I had the pleasure of presenting at the SITL conference in Paris last week alongside Dell. Our presentation’s theme focused on the need for supply chain to evolve from being “reactive” to “predictive & proactive.” Supply chains today, to remain competitive and to achieve greater market share, must evolve from simply being good at being reactive. The only way to get ahead is to be predictive, to understand what your client needs before they do, to be able to react and prepare for events more rapidly than your competitors, to be capable of capturing demand efficiently rather than as an after thought. That journey can only happen if you have the proper tools and processes – this remains a challenge due to the systems that support the extended supply chains being trapped in silos. Dell provided a vivid example of their journey to become more predictive, how they were able to build upon their existing infrastructures to move towards greater agility and predictivity within their supply chain.
Supply chains need to look to tools that are flexible enough to meet their specific needs but also offers the necessary functionality. This made me think that supply chain systems resemble Lego creator sets. Many are familiar with the building toys whether we played with them or watch children spend countless hours building all types of objects with the same basic plastic bricks. As I watch my 4 year old spend countless hours building intricate models, I realize the basic bricks that make up Lego sets are the exact same as the ones I used to play with when I was a child…he even has resurrected some of my old sets (talk about longevity in standards).
There is a series of Legos that are called “Creator.” What makes them interesting is the ability of having one set of Legos, that can build three sometimes four completely different structures. This flexibility, yet fundamental functionality is how supply chains can achieve what was discussed at the SITL. Supply chains, by their very nature, have many similarities but the manner in which they gain competitive advantage is in customized portion of the solution that addresses the specific business issues. You want to be able to smart with the basic building blocks – like with Legos – however you want to then be able to build the structures that make sense for your needs. Like with Lego creators – building a boat, or car, or plane, or lighthouse, or whichever structure makes the most sense.
As I spoke with attendees at the SITL conference, one theme was clear to me – supply chains need flexibility from their systems. For supply chains to achieve better responsiveness and to be able to better predict and understanding of what is happening within their business they need the basic bricks that all supply chains require however they must have flexibility to meet the specific needs of their business.
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