“We all agree on the topic Mike, where to next…?” was typical. At the recent All China Leather Exhibition (ACLE) in Shanghai, both Mike Larson of Tyson and Thorsten Lahnstein of GST AutoLeather furthered the debate during the “Tannery of the Future” Leather Forum panel discussion by clarifying the need for this trend to be reversed and some of the difficulties involved.

It was my expectation that the current reorganisation going on with supply chains, as companies adjust in a wide variety of ways to the big changes going on in China, would be the moment that a number of decisive actions would take place. For quite a number of situations the opportunity is being taken to shorten supply chains and strengthen the relationships linking farmer to tannery so interventions to improve quality would be quite possible.

Hopefully this will happen, but one problem has arisen. No one appears to be collecting any data, so it seems likely that we have nothing other than anecdotal evidence of both the decline and any future improvement on which to base our actions.

I know that the world has pulled away from management guru Peter Drucker’s saying that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”  Apparently, the really big decisions are in areas that cannot be measured. But it still shocked me that one of our students at Northampton University, whose dissertation I am helping with, was unable to find anyone who was able to share any statistical measures. It was not that they were unwilling to share, it was that they made it clear no one was collecting them.

It seems that at some stage in the 1990s we, as an industry, stopped collecting trade statistics. Given that leather is now fighting for share in every sector and region, getting at reliable data is vital to measure trends; and it will certainly be needed for any industry lobbying.

I have always believed that some things in business must be measured. Raw material quality and industry volumes are among them.

Mike Redwood

25th October 2016


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