How digital, data and technology have changed the commodities industry

Scott Wellcome: A candid perspective on commodities, hedging and technology

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A candid perspective on commodities, hedging and technology

Recent events have seen all industries and businesses experience change, whether that be personally, for their customers or through their operations and supply chain. Some have failed whilst others have excelled, facing the ever-evolving speed of change.

ChAI and JPMCC at UC Denver Business School caught up with commodities expert Scott Wellcome, Director for Grains Risk Management at GoodMills Group GmbH.

He discussed the way the commodities industry has changed over his 30-year career and how it has been impacted by changes to digital and technology, along with advice on juniors wanting to break into the industry.

What are commodities?

An economic good or resource that can be collected and processed for use in human activity – in Scott’s case, grain.

 

Since 1988, Scott’s original interest has stayed in commodities. During this time, he has observed the changing industry. Technology and its use has advanced along with globalisation as the world has become easier to move goods around thanks to improved communication, logistics and infrastructure. Food and diets have changed, including diversity. Originally, commodities production and markets were in the USA, then this expanded through to Asia, Australasia and Africa, also seeing more women in the trade now than previously.

Defining lessons and experiences

As is the case in many industries: learn to expect the unexpected (COVID!). Markets change too, so there is a need to be flexible, less rigid and adaptive. Crises can happen eg financial crisis, bird flu, pandemic.

‘Keep focused on the light at the end of tunnel and trust your policies and guidelines.’

 

How has market volatility impacted your business?

Positive: there has been a big demand in food such as flour.

Negative: logistics became a nightmare! eg border closures, availability of vehicles and price-commodity movements.

As a result, Scott admitted there was a need to adjust the company’s strategy accordingly.

‘We did suffer some supply chain difficulties, but this spurred us to come up with new ideas, which we continue to embrace in our operations even now. A negative that we turned into a positive!’

 

Supply chains have and will be affected going forward as a result of Covid. Scott also revealed plans for the future focused on sustainability and making supply chains more efficient.

‘There’s still improvement needed in efficiency and infrastructure and how material is moved around.’

 

GoodMills Group GmbH has a short supply chain which is helpful when considering their impact of sustainability and the environment.

Similar to a lot of businesses, there have been adjustments to work-life balance and location adjustment such as working from home a few days a week.

Supply Chain and relationships have changed, but made stronger, which has encouraged us to look for suppliers locally.

As a result of these changes, GoodMills Group GmbH has learned to recognise the importance of data, which was previously overlooked in the grain industry, and how this impacts the business for the better throughout their operations, supply chain and procurement functions. Data and AI is growing and GoodMills slowly realised that it can be used in multiple processes such as packaging, sourcing and using it as a way to create a centre of information. It is important to know HOW to use the data to become efficient and utilise effectively within the business, which a lot of companies are still learning about and investing more time and money in.

 

Recommendations for successes in the industry?

Stress-test ‘what if’ scenarios: this helps get an understanding of how certain actions and reactions may affect the bottom line of your business, whilst considering how does it affect your current and future positions?

Gather data and information about your industry and use it well – and most importantly, have FUN!

 

Find out more about ChAI and JPMCC here.

ChAI

JPMCC at CU Denver Business School

 

Check out the interview with Scott Wellcome here.

 

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