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Harnessing Information

In an EBN Weekly newsletter last month Barbara Jorgensen highlighted the phrase “unsung heroes of the supply chain” and noted its use in various past EBN communications. That got me thinking about the individuals who routinely go above and beyond to make today's global supply chain work. They jump through hoops, soar over obstacles, find solutions to intractable problems, and from time-to-time perform logistics miracles.

Every company has such heroes, and without them the supply chain would be less effective. I am very grateful that {complink 577|Avnet Inc.} has more than its share of supply chain heroes. However, I am fearful that is not enough for the data-intensive supply chain we are all about to enter.

Let me draw a parallel from the world of medicine as outlined in Dr. Eric Topol's new book, The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care. The super-convergence of technology, cost-effective data storage, and mobility solutions are revolutionizing medicine and putting us on the cusp of having the ability to tailor overall medical care to the unique needs of each individual.

Already small sensors, connected wirelessly to smartphones, are transmitting instantaneous data to physicians, providing doctors with real-world patient information. Shortly there will be widespread use of smartphones with embedded sensors that will be able to instantly detect and transmit an individual's physiological response to new medicine, accurately identifying proper dosage and providing the analytics necessary to tailor personally customized medical solutions.

This technology will also facilitate an explosion of real-time health data across the population that will dramatically move us toward the resolution of many ailments that have literally plagued us through the ages. Combined with the projected near-term ability to inexpensively sequence everyone's DNA, this technology will pin-point medical vulnerabilities and truly transform healthcare.

Think about this in the context of the supply chain. Every company and supply chain engagement is unique, having what amounts to its own DNA reflective of the core strengths and weaknesses at both the macro and micro level of the companies involved. The combined dynamics of the processes at the individual companies and effectiveness of the interactions among supply chain partners translate into reliable or unreliable supply chain execution. At the same time, the complexity of the global supply chain is massively accelerating.

However, just like the data revolution in medicine, a similar data revolution is emerging in the world of supply chain management, and the underlying factors driving both revolutions are the same — technology, data storage, and mobility solutions. For evidence of this we needn't look further than today's “control towers.” This technology can enable multi-tier visibility, essentially providing the diagnostic tools necessary to evaluate the health of your supply chain ecosystem. However, the supply chain technologies of today are only the beginning. As more firms adopt and tap into these technologies the synergistic capabilities accelerate logarithmically, and the effectiveness of these systems becomes indispensible for anyone managing complex global engagements.

Analogous to the medical model, the supply chain revolution is all about the effective and timely use of information. It is clear to me that our future heroes will spend less time reacting to problems and leaping over tall buildings and more time devising innovative ways to harness and translate this information into supply chain excellence.

I welcome your thoughts on this.

4 comments on “Harnessing Information

  1. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 7, 2013

    Every time I read more about Big Data, I get back to the same issue: simplicity. As you point out, the supply chain is already complex. Data helps, but culling through that data is the sticking point. Distribution is well positioned to pull that data that is meaningful to customers w/o all the accompanying noise. Every custoemr is different, so the data will be different. Customizing it is the sweet spot

  2. _hm
    January 7, 2013

    Many time, two or more organizations have availability of almost same infromation, But they perform quite differently. Also, sometimes, organization with less information is more successful. This happens to students too. It is not always information, but quest for success and digesting common information is more important. 

  3. FLYINGSCOT
    January 8, 2013

    I agree there is a lot of potential to improve the supply chain akin to what is happening in the medical world.  Occasionally one comes across a supplier that seems to be in tune with your needs and provides a wonderful service.  It is truly delightful when this happens.  I wish it were the case more often.

  4. Cryptoman
    January 10, 2013

    As the capability of gathering and mining for data increases, the management of such information also becomes more challenging and complex. This is where the real trouble is. The question is how can one manage a huge amount of collected information in as simple and as effective way as possible so that this large pool of data will provide the maximum benefit to the final recipient. Besides the management of available information, another challenge is managing the information collection system itself. Each additional information means and additional hardware and software module (such as a new sensor and a control software that collects and stores data from that sensor). All these additional components will also require maintenance and management that need to be considered as part of the overall system.

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