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成层现象与供应链层级 Epidermal Stratification and Supply Chain

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在生物和植物学中有个说法叫“成层”现象。讲群落的垂直结构 指群落在垂直方面的配置状态的 最显著的特征是成层现象,即在垂直方向分成许多层次的现象。

There is a terminology in both biology and botany: epidermal stratification . When it comes to the vertical structure of a community, the most significant characteristic of the configuration state of a community in the vertical aspect lies in stratification, a phenomenon that the community is divided into many layers vertically.


群落的成层性包括地上成层和地下成层。层的分化主要决定于植物的生活类型,生活类型不同,植物在空中占居的高度以及在土壤中到达的深度就不同,水生群落则在水面以下不同深度形成物种的分层排列,这样就出现了群落中植物按高度(或深度)配置的成层现象。

Stratification in communities includes supraterraneous stratification and subterraneous stratification. Differentiation of the layer is mainly determined by the plant life form. Different life forms of plants will result in different heights occupied in the air and different depth reached in the soil by plants. As for aquatic communities, they arrange themselves layer by layer underwater at different depth. Thus, stratification of plants based on height (or depth) among the communities turns up.


森林群落的层成表现为从顶部到底部通常划分为乔木层、灌木层、草本层和地被层(苔藓地衣)四个基本层次,在各层中又按植株的高度划分亚层,例如热带雨林的乔木层通常分为三个亚层。群落的成层性保证了植物在单位空间中更充分利用自然环境条件。如在发育成熟的森林中,上层乔木可以充分利用阳光,而林冠下为那些能有效利用弱光的下木所占居,林下灌木层和草本层能够利用更微弱的光线、草本层往下还有更耐荫的苔藓层。地表以上如此,地表以下的分层就更为复杂。水域中某些水生动物也有分层现象,这主要决定于阳光、温度、食物和含氧量等。生物群落中动物的分层现象也很普遍,而且基本上呈现越往高处,生物的种类越稀少,生存能力越强,如同雄鹰的数量远远小于小鸟的数量,雄鹰能生存70年,而小鸟平均能存活10年左右。

Stratification in forest communicates appears as four basic layers usually divided from top to bottom: tree layer, shrub layer, herb layer and ground layer. Within each layer, sublayers are divided according to the height of the plants. For instance, tree layer in tropical rain forests is often divided into three sublayers. Stratification in communities enables plants to utilize natural environment more fully in unit space. For example, in a mature forest, trees at the upper layer can utilize sunshine sufficiently, while their counterparts at the lower layer occupy the place under the canopy, and can utilize the weak light effectively. Meanwhile, shrub layer and herb layer under the tree are able to utilize even weaker rays of light, and ground level that is beneath the herb level is more resistant to shade. Stratification under the ground seems to be more complicated than that above the surface, even some aquatic animals appear to be stratified on the basis of sunshine, temperature, food and oxygen content. Among the biotic community, animals also present prevalent tendency of stratification, as the higher it is, the fewer the varieties of organisms are, and the stronger these organisms’viability is—the quantity of eagles is far less than that of the birds, but eagles enjoy lifespan of 70 years compared to that of birds, which is merely 10 years.


想象一下森林里有数量庞大的不同种类鸟群生活在一起,不同的鸟群适应生活在不同的高度。这时你会发现处在最高层的鸟群非常干净,往下一点的鸟群身上会布有鸟粪,再往下的鸟群身上的鸟粪会更多一些,而当然处在最下层的鸟群身上就全是鸟粪。

Imagine that a large number of birds of different species lives together in a forest. Birds with different species are used to living at different heights. At this time, you may find that birds at the top layer appears to be very clean, yet the birds below them are with droppings on them. More droppings can be found on the birds at even lower layer, then the birds at the lowest level will be covered by droppings without doubt.


在质量改善里,有个工具叫类比法(Analogy),说的是将一些问题类比生活化。借助这个方法,我把层成现象也类比到供应商管理和企业管理中。

In terms of quality improvement, one of the tools used is called Analogy, which refers to transferring some problems in management into real-life problems by comparison. Resorting to this method, we can make an analogy between stratification and management of suppliers and enterprises.


处在森林顶层的鸟就类似如处在价值链上游的组织,他们最接近于消费者,所以面对最直接,最完整的市场要求。这是为什么大家会感觉越处在价值链上游的公司,他们的要求越多的原因,就像飞机行业,他们会要求其一级供应商通过AS9100的认证;汽车行业OEM制造商,他们会要求其一级供应商通过TS16949的认证;医疗器械行业,他们会要求其一级供应商通过ISO13485的认证;电信行业,他们会要求其一级供应商通过TL9000认证,食品加工行业主推供应商落实ISO22000. 但是这些要求落实到其二级供应商,要求就会有打折,再由其二级供应商落实到第三级供应商,体系的要求就变成了期望,再往下就没有什么体系的要求了。

Birds at the top of the forest just like organizations which locate at the top of the value chain. As they are closest to the consumers, they confront the most direct and comprehensive market demand. This is why people perceive that companies at the upper stream of value chain possess more requirements—in aircraft industry, they will require that tier one suppliers pass AS9100; in automobile industry OEM manufacturers, they will ask their tier one suppliers to get TS16949; in the medical instrument field, they will ask tier one suppliers to get ISO131485; in telecom industry, they will ask tier one suppliers to get TL9000; in food processing industry, main suppliers should get ISO22000. But when it comes to tier two suppliers, these requirements will be discounted. As for the tier three suppliers, however, requirements of the system turn into expectations, and there will be no requirements from systems any more for the suppliers next.


这整个价值链中的要求体系形成了一个树状结构,在整个树状结构中每一层都希望往价值链中的上游爬,因为越往上层,利益会获取得更大,而在底层的组织利益最少。在上层的组织会显的比较合规,而越往下层的组织会显得比较不遵守法规、要求。我们经常抱怨我们的供应商这里不好,那里不好,要知道原因就是因为他们处在价值链的下游,他们业务的计算公式是利益=价格-成本,价格是由客户来定的,要保证利益,唯独有降低成本,而在缺少方法和条件的情况下不能有效地降低成本,很多的企业就会铤而走险,选择各种违规、欺骗的手段来降低成本。这是为什么笔者曾经看到新闻说接受劳改的外籍人士在监狱中加工国际知名品牌的产品部件,企业违反劳工法,偷逃税款,违规排放污染物等不合规行为的主要原因,往往这一类的企业都是处在价值链下游的组织。而处在上游的组织,除了质量上的要求,越来越多的国际大企业在谈人权,环保,社会责任,持续发展,尽管这些要求最终都转化到了对下游公司的要求当中。

The requirement system of the whole value chain forms a tree structure. Within the whole tree structure, every layer has the opportunity to climb upstream along the value chain, since organizations at the higher level will be likely to gain the greater benefits, whereas those at the lower level can only gain fewer benefits. Organizations at the upper level seems to be qualified, yet those at lower level are unlikely to comply with regulations or requirements. We always complain that our suppliers fail to accomplish this or that, regardless of their positions at the bottom of the value chain. Their calculation formula for business is that benefits equals price minus cost. As the price is determined by customers, the only way to ensure the profit is to decrease the cost. Short of methods and conditions, many enterprises fail to reduce the cost efficiently. Thus, they will probably take risks and reduce the cost by violation of regulations and deception. This is why I once read the news reporting behaviors that against stipulation, say, foreigners under reformation process product components in jails, and enterprises violate the labor law, evade the tax, discharge pollutants illegally. More often than not, these enterprises are at the bottom the value chain, while those at the top, however, are increasingly focusing on human rights, environmental protection, social responsibilities and sustainable development besides quality standards, despite that these requirements finally transform into those met by the downstream companies.

在这个价值链中企业如果不能直接往上游走,经常就会有一些折中的办法。其中在制造行业一个典型的“曲线救国”就是通过贸易中或者中间商将产品售往目的客户,这在起初的贸易公司十分普及,香港俗称“洋行”。贸易公司自有其生存之道,靠提供自身特殊的价值给客户。早期国内的贸易公司靠提供自身所拥有的资源,比如语言上的翻译沟通来轻轻松松谋取佣金,同时也会借双方无法正常直接交流抬高货价赚取差额。在1906年利丰开始涉足贸易行业时,冯氏兄弟的祖父仅仅靠翻译已经能获取至少15%的佣金。而如今,在全球日益网络化平面化的背景下,竞争越来越激烈,价格也越来越透明,因此许多的贸易公司转靠整合自身所掌握的资源来谋取一席之地。无论是当下流行的所谓供应链管理公司(提供资金上的周转服务及供应链咨询),还是人力资源整体托管(客户只需提供技术,生产作业由人力资源公司招募员工及管理人员完成)。比如利丰在“供应链管理 – 香港利丰集团的实践”中提到整体而言贸易行业的利润率约为1%,但通过有效的管理,利丰贸易的利润率曾经达到销售额的3.5%,而这些并不是通过挤压生产商的利润获得,而是从结合生产与运输活动所获得的额外利润里赚得的,即所谓“软收入”。

In this value chain, if enterprises are not managed to go upstream directly, they can make some compromise, and a typical one in manufacturing industry to solve the problem indirectly is to sell their products to targeted consumers via trade or the middleman. This is quite prevailing among trade companies at the early stages. These middleman was once called “foreign firm”in HongKong. Trade companies enjoy their unique ways of living, as they rely on providing their own special value to customers. In the early days, trade companies in China were dependent on their own resources, say, translation and communication in the linguistic aspects, to gain commissions easily. Meanwhile, they were adept at raising the price of the goods in order to earn from the price differences, benefited from unsuccessful direct communication. In 1906, when Li & Fung entered trade industry, Feng’s grandfather could acquire at least 15% of commissions by merely translation. Nowadays, in this increasingly networked and flattened era, competition becomes more and more fierce, and the price becomes more and more transparent. Therefore, many trade companies change to integrate resources they owned to strive for taking a place, whether by prevalent so-called supply chain management companies (they provide capital turnover and supply chain consultant service), or by holistic trusteeship of human resources(customers only need to provide technology, as the production will be accomplished by human resources companies who recruit staffs and administrative personnel). Take Li & Fung as an example. In the book of“Supply Chain Management— Practices of Li & Fung”, Li & Fung mentioned that the rate of profit of the trade industry as a whole is about 1%. Nevertheless, Li & Fung’s profit margin once reached 3.5% of the turnover by virtue of effective management. These profits, by no means, were generated from squeezing the profits of producers, but they were obtained from additional profits that derived from combining production and transportation, which is also known as “soft income”.

增加不同层级间的中间层或者贸易层带来的风险是缺少直接的管控。比如阿斯顿-马丁在2014年全球召回17,590辆问题汽车,其中的问题就是因为阿斯顿-马丁经过中间的英国和香港的两级贸易商,实际的踏板臂生产来自于国内的第三级一家小型生产商,它无力管控其原材料的真实来源和原装品质造成的。

Risk brought by adding the intermediate layer between different layers or the trade layer lies in insufficient direct control. In 2014, Aston Martin recalled 17,590 problematic automobiles worldwide because it was unable to control the genuine origin and quality of its raw material—the pedal arms were in fact produced at a small manufacturer of the tier three level supply chain in China, as Aston Martin passed through the Britain and Hong Kong merchants who were at the intermediate layer.

供应链中增加层级同时也会弱化制造商对终端市场的了解以便改善产品和服务,如同组织的层级随着组织的扩大其层级也会变多,在组织发展到一定程度,层级多到极限比如30%的员工都成为管理人员或经理级时,这时总是期望往组织扁平化发展,发展员工的独立工作技能或者一些大公司所推崇的“蜂窝”式,自主式管理模式。以钢材市场为例,笔者曾经同一些钢材制造商和钢材贸易商有过接触,对于钢材制造商而言,他们更愿意同制造型的企业打交道,并不仅仅是说制造型的企业有更稳定的需求预期或者价格更稳定,更重要的一点原因是由于现有的技术和管理等原因,贸易商很难将市场的信息及时收集而反馈给钢材制造商以便他们改进制造和质量,而制造型的企业往往能做到这一点。对于钢材制造商而言,有可能因为制造出来的产品得不到及时反馈,而造成缺陷产品一直仍然在被生产,或者竞争对手已经在供应改进型的产品了,成本和时间都将是制约企业成长的巨大障碍。

Adding levels in supply chain will simultaneously weaken the manufacturers’ understanding towards the terminal market, aiming at improving products and services. Similarly, levels within organizations tends to increase with expansion of organizations. When the organization has developed to a specific extent, and the levels have been added to such an extreme that nearly 30% of staffs become administrative staffs or managers, the organization is always expected to adopt flatter management with the purpose of developing its staffs’ independent working skills, or adopt cellular model, an autonomous management model which is recommended by some corporations. Take the steel market as an example. I have once got in touch with some steel manufactures and merchants. For steel manufacturers, they are more willing to have dealing with enterprises of manufacturing type, not only because manufacturing enterprises own more stable demand expectations and prices, but also because they are able to collect the market information timely and then give the feedback to steel manufacturers so that manufacturers can improve their manufacturing quality, which is hard to be achieved by merchants due to existing technology and management. As for steel manufacturers, their defective products may still be produced continuously, or their competitors embark on providing modified products at the same time because of overdue feedback of their products. Cost, together with time, will be an enormous obstacle for the growth of one enterprise.


企业要竞标获得业务,就得想千方设百计,这无可厚非,全世界的每个角落都如此。战略是由企业决策者给定的,战术是由中层管理人员理解战略之后制定的,执行是下层人员的事。上层要洁身自好,自然不会明目张胆指示下层来干违法乱纪的事情,但下层执行人员受利益的驱使可能会采取一些不正当手段来促成业务的成交。这同样类似于企业组织架构中的层成现象,处在下层的人要解决更基本但也更超出他们能力去平衡利益的任务。就像你需要作业员来平衡质量和产量,你需要跟单员来平衡交期和服务,采购下单员来平衡质量和价格。因为他们往往做不到,所以会选择对他们更加有利的一面,取决于组织如何管理他们的绩效。管理的妥善,价值观就会和组织一样,否则就会背道而驰,这也是为什么文化建设与绩效管理齐头并进,相当重要的原因。

If the enterprise wants to get business by competitive bidding, it has to try as many means as possible. It is nothing to blame, since everywhere in the world appears to be the same. Strategy is given by the decision maker in the enterprise, while tactic is made by middle managers after they understand the strategy, and the implementation belongs to staffs of low level. The upper level should be committed so that they will generally not indicate their subordinates to violate the laws, but some executive staffs of low level who are motivated by benefits may resort to improper measures to contribute to transactions. This is also similar to stratification within the organization of the enterprises. People at the low level have to undertake more basic tasks to balance benefits, despite that these tasks are always further beyond their abilities. To be more specific, you need operators to balance quality and quantity; you need merchandisers to balance delivery time and service; you need purchasers to balance quality and price. As they always fail to accomplish their jobs, they tend to choose what seems to be more beneficial to them. This depends on how the organization will manage their performances. If they are managed well, their value will be consistent with that of the organization; otherwise, they will be divergent. This is why cultural development is considerably important, and why it should be advanced together with performance management.


随着近来国内各项法规的日益完善,互联网的高透明度,全球化竞争的加剧,生产劳力成本的上升,科技的快速爆发式发展,各类企业都处在一种更加激烈竞争的环境当中,企业要在这种竞争环境中分的一勺羹,毫无疑问需要保持一种每天进取的态度才有机会在这个成层生态圈里往上层走,以便更好的生存下来。

With the gradual improvement of various domestic laws and regulations day by day, the increasing transparency of the internet, the aggravation of the competition globally, the rising production labor cost, and the rapidly explosive development of science and technology, enterprises of every type are placed in a more competitive environment. If the company aims to establish itself in the competitive environment, it should keep an aggressive attitude every day without doubt. Only doing so can it go upstream in this stratified ecosphere so that it can get better survival.

Great Acknowledge Given to Ms. Akiko, ZiZhu Wang from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies for Translation.

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