5 Keys to Driving Supply Chain Innovation in the Tech Industry
Innovation and ingenuity require the proper environment to flourish. The tech industry understands this; having built its own success on innovation, the tech industry is looking for logistics partners who do as well. Only a company that promotes a culture stimulating innovation will be able to deliver the ever-improving results required by this ever-changing industry. A supply chain management company that values innovation as much as its clients relies on five key elements to make sure it has an environment where innovation thrives.
1. Possessing Industry Expertise
In order to innovate, a supply chain management company needs to possess more than a fundamental understanding of the industries it serves. It is only after accumulating extensive experience that the provider can see where its clients may benefit from change. When working with its clients, a supply chain company must meet the challenges presented by sophisticated, high value products, global distribution yet usually centralized supply, and rapid technological advances. Doing so over a period of time enables the provider to become a true partner that can collaborate on innovative projects. It can leverage the business intelligence it has gathered to anticipate clients’ needs so they never become problems in the first place.
2. Understanding Clients’ Needs
The primary driver of innovation is need – either an acknowledged and unfulfilled need, or an unperceived and therefore unfulfilled one. The companies launching the next generation gaming system, premiering the next blockbuster movie, or managing the largest social media platforms know that they need a company to offer solutions in every aspect of supply chain management. They also need somebody to fully understand their requirements. The ideal partner will ask the right questions and be a great listener. By its nature, supply chain management involves the cooperation of multiple partners to deliver the required services. The ability to openly address and analyze customer requirements can lead to various solutions for addressing a specific problem. Cost and benefits might be asymmetrically distributed among the supply chain stakeholders. Achieving an optimal result for a specific supply chain problem rests on the ability to resolve it at the appropriate level. From warehousing and distribution to returns management; from just-in-time customization to time-critical delivery; from trade, tax, and compliance to customer service, the supply chain management company should be able to identify potential problems, devise ways to mitigate or eliminate them, and then execute those solutions.
3. Empowering People
A company that empowers its people automatically stimulates innovation. When people think creatively to identify needs and propose solutions, and work collaboratively with clients to understand their requirements, they feel inspired. Innovation often involves risk-taking, and a corporate culture that encourages individual and team creativity supports that. A supply chain management company that values failure as a part of the innovative process trusts its people to fail quickly, and try something else new. People need to spend time talking, brainstorming, and refining ideas that transform into projects. Sometimes those projects don’t deliver; other times, successful and innovative strategies emerge.
4. Employing Integrated Technology
Integrated technology solutions are the foundation of any supply chain innovation. This is particularly true when dealing with tech companies in their extremely fast-changing environments. There are a lot of moving parts to coordinate; multiple countries, multiple up- and downstream partners, and multiple information systems add to the challenge. The successful partner must be able to easily integrate all aspects of the supply chain – people, product, information, processes – comprehensively and flexibly. Integrating diverse IT systems enables innovation in two ways. First, there is real-time information on day-to-day issues that can be used for developing the right – and hopefully innovative – solution. Secondly, the data captured in systems can generate business intelligence that may stimulate further improvement in the future. By analyzing business intelligence, supply chain leaders determine where innovation is most needed. Literally all companies in the supply chain utilize some form of information and reporting system; however, few have the knowledge, expertise, and people capable of integrating end-to-end globally. Out-of-date, off-the-shelf technology solutions will not lead to the innovation needed by industry leaders.
5. Investing in Ideas
By its very nature, innovation involves risk, and companies dedicated to innovation must have the financial means to invest in risk; they must also have the willingness to do so. The corporate culture ought to foster ingenious ideas, pursue probable solutions, and support reasonable pilot projects. Innovation demands investment at every step. A supply chain company with the financial capacity and the leadership vision to support radical change can promote significant innovation. Driving innovation in logistics and supply chain management relies on capital – capital that leadership uses to invest in ideas, people, prototypes, and projects.
This industry is challenged by a number of industry-specific characteristics that together create a complex set of variables to optimize: short product cycles, off-shore manufacturing and local demand that is difficult to accurately forecast, high product values, and an overall very competitive market environment. Additionally, there are major product launches that need to be managed meticulously to occur simultaneously across seven continents, and each country has its own trade, tax, and compliance regulations. Innovation in supply chain management – whether it translates into greater efficiency, a better degree of resilience, a seamless handover between partners, streamlined systems, or enhanced visibility – ultimately results in a competitive advantage for the company.
Original article on LinkedIn: