Panjiva, Sinosure, and Historic Futures – From Knowing Your Manufacturers to Knowing Where Your Products Are, These Firms Can Tell You

Supply chain information coming from all angles?  Information is power and these third party service and software providers are emerging to offer companies greater information about who their suppliers are and the location of their goods within them.

Three firms founded in the last 8 years are working to crack open global supply chains further to bring greater transparency.  One data mines customs records.  One issues credit reports on Chinese manufacturers.  One traces products through the chain of custody at the batch level.  When I prognosticate the statement of a supply chain executive in the near future:

I know the identities of all of the factories and suppliers
involved in the production of every product I make, from final assembly
and packaging to the materials suppliers 4 tiers deep. 

I
know what customers they are all working with.  I know their capacity
and exportation quantities at any given time.  I know their financial
health.

…these companies are working to make it possible.

  • Panjiva. Founded in 2006.  USA.  Panjiva data mines information on manufacturers using a variety of sources, including the US Dept. of Homeland Security (Customs), General Administration of Customs of the Peoples' Republic of China, fifty-five ISO 9001 auditing firms, forty-six ISO 14001 auditing firms, and several others, to offer companies reports containing information on which products a given supplier has shipped, which customers a supplier has shipped to, the quantity a supplier is shipping, and the frequency with which they ship.  The reports are designed to offer companies new methods of tracking the health and activity of their contract manufacturer base. 
  • Sinosure.  Founded in 2001.  China.  As described by Jason Busch at SpendMatters: "Sinosure, was set up in 2001 as the monopoly provider for export
    insurance (essentially receivables insurance) for Chinese suppliers.
    Run by the Chinese government, Sinosure conducts supplier financial
    assessments of suppliers as part of the receivables insurance
    underwriting process. They base this assessment on government data
    sources as well as standard credit rating approaches (e.g., on-time
    payment for phone bills)"  In his posts on the topic here and here, Jason raises questions with good reason about the accuracy of information upon which Sinosure bases its credit ratings.  Josh Green, founder of Panjiva, which recently announced a partnership offering with Sinosure, responded that Sinosure simply presents another source of information to cross-check supplier information they already have, and that the agency itself bases its own insurance policies on the credit information they develop. 
  • Historic Futures.  Founded in 2003.  UK.  Historic Futures has developed a trusted third party product traceability
    system, known as MyString, to allow consumers, retailers and brands to
    trace product through multiple companies in the supply chain back to
    source.  Historic Futures software and services allow companies much greater efficiency in the management and reporting of COO for raw materials used in their products, collection and analysis of KPIs throughout all tiers of the supply chain, such as "product miles", water use and energy consumed, and visualization/management of compliance and certification status beyond the first tier of the supply base.  Walmart's LoveEarth jewelry line, launched in summer of 2008, is one of their biggest and most notable projects.  Consumers can now go to Walmart's LoveEarth website, enter a batch number for a jewelry piece they purchased, and track the companies in the chain of custody from mine to retail.  

The reservoir of information in global supply chains is beginning to be tapped for greater internal management, as well as social responsibility, and marketing initiatives.  This is likely only the beginning.