Not your father’s POS system

Here is something to tickle your retail supply chain – we are under 50 days until Christmas. Avoiding the debate over the mass commercialization of the holidays, the reality is that consumers will, or already have, started their shopping engines. With so many retailers dependent on good holiday sales, for example Lego moves 50% of their sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the ability to properly capture orders is vital.

The POS (point of sale) systems, whether in brick and mortar or on line, are the vital touch point between the consumer and the commerce supply chain. Like with the majority of technologies, this has been impacted by the digital old-fashioned-cash-register-isomorphic-viewwave. POS systems are not longer limited to the larger systems synonymous with the corner store – remember the ones where numbers would pop up once the large typewriter like buttons were pressed. These systems have evolved into a new range of sleek mobile devices, and those large legacy systems are now smarter. POS systems are also getting into greater areas and increasing their reach – supply chains need to craft strategies about how to take advantage of the new data as well as the new places POS systems will pop up.

For example:

  • The POS systems in the air. Those us that have been flying long enough remember the days when we were served a meal and drinks as part of our overall plane ticket. Today if you want a scotch on the rocks and a can of Pringles, you need to pay for these items. Airlines have put mobile POS devices in the hands of their staff to take your payment. Rather than just using these as order taking machines, airlines like Delta Airlines have made these mobile devices a much more valuable part of their supply chain. Beyond just taking payments, the mobile devices are enabled to communicate about customer and maintenance issues. So if the passenger in seat 7a voices a legitimate complaint, Delta employees can use the POS system to give that passenger 10,000 miles. If a seat is found to be broken or an overhead can’t open, the flight attendants can use the system to communicate the problem and location to the destination airport and schedule the appropriate maintenance.
  • Infusing retail into other entertainment channels. We have all used to having to walk through the store when we leave a museum, zoo, aquarium or other attraction. But what about the movies? Get ready for your phone to become part of a POS system for the movie theater. I am not speaking of the POS when you are ordering your over-sized tub of popcorn, but post movie viewing. For example – you go see the Transformer movie, once the movie is over as you are leaving the theater there are QR codes on promotional posters at the exit and even pop up kiosks where you can scan your phone to find where to get the latest Transformer toy. There could potentially be a 3D printer right there allowing you to get your item made in place. If you scan the product at the movie theater you may be given a discount – incentive consumer to make transaction at that point. Your portable POS systems – aka your smart phone – will have an app that allows for this to happen and could also communicate with the closest Target, WalMart or other retail channel that carries the item. Or even tie back to Amazon and have the eCommerce giant dispatch your item immediately.

Of course there remains a continued evolution in mobile POS, companies like Square and Apple are allowing anyone with a tablet and connectivity to run mobile POS systems. Retailers can start looking at these mobile POS systems as great data sources – where do most of the transactions happen on the store floor? Are there still locations for impulse purchase displays? Can you tie these mobile terminals into the inventory systems? A prospective buyer is looking for a specific piece of cookware at William Sonoma. The item is there but the consumer wants it in sky blue. Using the mobile terminal the associate helping that consumer can instantly scan the inventory at different stores, identify where an item can be secured and ship directly to the store or to the consumer. The mobile device should also be able to pull up the consumer’s profile: are they a loyal shopper? If so the associate should have the ability to waive shipping costs or expedite the product.

Supply chains need to think of their POS systems as Point of Service, not sales. In a world of Matrix Commerce, these are the intersection points between the consumer and the commerce supply chain where the digital reality has great impact. How companies take advantage of this will determine who leads and who is a laggard.


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Filed under Supply Chain, Wireless, Retail, Tablet, QR Code, eCommerce, Mobile payment

Minds + Machines – don’t forget the importance of what is attached to those minds

I went to GE’s event titled Minds + Machines 14 in New York City. An event focused on the Industrial Internet. At the crux of the event was a discussion of the impact greater analytics and smarter machines are having, the keys to the Industrial Internet. Some of the discussion points put this phenomenon in perspective. That today for $0.08 you can purchase 1 million transistors…not too long ago for that nickel and 3 pennies you could only get one transistor, and when computing started it cost 5 times that amount. It is now cheap enough to bring intelligence to the majority of machines and “things” that are in our world.

There were some great customer stories, such as the City of San Diego being able to add intelligence to their 6,500 streetlights and allow them to more efficiently manage outages. Rather than the mayor’s office getting a call from an angry voter, the lights can inform maintenance of needed repairs. CSX highlighted their ability to do better asset management and therefore ensure they reduce “unplanned” outages of their locomotives.

Not your father's GE

Not your father’s GE

AirAsia spoke about using the data that they can gather through their partnership with GE to better optimize the routes their airplanes fly, and even when they turn on and off their engines when the planes are taxing. All this translates to tremendous savings in fuel consumption, a key savings when you consider 50% of their costs are in fuel purchases. Here are three take-aways from an educational day:

  • GE – the software company for the Industrial Internet. During the conference and in a press release that went out at the same time, GE announced that its Predix business was generating $1b in sales and was on pace to have 1500 dedicated employees in the Bay Area by end of year. Impressive numbers for your refrigerator manufacturer. But this should come as no surprise. As GE chairman Jeff Immelt said in his opening remarks – “You probably went to bed last night thinking you were a manufacturing company and woke up this morning to realizing your are a software and analytics company.” Every business is now about software, data and analytics. There are no longer big pieces of dumb metal and plastic. The jet engines, locomotives, MRI machines, wind turbines and other products of our industrial age are now smart and getting smarter. The data these devices, coupled with software and analytics are what our businesses are about.
  • It is about the people stupid. An underlying theme, and one that I am fully in agreement, is that we cannot ignore the human element in all this. On the contrary, we need to even more sensitive to the role of people. In the industrial revolution, people were treated and looked at with cold calculation. Child labor was used because kids had smaller hands and could perform tasks adults did not have the dexterity to perform. Labor was necessary to make the coalmines in England or the Model T assembly line in Detroit hum along. But the rights of that labor were ignored if not exploited, which gave to the rise of unions and even revolution and bloodshed. Fast forward to today and what some are seeing as another industrial revolution – this one powered by the Industrial Internet. Similar to the industrial revolution of last millennium, this work force will also undergo some changes. Unlike the last industrial revolution, this work force is empowered. Companies need to think about how the Industrial Internet will impact jobs – some lost and some gained. There is also a tremendous amount of change management that will come into play. By being able to measure such a wide swath of processes, companies will and have already uncovered inefficiencies and will look to implement process changes. But that requires your labor force to adjust some of their “tried and true” ways of doing things. AirAsia gave an example of having to work with pilots, many who had over 20 years flying time, on how they were doing their jobs. The data was a great measuring stick as to adding efficiencies. But remember the saying “you can’t teach and old dog new tricks.” It will take more than better data and analytics to get that dog to roll over.
  • Finally, there is a hope…maybe a dream…that by adding this level of intelligence and analytics to the system that we can get closer to achieving a globally optimized supply chain. I can see that vision. But I am not sure I can fully buy into it. Not that I am a pessimist. On the surface the ability to put sensors all over the world…literally…can allow us to dream of this becoming a reality. Having all those sensors communicate with one another. And overlaying the intelligence into the system means we can finally have a supply chain where we have perfect information in real time. Of course there is much more to an optimized global supply chain than just having perfect data. Having better, real time access to the mountains of information the Industrial Internet promises, is a step towards a better supply chain. But to assume that all is limiting an optimized supply chain is this data is too simplistic.

GE’s Minds + Machine 14 was a great reminder of the changing digital world around us. Not only are our devices more connected, but also we are able to connect an ever-increasing amount of products. We are only beginning to see the impact that has on our businesses and supply chains. As the technology continues to mature, we need to watch how the people side of the equation evolves.

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Filed under Current Events, IOT, Supply Chain

Oracle OpenWorld 2014 – focus on the decision makers to empower your supply chain

I just returned from a successful week spent at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco. A nice perk for being in the Bay Area at this time of the year was summer was in full swing! While it was raining buckets back in Boston, I was enjoying the close to 90-degree sunny weather…as I ran between meetings. The conference revolved around Oracle’s push into the cloud, talk of the importance of mobility, smarter access to big data and the demotion of Larry Ellison to CTO…okay the last item was some good humored self deprecation from Mr. Ellison himself while on stage for his keynote Tuesday. He even apologized for missing last year’s main

Not a bad trophy to have at your event...

Not a bad trophy to have at your event…

stage demo since he had been pulled into watching some boat race. Anyways, the area I was focused on was what Oracle was doing in the supply chain and retail/CPG spaces. Oracle did not disappoint with the large number of sessions dedicated to these spaces. So let’s look at 3 things I took away from both the CPG/Retail sessions and the Supply Chain sessions -

The shift in power in the CPG-Retail spaces means a change in how we address it:

  • In the retail space Oracle discussed a persona-based approach for their offerings. Clearly traditional retail sub segments are not behaving the way they once did – the customer persona is becoming the driving force not the retail sub vertical. Retailers need to approach personas when it comes to how they best address the consumer need. It is the consumer that will dictate what the rules are. The retailer, with help from their service providers, need to focus on addressing the different personas they are servicing and build the software and solutions around this. This is what we are seeing with Matrix Commerce – as the number of intersections between the consumer and commerce supply chain grows, so does the need for the solution vendors to offer more nimble solutions. Oracle provided an example of how they could work with retailers to equip the retailer with an enhanced view of the customer. They designed a system that allowed the retailer to associate a persona to the way the consumer interacted with the retailer – pulling information from all possible channels. Allowing the retailer to more effectively address the consumers’ needs. Oracle Retail, staying true to what was being discussed on main stage, highlighted the fact the solution had a mobile aspect. Why is this important other than following the buzz? It places the information and analytics in the hands of those working on the retail floor. The mobile delivery of data and analytics means the people at the store level can make better decisions and service the customer in a much more personalized and effective manner. Getting the information closer to the decision makers.
  • We are all aware that consumer influence has increased vis-à-vis retailers and CPGs. Oracle highlighted how their solutions are helping CPG companies to be even more efficient and effective in their relationship with the retail channels. Once again it boils down to focusing on better usage of retailer data and the subsequent enhanced collaboration that allows an effective partnership between CPGs and their retailers to meet increasingly savvy consumer requirements. Sony discussed working with Oracle to overhaul their managing of sales and promotions for their PlayStation products and how it was sold through retail channels such as Wal Mart, Gamestop, Target, Amazon and Best Buy. At the core Sony and Oracle worked to harmonize and ensure they had the most reliable data and a system of record from which to build upon. From this they worked on putting together an S&OP process that allowed for Sony to do greater analysis of the insights they were getting from the retailers and how Sony could do a more cost effective and smarter job in marketing and selling the PlayStation. Sony was able to look across all their channels, coupled with other sources of data, to improve their planning cycles for the PlayStation. As they stated – they have a very large competitor, with very deep pockets…so Sony has to do it smarter and more efficiently. Focusing on the fundamental blocking and tackling with the help of Oracle gives Sony a competitive edge in the space.
  • Finally, and this was something I heard through many of the sessions for CPG and retail, but there is a real emphasis on how to take advantage of the confluence of mobile – big data – analytics – cloud and focusing on how to drive down more intelligence closer to consumer touch points. This is really about empowering all the players that are close to the consumer, the best data and analytics to make the right decision on the ground. Think about it, you and I as consumers have gained tremendous power in the past decade. Between the transparency the internet has given us to the ability to carry that internet everywhere we go – we as consumers have suddenly put intelligence and insight right into our purses and pockets. The Oracle solutions targeting CPG and Retailers are looking to give the same level of intelligence to the store associates servicing these smarter consumers. The reality is the large systems used to drive CPG and Retail businesses are vital for running the businesses at a macro level. But the trick is how to empower those that are “on the front lines” to have a similar impact on the process.

The overarching theme for CPG and retail was to provide the complete end-to-end solution and platform that will allow for this transformation. Overall they touched many aspects of what we are seeing in Matrix Commerce. The ability to push data and analytics down to the closest touch point of the consumer is vital to reducing the friction that often flares up at those levels.

Supply chain continues to be about better planning…but also easier access to improved execution

  • My kingdom for a better plan! Clearly planning remains at the heart of supply chain…really at the heart of business and dare I say life? Yet for some reason it has a bad connotation at times. Yes we all know that all plans carry one similar trait: they are WRONG. But the reality is we really cannot do much without those plans. What was interesting in the discussions of planning was not that Oracle was professing a 99.9% accurate plan, or a faster plan but looking at offering a more responsive planning method. Since being responsive is different that being efficient. Again pulling on the themes of big data – cloud – analytics, they discussed continuing to work on their planning engines that are digging deeper into the data as well as making them more accessible within the planning organization. Panasonic Avionics (they are the division of Panasonic that builds and maintains many of the in flight entertainment units you may leverage when you are flying) for example, has a very challenging supply chain to service. With long component lead times, capacity constraints, high demand volatility and a large array of materials to service (they mentioned that they still need to support some systems that use video tapes!), Panasonic Avionics really needed a system that was able to rapidly identify where the plan would impact the product. In order to properly achieve this, Panasonic and Oracle needed to ensure the planning engine could truly understand the complexity of the BOM and identify where each part of that BOM could be impacted by any fluctuation in the plan. They highlighted the ability to improve the granularity of the information being pulled into the planning process, as well as the ability to run multiple plans to provide the most robust scenarios. The speed at which Panasonic Avionics was able to refresh their plans allowed for rapid insights into potential issues.
  • Embracing the cloud – but not just for lower TCO and faster implementations. Like many vendors, dare I say most vendors; there was a strong message around putting solutions up in the cloud. Good. I agree with this thinking. What I also agree with, and what Oracle made clear was this does not mean you have to ignore continuing to offer on-premise solutions. When I sat through a session on Oracle’s transportation and global trade solutions being moved into a cloud offering, what was refreshing was the fact that they made a point to discuss continuing to offer the solution on premise. And that both would maintain the same high level of functionality. The same was true for the discussion around supply chain planning functionality and its migration to the cloud. What was evident was that Oracle seems to grasp the notion that while the cloud is important; it does not prevent them from continuing to offer and support on-premise offerings. I do think that the strategy to give a choice is important and will allow them to target mid-market and individual business units in larger enterprises. Long gone are the days of massive system overhauls and implementations. Supply chains need nimble solutions to keep up with their ever-changing environment.
  • Making supply chain solutions even more business friendly. Let’s face it, when it comes to the supply chain function within business, it is still fighting for a place at the big table. Yes we hear of more companies with CSCOs, but I would still wager that number is small compared to CMOs, CFOs, CIOs and yes CEOs. But my last take away from the supply chain discussions is the way Oracle appears to be addressing this issue. For example, they spoke of better tying in what is happening in the supply chain to the marketing side of the house. The solutions stressed the need to drive analytics and better information down the planning stack – get as much rich information where it matters. Decoupling the financial flow from the physical supply chain to better understand how the two interact. Individually these are all nice efforts, but put together they indicate a view of the importance of the holistic supply chain – one that starts on a solid platform where the right data is leveraged. This mirrors what was spoken about on main stage Tuesday, and the overall drive by Oracle to ensure cross channel and cross identity customer experience. How true that is at the core of supply chain – being able to ensure the best view of the customer’s needs and orders.

Oracle’s overall Value Chain solutions are all rowing in the right direction. When you add to the discussion the continuing evolution of Oracle’s Warehouse Management solution that has added Yard management – clients have the ability to access a full suite of execution modules. When it comes to Matrix Commerce, one key need for the commerce supply chain is to ensure the elimination of friction, friction that arises from supply chain blind spots. Not having the full view of your fulfillment can cause supply chain blind spots to sprout.

Oracle continues to maintain its status as a “mega vendor.” Their breadth and depth in terms of solutions and industries make them a serious contender in most situations on the market. We will continue to watch with intent how they address the area.

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Filed under Consumer Product Goods, Current Events, eCommerce, Retail, Supply Chain

5 pillars of emerging technology at Wipro – creative disruption

This week I had the privilege of attending the Wipro analyst day in Boston. A large number of industry analysts and influencers were in attendance – it is always good to see old friends at these events. The day had wipro_logothe usual rhythm: general presentations in the morning followed by the speed dating process of meeting with individual members of the Wipro leadership team. One of these sessions that piqued my interest was a 1 on 1 with KR Sanjiv, Wipro’s Chief Technology Officer out of Bangalore. We discussed the emerging technologies he is focusing on for the next 2-5 years. Always a fun topic.

He gave us 5 key categories:

  • Cognitive
  • Smart Machines
  • Man – Machine interface
  • Robotics
  • Next Generation Architecture

What struck me the most were the middle three. Why? From my perspective these are part of a wave of digital disruption that is beginning to form in our supply chains – whether it be retail, CPG, industrial, life sciences, aerospace to name a few.

Smart Machines is really about the movement towards greater intelligence and analytics within machines. In particular wearables. I wrote a post recently that looked at this trend in supply chain management. Click here for post. There is an increasing segment of companies like Unvired from the software side and Motorola from the hardware side that are tackling the need for greater intelligence in wearable technologies that reduce friction in the supply chain. Think enhanced capabilities for pick packers in the warehouse or more decision making power for floor managers on the manufacturing floor. Wipro was showing off a device that is used to for personal health monitoring – think about how much flexibility and reach this gives health care providers. As well as the data it provides to ensure better monitoring and anticipating needs (similar to a retailer anticipating a consumers’ demand for a product).

Man – Machine interface – think of this as how we have evolved in our interactions with machines. The example we discussed was how Tom Cruise manipulates files in the movie “Minority Report.” Of course that was a movie, but the work done in this space will have a deep impact. Currently our interaction with machines, and the information they contain, is via a keyboard. More recently we have added touch screens. But this is still a flat method of interactions. When it comes to the real world…items have three dimensions. In addition to the ever growing mountains of data and information we produce and look to leverage to run our businesses and supply chains. As Mr Sanjiv stated “The new generation wants more intuitive and ‘human’ interfaces rather than the click and touch.” The amount of data that is needed to manage today’s supply chains only continues to expand – and seeing the information on a traditional screen isn’t optimized for the needs of today’s users.

Robotics is just what it sounds like. Using machines to fill in some needs gaps that humans are not capable or are not as efficient at doing as a robot. KR spoke at length about the usage of drones or even smarter robots to do jobs such as clearing sludge out of hard to reach pipes. Of course these are not ideas that other companies are not already exploring – think iRobot or Amazon with their drone project. Even DHL has announced using drones to deliver medicine to hard to reach islands in the North Sea – click here for story. Right now much of the talk of robotics is constrained to such areas test drones for delivery, using robots in utilities to fix infrastructure or companies like Kiva that are building robots to manage part of warehouses. However there is not question that robotics will have a important role to play in reducing the friction that is encountered in commerce and supply chain.

Overall a good day spent with some sharp folks from Wipro. The discussion of the pillars of emerging technology parallel much of what we are observing when it comes to addressing new disruptions and reducing friction points that are in Matrix Commerce. I will be interested to observe how Wipro’s work in these spaces come to fruition.

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Filed under Current Events, IT, Supply Chain, Technology

Foot Locker same day delivery – embracing Matrix Commerce

Earlier this week Foot Locker announced it was going to start testing same day delivery for consumer purchases. Click here for the press release. This is an excellent case study of what we at Constellation Research are discussing with Matrix Commerce. It is a prime example of where the consumer voice and needs have converged with the retailer’s supply chain.


Foot Locker will be testing the same day delivery in 5 locations between the San Francisco and the Los Angeles area. In order to address the last mile delivery challenges, Foot Locker will be partnering with Deliv for the logistics of getting the product from the stores to the consumer’s location. Think of Deliv as doing for small parcel shipping to consumers as what Uber did for personal transportation – crowdsourcing last mile transportation. A very interesting challenge and service to say the least.

The voice of the consumer continues to grow when it comes to asking for and seeking the ability to get their products where they want it and how they want it. For retailers such as Foot Locker it is imperative that they determine how they can meet these demands from their consumers. They are already addressing their customer’s needs by allowing for online ordering with in store pick up. This new pilot is the natural next step.

As Daphne Carmeli, CEO at Deliv stated, “Foot Locker who surpass their customer’s expectations by giving them the ability to receive their merchandise when they want it, including same-day…” This is one area where the likes of Foot Locker, who are brick and mortar retailers at heart, have an advantage over eCommerce giants like Amazon. Foot Locker already has a number of distribution centers (DCs) that are located close to their customers – the actual Foot Locker stores. With the likes of Deliv’s services, they can now solve the last mile delivery issue that has made such services a logistics headache.

This success of the pilot project will be interesting to observe. Some questions a retailer such as Foot Locker will have to address:

  • Can the staff in their stores be able to not only service the customers that come into the physical store, but also efficiently pick and pack the orders? Store personnel are trained to service a customer in person, Foot Locker will now have to ensure proper training for this staff to have to properly prepare orders for home delivery. Not as easy as it may sound.
  • How does a crowdsource delivery offering like Deliv handle customer interactions? Once you start delivering products to consumers’ home you are exposing your brand – the person doing the delivery represents your company whether or not they are on your payroll.
  • If your store acts more and more as a DC, how do you handle returns and restocking issues? Again, similar to the first bullet point, your staff is trained to sell products to customers who are in the store, now you are adding tasks to their jobs. How ready are they to handle this added demand?

The ability of companies such as Foot Locker to offer same day delivery is a natural progression when it comes to Matrix Commerce (other retailers such as Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s also announced this week they are running same day delivery pilot projects). That does not mean the challenges aren’t there…on the contrary the complexity remains and may become increased as Foot Locker travels down the learning curve. These companies are making the correct choice when it comes to offering such services, but they need to show patience with the process. There will clearly be some growing pains. However, similar to when eCommerce exploded on the markets in the late 1990s, the genie is out of the bottle. Now it is a matter of how well retailers and their partners meet the ever increasing speed for fulfillment.

As the Foot Locker EVP of Operations, Mike Owens, stated, “We want our customers to experience speed in everything they do, from shooting hoops to on the track.” It is all about speed…just make sure you don’t sacrifice quality for speed!

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Filed under Consumer Product Goods, Current Events, Supply Chain

New iPhone reminds us of the rise of mobility in supply chain

Later tonight we will be reminded about the power of Apple and consumers’ apparent insatiable desire for new devices (consumers can pre-order the new iPhone). But this is not a post about the iPhone 6 and whether or not I should get the 6 or the 6 phablet…instead this is a reminder about the rise of mobility within supply chains.

Not too long ago, when Apple introduced the iPad it was viewed, rightfully, as a revolutionary consumer device. A device that would threaten the laptop market. Which it has. An unintended consequence was the iPad becoming a device that found its way onto the manufacturing floor, truck fleets, warehouses and other parts of the supply chain. Tablets gave workers on the floor a simple, mobile and connected interface with the necessary systems to allow the factory to run effectively and efficiently. Companies like GE’s Energtablets-montagey Storage have been leveraging tablets on their factory floor to reduce the alerting time when outages occur. Rather than having floor managers monitor everything from a central control center, they now have that computation power and communications in a portable device. Truck fleets have adopted the usage of tablets to bring more intelligence and connectivity to their vehicles. Of course none of this is a bad thing for the likes of Apple, Google, Samsung or other players in the mobile device ecosystem.

Tablets have also become a vital cog when it comes to how supply chain solution providers such as Llamasoft and JDA, offer their customers access to their offerings. Allowing for greater access to their software solutions – anywhere and anytime.

But is the world of mobility limited to tablets and smart phones? Absolutely not. On the contrary, the rise of wearables is the next wave of mobility in the supply chain.  I remember walking the floor a few years ago at CSCMP’s annual event and seeing a number of companies displaying their devices – gloves, headware and other wearables – that would bring more efficiencies to supply chains. Many of these had to do with ensuring factory workers or those who pick and pack in the warehouse were as efficient as they could be. The problem is many of these devices were bulky and quite unwieldy. But similar to the adoption of consumer based tablets by companies, look for consumer wearbles to find their way onto the factory floor, warehouse and other environments. Let’s face it, consumer focused companies tend to make more aesthetically pleasing mobile devices, both in form and function.

For supply chain practitioners, do not hesitate to look to consumer device providers for your mobile needs. While there will be industry specific providers of devices, you might be able to find what you need from the likes of Apple or Samsung. Device manufacturers could consider these potential other uses, but in truth they should just focus on their primary targets – the consumer. Technology players must take into consideration what this growth in mobility for the supply chain means for them. Not only might they be asked to created apps for the devices, but how else can they take advantage of the increase in mobile and connected computing power?

New sleek gadgets like smart watches, clothing with senors, smarter tablets and phones are not only exploding in the consumer space but also for your supply chain. Interesting times we live in. Now I have to get back in line for my new iPhone.


Filed under Mobility, Smart Phone, Supply Chain, Tablet, Wearables

What is the destination of our “supply chain journey?”

The term journey carries many connotations. In one sense it defines an epic trip. Something that one might look forward to as a once in a lifetime adventure. For others, a journey might be seen as a difficult and arduous trip – think the Mayflower crossing the Atlantic. These connotations are not that different when it comes to supply chain. In particular with regards to such adoption as S&OP. There seems to be more S&OP journeys than any other. But are we looking at this with the wrong lens?

mayflower-sailing-picturesThe other aspect that is implied with a journey is that we have a clear destination – a final goal. For those of use that see journeys as wonderful adventure – the destination maybe a tropical island for holiday or hiking in the Andes. For the passengers on the Mayflower that journey was a new home far from the oppression of England. A journey filled with disease, boredom, fear and for some death.  But when it comes to technology adoption, for say S&OP, is there a true end goal? Or a constantly evolving and changing number of levels and stages we are looking to reach. With many of the systems we put in place for our supply chain, we are looking to add efficiencies in how we handle inventory, make our production more profitable, meet customer demand faster and better and the lists go on. However these are not goals, but more continuously evolving aspirations and stages. We might want to attain a 98% customer satisfaction, but once we achieve it, we cannot stop there and gloat in our achievements. The business environment is constantly shifting, so we need to maintain our nimbleness. Supply chains look to rid themselves of excess inventory, but once they have reach a specific number…the work does not stop.

Now the fact that there cannot be a true “end goal” with this journey, it does not mean service providers do not need to be held to a high level of expectations and demands from their clients. From the user stand point they must have a frank discussion with their service providers about what is realistic for different results at stepped stages.

Both service providers and their customers need to change their perspective when they mention a “journey.” Easier said than done, but don’t think about reaching an end goal but really about the key steps in that journey.


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Filed under Supply Chain, Technology