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What Makes Supply Chains Sexy? June 21, 2016

Say supply chain and words like manufacturing, trucks, warehouse management, quality, logistics, and so on immediately come to mind. One rarely thinks of that sexy halter dress or that cool virtual reality headgear for instance. Yet supply chains are exactly that – as sexy as your next big want!

Mountains of Things

Let us join the dots for you. Someone somewhere produces a dream device, holiday package or heritage weave dress you desire. Something somehow makes sure it lands at your doorstep or the mall around the corner within a week. That critical missing link that saves you boring details and delivers the sheer joy of possession is the magical chain that supplies mountains of things to you.

Managing a well-executed supply chain is like conducting an orchestra. It’s filled with high and low notes, and each time it’s a unique experience! There is a definite method to the madness; it is surprisingly detail-oriented and unimaginably massive in terms of scale of operations. It is at once astoundingly complex yet brilliantly simple. A great symphony harmonizes multiple performers in much the same way a good supply chain plays a myriad stakeholder to create lasting delight for the audience/customers. How sexy is that!

Supply Chain Signposts

Here’s a quick look at what’s trending, what’s cool, and what’s turning the supply chain industry upside down to create more and more happy customers the world over.

Floating on the cloud: Cloud environments are new, but enterprises have started showing interest given that they offer a chance to store big data in a centralized, anywhere-anytime accessible place.

SAP, the largest providers of supply chain applications, has been encouraging its enterprise customers to adopt cloud-based solutions for their supply chains. The CEO of Oracle, Mark Hurd, feels that almost 80% of the enterprise apps are likely to move to the cloud by 2025, as compared to the 24% today.

A good example is Toyota Motors. It is currently developing a next-gen customer service model that is cloud-based to enable vehicle dealers, owners and service agents to access and share real-time information for performance and maintenance of Toyota cars.

Big data can suss and tell: While having huge volumes of data is one thing, leveraging maximum benefits from it is quite another! Companies are realizing this fact and hence use of big data analytics is trending heavily. According to the Accenture Global Operations Mega Trends Study, 3 out of 10 business executives have an initiative in place for implementing actionable outcomes based on analytics.

L’Oréal, for example, uses a collaborative supplier platform with key upstream partners to share highly accurate demand forecasts on a weekly basis. This is a good example of how a business can improve the accuracy of its forecasts for customer demand, by using advanced analytics to gain insights from data.

Digital doubles efficiencies: Digital is definitely where it’s at today. The explosion of e-commerce has created an urgent need for highly agile and responsive warehouses for fulfilment of orders. This has led to the demand for digitizing operations and for mobile robotics for speeding up the goods-to-person automation process. A prime example is Amazon’s acquisition of Kiva Systems, a mobile robotics provider that helps them get products to people faster than ever before!

An Uber Cool Link

Supply chains are at the heart of every business, and therefore, have a direct bearing on business performance. Supply chain professionals play a key role in devising/adopting innovative strategies and technologies, and, more important, in convincing top management to both fund and implement them. As such, Supply Chain Management (SCM) is a vital link that can make or break a business.

Consider some features that make it uber cool:

  • Early adopter of emerging technologies— cloud, big data, IoT (Internet of Things)
  • Helps transform the e-commerce space globally
  • Helps redefine customer satisfaction benchmark
  • Ushers automation into businesses, saving time and resources

Supply Chains of the Future: Extra Oomph

Just imagine robotic arms picking out the exact shade of palazzos you ordered from a stock pile, while another bot wheels a tall rack of packed and addressed shipments into slots for loading onto delivery trucks… right out of The Jetsons? No siree! Now, that is definitely sexy! The future is now and supply chains are busy transforming themselves to make it happen faster.

It is an exciting time for the supply chain industry. Here are trends that could shape up the way business gets products or services to consumers speedily and with a high degree of personalization:

  • 3D printing will take customization and personalization to a whole new level
  • Self-driving cars (using autonomous vehicle technologies) will reduce accidents and driving stress.
  • Customer expectations will be met in real time with 1-hour delivery of products (like Amazon).
  • Social media will be used to target new customers and for spotting trends
  • IoT in an increasingly connected world will transform business models

So all ye who thought that SCM was seriously boring, unglamorous and complicated—get set for the Diva of Delivery, SCM 2.0.