The secret to making customers care about supply chain

Imagine a world where customers care about how products are sourced, made, and delivered, understand what goes into pricing, and generally take great joy in the experience. A world where customers are fluent in the language of supply chain.

It’s not as farfetched as you may think.

Supply chains solve complex problems. And in the company of supply chain professionals, we use big words and complicated terms to talk about it. Words like multi-modal logistics and global transportation, mass-customisation and postponement, procurement and letters of credit, demand management, the cost of inventory and buffer stock, assurance of supply, warehousing, and the last mile.

We nitpick over the differences between distribution and fulfilment centres, debate the true definition of supply chain visibility and the role of control towers to support orchestration across a complex network of suppliers, trading partners, and carriers. And we’re still not sure if our industries are facing an apocalypse or simply working through the growing pains of transformation in the digital age.

It’s a mouthful. And as we dive into the technical details and jargon that comprise the modern language of supply chain, one can’t help but picture the average consumer’s eyes glazing over.

But that’s not necessarily the case. There’s mounting evidence people care more about supply chain than ever – they’re just not using our words for it.

Therein lies the secret.

The words used to describe supply chain were different at the recent Shoptalk Europe conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, a gathering of more than 2,500 retailers, start-ups, technologists, and investors all focused on the worlds of retail, fashion, and ecommerce. Though most attendees weren’t purely in the business of operations and supply chain, all were exploring how to reach, engage, and enlighten the customer wherever and whenever they might choose to shop.

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Secrets To Success: How Supply Chain Services Tripled Its Business

Five years ago, Chip Emery, a retired big-business CEO, bought a small-time, 8-year-old reseller startup, Supply Chain Services.

At the time, the bar-coding VAR was profitable, with $9 million a year in revenue, but Emery, the owner and CEO of the company, simplified the business. Five years later, the company has just come off its most profitable year in its history, pulling in $25 million in revenue, and is set to make an additional $30 million this year.

So what radical changes did he make to drastically grow the company? Well, as Emery said, it was really quite simple. He just had the company focus on what it did well.

“One thing that we did when I bought it was to focus on where our expertise is,” Emery said.

“I learned very quickly that our expertise was in warehouse, distribution and manufacturing, so I made the leap of faith and decided, ‘Why don’t we focus on what we know and stop talking about selling to hospitals and municipal government, and point-of-sale equipment in the retail world, and health care? Let’s just stop all that stuff.”

Emery had the Minneapolis-based company focus its energy on just three major markets, as he said you can only do two or three things really well at the same time. If you try to take on more than that, you’re taking on too much, he said.

Read more at Secrets To Success: How Supply Chain Services Tripled Its Business

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