Conflict Minerals EDGE: Key Takeaways

Click here for the first installment in this interview exploring the MetalMiner and Spend Matters “pop-up” event: Conflict Minerals EDGE. It’s taking place in Chicago on May 6th, 2013.

Jason Busch (Spend Matters): What specifically will people come away with from Conflict Minerals EDGE?

Lisa Reisman (MetalMiner): They will walk away with practical project implementation tools. This will include, for example, a blueprint for the supplier management technology landscape and supporting solutions that can enable conflict minerals compliance. It will also include conflict minerals templates, tools and frameworks – in addition to all of the practical discussions, networking and exchange that is common to the best supply chain, procurement and metals events.

The afternoon sessions will be unique and driven by experts in the metals industry including the “upstream” miners and smelters. No one has brought this group together before. They will explain conflict-free smelter programs and compliance approaches within their individual metals supply chains. They’ll share, for example, why approaches that work for tantalum are not working for the tin industry.

These sessions will explore why. Those buying the most basic commodities, such as steel products (e.g., steel plate or steel hot rolled coil) face some complexities regarding conflict minerals whether sourcing from an integrated mill or an electric arc producer. The conference will cover these nuances.

Jason Busch (Spend Matters): What’s the problem with looking at conflict minerals solely through a technology lens?

Lisa Reisman (MetalMiner): There is no problem, per se, but software or technology is rarely the only answer. Technology companies can help support a company’s overall conflict minerals strategy. But technology won’t be the only means of implementing a SEC-compliant solution.

The other issue with technology companies involves incentives. They are incented to sell software, not to necessarily address the underlying issues involved with creating processes to establish multi-tier supply chain visibility.

Furthermore, many firms don’t have deep subject matter expertise and really lack the deeper understanding of the complexities of the regulations. They try to take generic (and often deep, mind you) supplier management, bill of material management (BOM), spend analysis and related toolkits and somewhat generically apply them to conflict minerals.

This approach may work, but manufacturers need to realize that many software companies are hopping on the conflict minerals gravy train. First develop your compliance strategy and then – and only then – invite them to the table. Don’t let them tell you what you need to do by attempting to create your compliance strategy based on the capabilities of their toolsets.

Jason Busch (Spend Matters): Tell me more about the “Upstream Metal Roundtables” that will cover Steel, Stainless, Tantalum, Tin, Copper, Brass and Bronze – and generally speaking, why metals-specific compliance strategies are so important.

Lisa Reisman (MetalMiner): We decided to handle this portion of the conference “TED” style – meaning roundtable discussions. What has struck me as most ironic about conflict minerals involves the myriad approaches taken by individual metal supply chains. For example, the tantalum industry has coalesced around a common set of best practices from the miner/smelter on through the extended downstream supply chain. But the tin industry has no more than 10% of its miners/smelters certified conflict free. Where does that leave all of the downstream end users of tin products?

We need to touch on the question of imports. How trustworthy are overseas partners in terms of certifying and ensuring conflict-free sources of supply? More important, can companies trust their overseas partners? How do distributors implement compliant programs given their diverse and often far-flung supply base?

If a company purchases hot rolled coil from an integrated producer that also supplies tinplate but the company has taken a strategy of buying only from conflict free suppliers, what process will that company take with regard to ensuring their hot rolled coil comes from a conflict free source?

What do buying organizations need to know about bag and tag programs? The afternoon sessions will explore these and other questions in greater depth and that’s why we have assembled these roundtables – to provide free flowing thoughts and answers to many questions that buying organizations continue to ask.

Be sure to sign up for Conflict Minerals EDGE, taking place in Chicago on May 6th, 2013 at Hotel Sax. 

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