Ranked 21, China remains firmly established among the worst performing countries. The index’s highest ranking nations include North Korea, Syria, South Sudan, Yemen, DR Congo, Sudan, Iran, Libya, Eritrea and Turkmenistan.


‘Modern Family’ Co-Creator Steve Levitan On When & How ABC Comedy Will End

After lengthy negotiations, ABC in May renewed Modern Family for two more seasons, taking the Emmy-winning comedy’s run to ten seasons. That will likely be the show’s final chapter, according to co-creator/executive producer Steve Levitan.

While a 10-year run was not something he and fellow co-creator Christopher Lloyd had envisioned from the get-go, it had been a milestone they had been building toward for the last few years. “Our original goal was to just stay on the air,” he told Deadline during ABC’s TCA party. “After awhile though, we felt we may be in control our own fate, and 10 sounded like a nice round number.” And while they could conceivably go beyond 10 seasons if asked to, Levitan said that he fully expects that the show will end with Season 10.

As for how exactly Modern Family will end, “We haven’t had that exact conversation yet how we want to end the show episode-wise,” Levitan said, adding that those discussions will start in earnest as the writers start mapping out the second part of the current ninth season. “We’ve talked about areas that we want to go and tonally what we want to do.”

He said that he and his team have bounced around different scenarios — ending the show with a death, in the vein of the shocking Season 3 finale of M*A*S*H*, or with a twist, like Newhart. Ultimately, “I think we will end the show the way we started it in the pilot, with a big family event,” Levitan said, declining to elaborate what that event might be.

The Modern Family pilot followed the stories of the different Pritchett families which did not intersect until they all got together in the final scene to celebrate the arrival of Cameron and Mitchell’s adopted baby daughter from Vietnam.

Modern Family just started filming on Season 9, with 13 episodes already broken by the writers. The Season 8 season finale centered on Manny and Luke’s high school graduation. In the new season, Manny is off to college while Luke is taking a gap year. With Levitan’s son also in college, he has plenty of stories to draw on.



Escaping From a Dire Diagnosis on

When my best friend since childhood wound up back on the oncology unit for her third relapse, I decided it was time to start online dating. I knew from Nance’s prior hospitalizations that talking about lymphoma and PET scans was not her idea of fun. A far better entertainment would be for me to get on so we could hang out together on her hospital bed scrolling through potential dates.

For 42 years, our friendship had been primary. We helped each other through every crisis — her separation, my divorce — along with our everyday worries as mothers. Putting myself back on the dating market for her pleasure was the least I could do. It would be just like what we had done since our shared fourth-grade crush on Tommy H.: having a blast checking out boys.

But there was another reason. I had begun hearing myself say, “This is not a dress rehearsal.” This meaning our lives. After a divorce 22 years earlier and a long post-marriage relationship, I had kept all potential romance light, which mostly meant dating charming but impossible men, not anyone with whom to spend the rest of my life. With Nance’s uncertain prognosis, “the rest of my life” took on new meaning.

“Let’s do it,” Nance said. “You deserve a big love.”

“You don’t deserve this,” I said as her doctor and a flock of medical students crowded into her room.

“Life’s for the living,” she said. “Let’s both get a new protocol for life.”

First, I needed to create a profile. The name I chose for myself? Darkbird9.

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“I understand the dark part,” Nance said, twirling my near-black hair. “And 9 is for your birthday. But what’s up with the bird?” She frowned to indicate it didn’t sound alluring.

“I thought it gave me glamour and mystery,” I confessed.

“Maybe if you’re hoping to date an ornithologist,” she said, shaking her head.

She and I composed a straightforward profile. No mention of beach walks. No glasses of fine wine. I said I was a book nerd despite Nance claiming that “nerd” isn’t a tantalizing word on a dating site.

Right away Nance wanted me to “wink” at a cute and much younger guy.

“I’m not winking,” I said. “And I’m not going on dates with men 15 years younger.”

She conceded that that made practical sense, but it was far less of a vicarious thrill for her. Luckily, because thrills on the cancer unit were my immediate concern, messages piled up in Darkbird9’s inbox. It was easy to weed out the unsuitable.

“You’re perfect,” one man wrote. “Marry me.”

“You’d look great in something silky,” another declared.

I didn’t reply to the gentleman who wrote, “I you want date and bring you to restaurant nice.”

It took discipline not to reconsider my ban on younger men, and not just because Nance kept saying, “This is bleak, Vik,” as we scrolled through the age-appropriate ones. There were paunchy men who penned letters tinged with sad, wry hopefulness. And fit guys in tight cycling shirts who asked to take me out between a scuba trip to the barrier reef and training for a triathlon in Utah. Their notes sounded aerobic.

Eventually I scheduled myself for five dates in a week: one at lunch each day, followed by a debrief on the oncology unit.

The next week Nance and I were sitting in an alcove on her floor, the Hudson River glimmering out the window. I was telling her how date No. 1 had proposed a second date as we finished our Cobb salads. As someone who had been online dating for months, he had assured me that our date was pretty much perfection.

A chemo drip in her arm, Nance said, “You don’t have to sleep with him, but would you go out again?”

“Perfectly nice,” I said. “But he’s not for me.”

In fact, the whole dating game seemed more and more like a pathetic diversion.

“Let me look at him again,” she said, tilting the screen.

I clicked on his profile.

“What were we thinking?” she said, wincing. “Show me tomorrow.”


When to Get the Best Deals on TVs and Kitchen Appliances

You don’t need to be a data scientist to know that holiday sales are great opportunities for bargain shoppers—but to understand precisely when you can snag the best deals, a little bit of big data goes a long way.

That’s why Consumer Reports teamed up with Gap Intelligence, a market research company that specializes in pricing information, to study a year’s worth of product prices from key retailers. We examined four big-ticket product categories—ranges, dishwashers, refrigerators, and televisions—to help you navigate the sales between Labor Day and the end of the holiday season.

The steep discounts that occur around Black Friday demonstrate the magnitude of price fluctuation that exists during the course of a year. By November, the average price of a refrigerator, for instance, dropped almost $250 off the peak pricing we found in May. For the average price of a range, we found a $178 differential—or a 14 percent discount—between the high point in February and the low point in November.

Sometimes the big-picture data can hide some counterintuitive buying advice. Average TV prices peak as new products launch starting at the end of February, but that’s also one of the best times to get a great deal on the previous year’s hot sets.


Things got particularly interesting when we zoomed in on several high-performing models from our ratings. We found significant price fluctuation on certain models; others—especially at extreme low and high prices—barely budged.

So how can past pricing inform your purchasing decisions this fall? If you’re in the market for one of these products now (as in, your fridge is on the fritz), the data show that keeping an eye on a model’s price over a matter of weeks could save you hundreds of dollars.

In terms of 2017 sales events, Gap expects to see similar trends, especially when it comes to Black Friday. “That promotional period continues to get longer and longer,” says Christine Edwards, Gap’s senior market analyst for home appliances. On Black Friday, entry-level appliances might see a dramatic dip as retailers advertise these offers to entice people through the door.

But if you’re shopping for a midlevel or premium appliance, there’s no need to wait until the day after Thanksgiving. “The retail industry is now referring to November as ‘Black November,’ ” explains Debra Mednick, CR’s director of market trends and analysis. As 2016’s data confirm, if you’re after a new kitchen suite or television—and you can hold off—it pays to wait out Labor Day sales and shop come November.

To calculate the average price in the product categories below and track the price of specific models, we teamed up with Gap Intelligence, a market-data company that tracks pricing and promotional activity for in-store and online products selling in key national, regional, and online-exclusive retailers on a weekly basis. (For each category, we excluded extreme outliers, eliminating TVs costing more than $8,000 and ranges and refrigerators more than $10,000.)

A man walking out of an electronics store after getting the best deal on a TV


“Most TV models are replaced or refreshed every year, and their pricing tends to follow a fairly consistent 12-month curve,” says Deirdre Kennedy, senior analyst for TVs at Gap Intelligence.

Our examination of the average price of a TV, as well as our study of four recommended 2016 models, shows that after new television models were introduced from early March to late May, prices began an immediate and steady decline. When Black Friday promotions began in November, prices dove across the board. We found many sets selling for as little as 50 percent of their original retail price.

Our analysis found another window for snaring a great deal starting a few weeks before the Super Bowl and running through March. During that time, average TV prices rose as new models entered the market, but prices on the preceding year’s TVs hit their low point as retailers worked to clear out old inventory and create shelf space for new arrivals.

Below, we compared the average price of a TV over the course of 2016 to four select models from our television ratings:

• Samsung UN65KS8500 TV
• LG 60UH8500 TV
• Samsung UN55KS8000 TV
• LG 49UH6100 TV

A chart that shows the average price of high-rated TVs for 2016


PICTURE BOASTCARDS Brit holidaymakers have ditched traditional postcards to brag about trips on social media

Millions of British holidaymakers are replacing postcards with ‘boastcards’, according to research.

Seven in 10 people admitted they no longer send or receive the traditional paper postcards, preferring to share holiday memories online instead.


34 per cent will upload a ‘boastcard’ or two on a Sunday evening when they know most people will be dreading the working week

And 90 per cent of adults said the only reason they post on social media while on holiday is to boast to friends and family.

A third of those polled try to post glorious holiday snaps online at 9am on a Monday morning – in a deliberate attempt to make work colleagues jealous.

A further 34 per cent will upload a ‘boastcard’ or two on a Sunday evening when they know most people will be dreading the working week ahead.

While 31 per cent attempt to post holiday pictures when they know colleagues will be suffering from the post-lunch slump.

The Royal Caribbean International survey of 2,000 adults, conducted via, shows more than half feel absolutely brilliant or it makes their day when their online holiday snaps receive lots of ‘likes’ from people back at home.

four in 10 holidaymakers will take their first photograph within two hours of stepping off the plane

four in 10 holidaymakers will take their first photograph within two hours of stepping off the plane

One in 10 went as far to say sharing holiday photos was more important to them than a holiday romance, and 12 per cent reckoned it is more important than enjoying amazing holiday weather.

Incredibly, four in 10 holidaymakers will take their first photograph within two hours of stepping off the plane.

Following that, they’ll post on social media up to three times a day to share what a good time they are having.

However, despite this love of online bragging, 50 per cent of Brits admit they lack the confidence when it comes to capturing the perfect holiday shot.


‘I slept on the floor in a flat near Harrods’: stories of modern slavery

When Elvira arrived at Heathrow in 2014, she thought she had escaped the abuse she’d faced as a domestic worker in Qatar. Yet the exploitation the Filipino woman was about to suffer would surpass anything she experienced in the Middle East. The 50-year-old was taken to a luxury flat in Kensington, where her boss, the sister of her “madam” in Qatar, made her work 20 hours a day, allowing her only one piece of bread and no wages. She was trapped in a life of servitude, while metres away central London bustled with shoppers.

More than 200 years since it was abolished, slavery is thriving. The UN’s International Labour Organisation estimates that 21 million people around the world are trapped in some form of modern slavery. In many cases, the physical shackles of the past have been replaced by less visible but equally effective forms of coercion and control: a worker on a factory line crippled by recruitment debts he or she cannot pay back; a man on a construction site in a foreign country without his passport or wages; a woman selling drugs on a roadside threatened with beatings and rape if she doesn’t earn enough. Dig deep into the supply chain of the world’s major commodities, and you’ll find instances of slavery. From the food we eat to the phones we use and the clothes we wear, its influence is pervasive.

Record numbers of people are fleeing violence and poverty, and traffickers are ready to exploit them. The International Office for Migration believes 70% of migrants arriving in Europe by boat have been victims of human trafficking, organ trafficking or exploitation. In the UK, the government estimates there are 13,000 people trapped in slavery, working in hotels, care homes, nail bars and car washes, or locked in private houses that have been turned into brothels.

“As a business model, slavery is a no-brainer,” says Siddharth Kara, an economist and director of human trafficking and modern slavery at Harvard’s Kennedy school of government. “It’s a low-cost, low-risk business that generates huge profits. To be two or three centuries on from the first efforts to eradicate slavery and still to have it permeating every corner of our economy is a damning indictment of our failure to tackle this highly lucrative criminal industry.”

In London, Elvira managed to make a bold escape, waiting until her “employer” was taking a nap before running to a nearby church for sanctuary. She is still waiting for justice. Much exploitation goes unpunished and unrecognised: data from the US State Department shows that in 2016 there were only 9,071 convictions globally for forced labour and trafficking offences.
To get a picture of what slavery looks like today, we talked to people all over the world who have experienced it first-hand. Their stories, which show how quickly one can become trapped and exploited, give an insight one of the biggest human rights challenges of our time.

Elvira, 50, Philippines

Portrait of former domestic slave Elvira


Remek focuses on nurturing traditional arts, provides artisans with market access and visibility

Mumbai-based Remek is bringing unique and authentic handcrafted pieces from traditional artisans to young and urban Indians. It’s been six months, and the startup clocks 300 website visitors each day with a monthly run rate of Rs 50,000.

An old saying goes that India has a new culture every 30 kilometres. Almost every region has its own traditional form of arts and crafts, including paintings, embroideries, carvings, sarees and others. The craftsmen in these villages hold aloft the flag of culture, but sadly neglect is eating away at many of these arts and crafts.

So when three people who were passionate about travel and culture met, they decided to set up a company that would save traditional crafts by giving artisans access to a larger market.

The Remek founders.

Satya Dwivedi, Mandawi Verma and Madhavi Verma met through common friends at work. Satya had graduated from IIM-A, Mandawi was from IIM-C while Madhavi had a degree from IMT Ghaziabad. All three were working in the corporate sector before they decided to start Remek in July 2016.

“These age-old crafts, and the stories associated with them, are dying with time. With artisans facing economic hardship, these art forms are on the verge of extinction,” Mandawi says. She says these traditional artists have very little access to the market, and there are no visible platforms to tell the background stories associated with art.

Testing and adapting to the market

The trip quit their jobs by the end of 2015 and travelled extensively to many villages of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal and north-eastern states to meet these artists. They lived among them, listened to their stories and jotted down local tales that the artisans depicted in their paintings. They procured some of the paintings and decided to test the market.

“Very quickly we realised that the market is very niche and most people do not appreciate the value of these paintings unless they know about the craft,” Satya says.

To provide continuous revenue to the artist, the company expanded beyond paintings, to include things that could be understood and bought by more customers.

“We expanded into home decor. Now we are expanding into clothing and jewellery,” Madhavi says.

After deep market research and the setup of a procurement cycle, the company launched its ecommerce brand Remek in July 2016.

Remek means “masterwork/masterpiece” and it is an effort to bring unique and authentic handcrafted pieces from traditional artisans in the hinterlands of India to young and urban Indians.

“We want to celebrate the diversity of our culture by depicting myths, legends and folklore of a tribe as interpreted by local traditional artisans,” Mandawi says. She says that by doing this they strive towards providing a sustainable life to artisans.

The company follows a collaborative business model, so that craftsmen are also important stakeholders. Ninety-five percent of their product development results from collaboration, where they provide the craftsmen with raw material. The creative team supplies contemporary design inputs and the artisans then finish and present their final products.

Remek initially used the inventory model where they procured products from artisans and stored as inventory.

“This was done to gain their trust,” Satya says. He adds that Remek is now slowly moving towards a consignment basis of sourcing, where they share the risk with artisans.

“We believe that unless the artisan is made a key stakeholder in the business model and is invested in the venture, the company will not be able to provide unique products,” Madhavi says.

What does the future hold?

Remek recently launched their B2B arm, catering to customers in segments like hotel chains, tourism departments, corporate gifting and interior decoration. In this segment, they are focusing on domestic and international markets. For this, they obtain orders from customers and provide products in agreed time spans.

The company is also looking to expand in the services sector. In this model, as a service, the artisans will paint walls or other items as required by end customers. The customers will be charged on an daily/hourly basis.

“We are also in the process of developing a mobile app to provide our ecommerce and service platform through smart phones,” Mandawi says.

In 6 months, the company is clocking 300 daily website visitors and a monthly run rate of Rs 50,000.

Based on their learnings over the year, Remek has a three-pronged strategy for scaling up in the next few months. The company is going to focus on:

  • Targeted marketing campaigns focused on specific target consumers
  • Increase the reach of Remek through larger platforms like Flipkart and Amazon
  • New category development with high demand focused categories

The results to their B2B arm have also been “pretty encouraging”.

“We already have one Maharashtra government department, one 5-star hotel and two renowned interior decorators in Mumbai as our customers,” Satya says.

Going forward, the company’s business development team will be specifically focused on B2B lead generation and initiatives.

According to IBEF, the Indian handicraft industry is potentially a $100-billion industry worldwide. The industry’s current sales are pegged at around $5.8 billion annually.

Remek’s two major competitors are Gaatha and Jaypore. Both of them focus extensively on clothing and jewellery while Remek has a broader focus on home décor, including lamps, lights, artifacts and kitchen ware.

Businesses that support Indian craft are big these days.

Titan has also jumped on to the bandwagon and aims to revive handloom weaving, one of the oldest occupations in India, and the saree, the oldest garment in the country, through its newest venture Taneira.

But Mohandas Pai, Managing Director of Aarin Capital, believes that any startup “must generate money fast and figure out a business model that can scale up”.

If the Tata Group can bet on 20 clusters of Indian saree making, why can’t a startup bet on traditional artifacts? Remek has the right mindset, for sure, but needs to start generating cash soon.


Jason Isbell on Modern Country: ‘Most of That Stuff Is Real Bad Music’

A few years ago, Jason Isbell was an ex-member of Drive-By Truckers, playing clubs and drinking way too much whiskey. Now, the Alabama native is headlining venues like Baltimore’s 19,000-seat Merriweather Post Pavilion while turning out sharp country-rock story-songs. (John Mayer has called him “the best lyric writer of my generation.”) Isbell’s new album, The Nashville Sound, gets heavier and more political than 2015’s Something More Than Free, which won Grammys, including Best Americana Album. On “White Man’s World,” he confronts the struggle his two-year-old daughter will face later in life, and “Cumberland Gap” captures the dismal anxiety of working in coal country. Isbell says his songwriting hot streak “had to do with when I got sober [in 2012]. That gave me a lot more time to work. I had more focus.”

You recently played the Outlaw Music Festival on the same bill as Bob Dylan. What did that mean to you?
It was pretty incredible, and you can tell he’s having a good time onstage right now. I actually have lyrics from “Boots of Spanish Leather” tattooed on my arm: “Just carry yourself back to me unspoiled, from across that lonesome ocean.” That line always means something to me in different ways, whether I’m talking about a relationship or some part of myself that I want to remain intact.

You had a great tweet recently. Explaining why you didn’t play any Nashville CMA Fest gigs, you said, “The reason is because I did not want to do that.”
I don’t like that kind of music at all. Sometimes I’ll hear a song that I really like that’s in that world. I like that song “Girl Crush.” Some of Miranda Lambert’s songs are really well-written. Stapleton’s great. But most of that stuff is just real bad music to me. It also seems like a huge mess. I like Nashville when it’s just regular old Nashville and there’s not a whole lot going on.

You live near a lot of mainstream country stars in Nashville. What happens when you run into them at the grocery store?
I don’t really get any shit from anybody. I own my record label. I have my own publishing. I do what I want. Nobody is selling a ton of records. Yesterday, someone tweeted the Garth Brooks Chris Gaines album sold 2 million copies. At the time, that was considered a disaster. Now, everyone would kill for that disaster. I don’t even know if Chris Stapleton’s Traveller is at 2 million yet. So we’re all in the same boat.

Your wife, Amanda Shires, is also a singer-songwriter. What’s life like at home?
We live out in the middle of nowhere, and we have all kinds of animals. We’re building a chicken run because a fox got all our damn chickens. You think it’s hard for conservatives and liberals to get along in this country? Try putting some free-range chickens and foxes together in Tennessee.

On The Daily Show, you said Trump’s election made you lose faith in the South. Did you catch heat from anyone in your home state of Alabama?
Well, The Daily Show is the least popular television show on cable in the state of Alabama. I’m kind of surprised how little trouble we’ve run into. When some people first heard this record, they said that I was gonna alienate half my audience. Where do they get those statistics? Kendrick Lamar probably does not have a whole lot of conservative listeners. I might alienate six or seven percent of my audience. But I gain a whole lot more to make up for it.

What’s surprised you most about Trump so far?
The Trump presidency has convinced me that we are living in a post-Christian America. I could see how a lot of conservative right-wing Christian Americans would vote for someone like Mitt Romney, who seems like a stand-up guy. But Trump is obviously not a good Christian person. I think the fact that so many people voted for him means that there aren’t that many good Christian people left in rural America. God is gone from those people.

There’s a line in “White Man’s World”: “Mama wants to change that Nashville sound / But they’re never gonna let her.” Are you writing about your wife?
Some idiot country-radio guy said that women were “the tomatoes on the salad,” meaning they were there to kind of decorate country radio’s actual revenue stream. That got me thinking how little value is given to women in that world. I’ve seen it with Amanda. She writes her own songs and tours, and through her experience I’ve seen how much harder it is for her. You don’t get the same respect. It is not a level playing field by any means.

You’re known as a great lyricist, but what’s your worst lyric?
My song “Cigarettes and Wine,” where I sort of break character: “She kept me happy all the time / I know that ain’t much of a line.” It always bothered me, but John Prine loves it. If it’s all right with him, I guess it’s all right.


How manufacturers blend products, services on the path to XaaS

Story image for Products from Diginomica

A combination of rising connectivity and more sophisticated automation is transforming traditional businesses as they blend products and services in new ways. In product-led industries such as manufacturing, this trend first manifests itself in the growth of services alongside products. But it doesn’t stop there.

As enterprises progress along this journey, they discover that selling services in a connected world fundamentally changes how they engage with their customers. They are no longer selling discrete products and services, but blending both together to satisfy a customer need. Welcome to the world of XaaS — everything as-a-service.

We promised some real-world examples in our opener to this series, A CxO’s practical guide to surviving the XaaS revolution. Here we’ll explore what several leading manufacturers have discovered as they’ve set off down this path, which business academics often call servitization. Professor Tim Baines, an expert in the field from Aston Business School, says that many businesses begin by adding services around existing products:

Quite often it means moving first towards what we call intermediate services, which is prepare, overhaul, condition monitoring, help-desk, a bit of training on the side, those type of things.

Ultimately, it moves into these more advanced services, much more of the outcome-type contracts. They’re delivering the outcome, delivering the process, delivering the performance.

Changing the relationship

Organizations that are already delivering ancillary services can use today’s more agile, collaborative technology platforms to make those offerings more engaging. Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the $50 billion revenue IT giant, retains a significant services capability despite spinning off its consulting and outsourcing business in April this year.

Adam Jones, Advanced Planning & Innovation Lead within HPE’s technology services organization, explains how new technology and different expectations are changing the service organization’s relationship with customers:

We’re seeing our customers wanting to be more proactively, pre-emptively notified of what’s going on. They want to be socially connected to resolve issues and indeed to solicit feedback on best approaches and also want us to understand their social profile and align our engagement with their needs.

In manufacturing, the ability to add sensors and Internet connections to products helps improve existing field service and customer service offerings, as well as add new outcomes-based services. One example is elevator and escalator maker Kone, which already derives around 45% of its $10 billion in annual revenues from its services business.

Proactive service culture

Kone has used technology to connect its 20,000 field service technicians, along with agents in its customer service call centers, at the same time as adding sensors to products in the field. Company CIO Antti Koskelin says this has opened the doors to a more proactive, predictive service culture:

If we’re able to get a better view of what kinds of requests customers will make, what their service needs are going to be and what types of issues they might face with their equipment, then we’re able to react better. And if a service technician arrives at a customer site with more information about the customer, its equipment and its contract with us, then they’ll do a better job.

But it goes further than that. We need to be very good at providing the services that customers say they need, certainly, but our goal is to provide the services that they haven’t recognized themselves yet and point it out to them.

New ways of working

In the mass consumer market, home and kitchen appliance maker Bosch is also shifting from one-off sales to a more connected, engaged customer relationship. It has pursued an Internet of Things (IoT) strategy to make its products connected, as a result of which it has to fundamentally change how it thinks about customers. This has meant learning new ways of working that are unfamiliar to product companies, says Stefan Ferber, VP of Engineering at Bosch Software Innovations:

The company has moved quite a lot over the past few years and with that we have learned what it means not only to be a producer, but also you serve the customer, you have a continuous relationship with your B2B and B2C customer. These are all things that are not so common to producers in that space.

The customer relationship is quite different, because when the product is connected, it means staying in touch with the customer. In the old product sales model, the manufacturer only heard from the customer if they had a problem, he explains:

The story starts when the customer for the first time is opening a box with your product in there. Then you build up a new connection, a new relationship with your customer. From there the real product story starts.

For traditional companies ‘success’ meant the customer got their product, had no problem, job done. If someone is calling, you had a problem. This mindset of course takes some time to change, you need different sales people, you need a different marketing approach, you need a different call centre approach.

Not just adding services to products

These insights from enterprises that have embarked on this journey demonstrate how much more of a transformation it is than merely adding services to the product set. The combination of connected technology and continuous service delivery opens up a new type of customer relationship.

In the next post in this series we’ll look at other aspects of that new relationship, including the move to subscription and pay-as-you-go business models, and a more customer-centric service design ethos. Meanwhile, please give us your observations and reactions in the comments below or on social media using the #XaaS hashtag on Twitter or mentioning us on LinkedIn.




Police today urged householders to tell them when they’re on holiday — so officers can help keep an eye on their house

Story image for Door & Windows from NDTV

Ahead of the start of the trades fortnight, community officers are leading a crackdown on break-ins during the summer months — when those types of crimes peak.

PC Andy Caulfield, based at Longhaugh Police Station, is one of those heading up the campaign to halt the crooks.

And he says one option open to people who are heading off on holiday is to alert police to their absence.

He told the Tele: “Come into your local police station and let us know you’re away.

“We can include it in our patrol matrix and give it passing attention.

“And if you have a burglar alarm, please use it.

“Set it, and notify us of who you have left a key with in case it goes off in error and we need to gain access.

“We’re just trying to remind people to take those extra 30 seconds to make sure everything is secure before you leave and that way you are less at risk of being a victim of crime.

“The impact on people that have been a victim of a theft or a break-in is long-lasting.

“It stays with you forever.”

PC Caulfield says officers have dealt with “numerous” break-ins in recent weeks, with thieves looking for tell-tale signs that homes have been left unsecured.

He said: “There is more of an opportunity for thieves to take advantage of the good weather.

“People will unconsciously leave their possessions lying out in the open or leave doors or windows open – that increases the risk.

“Recently, some people had a bit of work done to the rear of their property.

“They left ground-floor windows open to the rear to air out fumes.

“They went out shopping, came back, and someone had been in through the window and gained access to the whole property.

“I believe it was an opportunist who made off with a laptop and iPod.”

Thieves tend to aim for items which are easy to conceal or carry in a bag that can be moved on quickly.

“They can be away without the neighbours seeing anything,” PC Caulfield said.

“It’s the idea that someone outwith your friends and family has been in your place of residence, your place of comfort, and that place can suddenly feel quite vulnerable.

“By simply locking windows and doors if you’re popping out, or nipping next door, you can make sure your property is properly secured.

“You can always open doors and windows later on for fresh air.”

Even windows on upper floors aren’t always safe from the crooks, with a recent reported case involving a criminal using a ladder from the side of a house to climb in through a first-floor window.

And even someone’s Facebook profile can leave an opportunity for someone to target a house.

PC Caulfield said: “If you state on social media that you’re going out, you’ve advertised that you won’t be in,” he said, “so make sure your home is secured.”