Today, we get a guest column on Forbes.com from Mark Woodward who is the CEO of E2Open, entitled: 5 Supply Chain Predictions for 2013, The Year of The Network. Given he is a CEO of supply chain technology firm, you can expect his predictions to be both centered around technology and offering up technology as solutions to problems. Nevertheless, this is a very good list and I reprint it here with some of my thoughts:
- Fast Data Will Become The New Big Data - I know I promised not to use the term "Big Data" anymore as it has become the most overused term in the fastest amount of time of any business buzzword I know. However this is an interesting twist which is big and fast are critical elements of a successful data management plan. The speed with which you share and collaborate using accurate data is at least as important (and maybe more) as just the shear volume of data.
- The "Social Supply Chain" Will Transform How We Work - Don't confuse your view of "social media" (i.e., your experience with your kids on Facebook) with the social supply chain. The social supply chain, as written about extensively by Adrian Gonzales (Quickly becoming "the" expert on this topic and wrote this great blog post about why companies were not using social media in their supply chain) is about open collaboration, problem solving and open source dialogue about issues relating to supply chains. As stated in this article, demand sensing is really part of the idea of the social supply chain.
The one concern here is if companies really do compete on supply chain efficiency as much as they do on the product then we have to ask ourselves how far collaboration will really go in the open social world. Some firms, like Apple, which consistently get high remarks for their supply chain efficiency are notorious for being closed up like a vault when it comes to collaboration and sharing outside of their own supply chain ecosystem. A quick posting on this idea of companies competing on supply chains can be found here at: Businesses Don't Compete: Supply Chains Compete.
- Supply Chain Control Towers Will Transition from Concept to Adoption - This I completely agree with and the time is now for this type of operation. Control towers are a requirement for really dynamic supply chains to adjust to ever changing market and environmental conditions.
This does not have to be a complicated IT solution either. A great control tower, using lean methods and the idea of visual management can consist of white boards, manual tracking and the use of forward indicators of data.
- Dynamic Cost Will Transform Decision Making - The idea of a static standard cost which gets adjusted once per year is dead. It is a relic of times gone past when that was all our systems could handle. Costs and the macro economic environment change far to frequently and quickly to allow you to not have accurate, fast and transparent costs into your supply chain. Transparency of costs is critical to accurate decision making. The next time a supply chain partner tells you that you do not have to worry about this I suggest you hold on to your wallet. A true partner would want accurate and transparent cost data so you can make the right decisions quickly and accurately (notice the them on costing: Fast, Transparent and Accurate).
- Risk Management Will Move From Static to Dynamic - I have written about risk and resiliency a lot recently so I will not rehash it here however suffice it to say the same theme applies in terms of dynamic, fast and transparent.
As with other predictions, I am not sure if "this is the year for... " or not, however the ideas set forth by Mr. Woodward are fantastic and clearly the ideas all supply chain executives should be thinking about and balancing as they work towards transforming their supply chains to meet 21st century challenges.