4 Annoying Things Supply Chain Execs Should Stop Saying

I’ve been to a couple of industry events lately. It’s a fascinating world, populated with many interesting, genuine professionals, innovating companies, captivating keynotes, and free cocktails–but these are the good points.

The bad point is: I’ve also been stuck in many sessions where I couldn’t escape the flow of outdated mantras and contemporary platitudes. And that’s what we’re talking about today.

Jennifer Chatman, professor at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, said that “people use [jargon] as a substitute for thinking hard and clearly about their goals and the direction that they want to give others”. In my opinion, she couldn’t be more accurate.

I’ve compiled four common platitudes to illustrate my point, but feel free to add your least favorite banalities in the comments below.

The supply chain will go digital

Duh! According to Deloitte CPO Survey 2016, 20% of organizations in the electronics industry have already digitized their entire supply chain, and over 85% of the remaining ones are in the process, looking to complete this transformation within two to five years.

Pretty much every company in the world has realized that technology is rapidly changing the landscape of most consumer-oriented businesses. Who isn’t aware that they need to collect, aggregate and make data accessible throughout their organization? To automate repetitive work? To work with advanced analytics beyond what we can achieve manually?

Let’s go beyond the obvious and get into the nitty-gritty of how.

Big data is here

As Wikipedia puts it, the term “big data” often refers simply to “the use of predictive analytics, user behavior analytics, or certain other advanced data analytics methods that extract value from data”.   

However, if the supply chain will “go digital” (see #1), how can we rely on big data already?

Furthermore, having access to large amounts of raw data or even a full set of analytics isn’t the end game. How do we turn this access to information into an actionable strategy to make better decisions consistently and be more competitive? How do we go beyond just looking at historical data and truly benefit from predictive analytics? What solutions and skills does an organization need to make the most of “big data”.

Collaboration is key

Collaboration in the supply chain has many faces. It can mean collaborating more efficiently with suppliers, increasing the level of visibility between different areas of your organization, or improved design processes to make decisions quicker internally. While these are all important, they are very different challenges.

Instead of simply hovering around the topic, it would be interesting to see concrete examples of successful initiatives that better enabled said collaboration.

Most of the “collaboration is key” talks I’ve attended can be summarized in one major idea: ask more from your suppliers. Right, but ask what? How does that help? What’s in it for them beyond the one-sided push for “more collaboration”?

Agile is the new Lean

I don’t want to get into this one too deep because I’m definitely not a Six Sigma Master Black Belt. But from my point of view, which is mostly based on this infographic (and Dilbert comic strips), this statement sounds like a blurry attempt at thought leadership.

If Agile means adding responsiveness and flexibility while Lean focuses on saving costs and reducing waste, then it’s obvious that the answer will never be either/or, but most likely a hybrid of both.

Let’s have some fun. Let us know the supply chain platitudes you hate the most but keep hearing in the comments section below. What conversation would you like to see replace it?

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