Supply Chain Goes Techie

Supply Chain Digitization

There’s a danger that comes with business empowerment. The more business partners understand about the supply chain, the more the supply chain role must shift to enabling the possible, rather than describing constraints.

In the fast-paced change ahead driven by digitization, supply chain executives need to be prepared to engineer the ecosystem. Otherwise, your CEO will just start making the decisions for you.

We’ve asked the community about the required skills for a modern supply chain executive every year since 2011. Of the lengthy list of skills such as planning, financial acumen and analytics, only one capability on the list has increased in importance every single year. That skill is technology enablement.Infographic visualizing how technology enablement is an ' essential skill' for supply chain professionals in 2020, based on SCM World's Annual Future of Supply Chain Survey.Supply chain can empower internal business partners with solutions when the organization is prepared to take ownership of technological expertise. Business partners like sales, R&D and marketing do not want to know the guts of what makes the supply chain work, but they do want to know what options exist relate to speed, service and cost.

It’s supply chain’s job to make this transference of business need into supply chain design as easy to understand as possible. Clorox has had great success in breaking the language barrier between the C-suite and its supply chain thanks to its segmentation model.

With a simple representation of four end-to-end supply chains, Clorox can now have discussions on trade-offs between cost, speed and service. With clear direction from the business on these three factors, the supply chain organization can make strategic decisions about network design without encumbering those business partners with unwanted details about trucks, pallets and warehouses. All of these decisions are empowered with a strong technology foundation.

Identifying what knowledge of the supply chain could drive value to customers will shape digital investments. ‘Born-on’ dates emerged in the US for food and beverage manufacturing in the late 1990s as a means to demonstrate freshness. SCM World’s Consumer Study shows that nearly half of those familiar with born-on dates react to them positively. There is value in traceability.

HarvestMark, a food traceability platform and consumer app, has made five billion fresh food items traceable for companies like Driscoll’s berries and Coleman Natural Foods. Users can scan a barcode at the store and get a host of information on the product’s origin, on potential recipes and on how to receive proactive notification of recalls.

Specific brands have made movement here, too. Applegate, the fast-growing natural and organic meat company, has what it calls ‘barn codes’, which allow consumers to search by package and then view videos about the farm where the product originated.

Transparency is one value proposition that’s being driven by digitization. Others include personalization, speed, omnichannel and on-shelf availability. It’s no wonder that technology enablement is the one skill that our supply chain community has flagged as consistently increasing in importance.

The next industrial revolution will be driven by an evolution in supply chain talent to systems thinkers and business language speakers, all underpinned with a foundation of technology enablement.

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Author Matt Davis

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