Technology’s Role in Managing the Evolution of the Customer Centric Supply Chain

Having an effective supply chain has always been key to retail success. Whether you call it micro-merchandising or the customer-centric supply chain, the challenge has traditionally been to quickly identify trends or activity in a store that is outperforming the norm, and rapidly roll this out to all stores with similar attributes and customer behaviours. Indeed, much of the ‘flair’ that separated well- from poorly performing retail operators was down to the ability of some key individuals to spot trends, clusters and patterns that drove better understanding of customer behaviour, and act upon these insights to deliver to customers’ demands.

This macro-level insight is, however, no longer good enough. Today, retailers need to be able to understand not only how items are performing across the entire retail estate as well as within individual stores and spot trends and patterns accordingly; they also need to be able to marry this micro-level performance to geographic and demographic information to reflect the demand from a particular store’s customers. And, they need to be able to forecast how those same items will be performing in weeks and months to come.

This is the capability that is required to truly deliver today’s customer-centric supply chain. But it demands a level of detail simply too difficult for humans to manage. Software solutions are designed to raise the average performance level by helping the poor or below average operators benefit from the expertise of the higher performers and placing this supporting technology in the hands of those key individuals who would act as district or regional manager.

But the needs of today’s customer-centric supply chain have outpaced even the majority of these solutions.

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Six signs that your Big Data expert, isn’t

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This is so far the best article that I have been reading about the Big Data. It is what I have been advocating to people.

1. They talk about “bigness” and “data,” rather than “new questions”

… It seems most of the tech industry is completely drunk on “Big Data.”

… most companies are spending vast amounts of money on more hardware and software yet they are getting little, if any, positive business value.

… “Big Data” is a terrible name for the revolution going on all around us. It’s not about Bigness, and it’s not about the Data. Rather, it’s about “new questions,” being facilitated by ubiquitous access to massive amounts of data.

… If all you’re doing is asking the same old questions of bigger amounts of the same old data, you’re not doing “Big Data,” you’re doing “Big Business Intelligence,” which is itself becoming an oxymoron.

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A Tale of Two Disciplines: Data Scientist and Business Analyst

data scientist and BA

The ability to use data to achieve enterprise goals requires advanced skills that many organizations don’t yet have. But they are looking to add them – and fast. The question is, what type of big data expert is needed? Does an organization need a data scientist or does it need a business analyst? Maybe it even needs both. These two titles are often used interchangeably, and confusion abounds.

Business analysts typically have educational backgrounds in business and humanities. They find and extract valuable information from a variety of sources to evaluate past, present, and future business performance – and then determine which analytical models and approaches will help explain solutions to the end users who need them.

With educational backgrounds in computer science, mathematics, and technology, data scientists are digital builders. They use statistical programming to actually construct the framework for gathering and using the data by creating and implementing algorithms to do it. Such algorithms help businesses with decision making, data management, and the creation of data visualizations to help explain the data that they gather.

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Six Lessons In Supply Chain Strategy From Genghis Khan

Supply chain strategy can be a squishy topic. Basically, we try to keep costs down and service up, but what does this really say about how to win in a competitive business? Working harder at the same things is not a sustainable strategic advantage.

True strategy means finding ways to use and combine tactics and resources to achieve a goal in conditions of uncertainty. For supply chain leaders, it demands thinking laterally about everything that happens from the customer back and then placing bets to gain an operational edge.

In addition to modern thinkers like Peter Drucker and Michael Porter, some of the best lessons on this topic come directly from the playbook of Genghis Khan, the 13th century Mongol who conquered nearly all of Eurasia.

Here are six that apply today.

1. Use the skills of others.

The Mongols made no products, farmed no crops, and built no buildings, but still saw the value of engineers, miners, doctors and scholars.

2. Communication is essential to power.

Having armies spread over thousands of miles led Genghis Khan to establish a sort of Pony Express that was designed and maintained centrally.

3. Embrace technology.

In the year 1206, when Genghis Khan was born, his tribe had no metal and lived in felt tents. Fifty years later, they had mastered siege technologies like catapults and trebuchets as well as early firearms and cannon.

4. Never stop learning.

Genghis Khan’s genius was not the result of some epiphany but came rather, in the words of biographer Jack Weatherford, “from a persistent cycle of pragmatic learning, experimental adaptation, and constant revision”.

5. Cherish diversity.

A typically among history’s great empires, the Mongols allowed complete religious freedom and employed almost all of their conquered peoples’ best minds in the imperial administration.

6. Swallow your pride.

Genghis Khan cared nothing for appearances and would often feign retreat to draw enemies onto more favourable ground.

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To Woo Apple, Foxconn Bets $3.5 Billion on Sharp

The Apple iPhone transformed the technology industry by popularizing the smartphone and blazing a path to a mobile future. But to do it, the company needed an important ally: a penny-pinching Taiwan-based factory operator named Foxconn.

Employing hundreds of thousands of workers at vast facilities in mainland China, Foxconn figured out a way to assemble the iPhone at a cost low enough that middle-class Americans could afford it. The business offered low profit margins, but the work buffed Foxconn’s financial results and cemented its status as the world’s largest maker of hardware for companies like Apple and Sony.

Those relationships are now shifting — and Foxconn is betting heavily to keep up.

On Wednesday, Foxconn said it had struck a deal to acquire control of the Japanese screen maker Sharp for $3.5 billion, after weeks of negotiations and high-profile setbacks.

The deal, for a 66 percent stake in Sharp, is intended to make Foxconn a more attractive partner for Apple. The American technology company uses Sharp screens, which could give Foxconn added leverage in dealings between the two.

The screen is an especially lucrative piece of the smartphone, costing as much as $54 each, according to estimates by the research firm IHS. Sharp provides roughly 25 percent of the iPhone displays, IHS said.

Still, the Sharp purchase will saddle Foxconn with an ailing business that will take considerable money and effort to turn around, some analysts say. Reflecting those problems, the purchase price is $2 billion lower than a deal the two sides struck just last month, after Sharp disclosed the potential for costly problems — nearly $3 billion in potential liabilities — down the road.

But Apple has been diversifying its supply chain, giving some production contracts to other assemblers and component makers. And Foxconn is grappling with China’s rising labor costs and a slowdown in the global smartphone market.

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Globalization Creates New Avenues for Supply Chain Risk: riskmethods Shares its Predictions for 2016

As part of our ongoing series on what procurement technology providers see as the biggest challenge for procurement in 2016, we recently spoke to riskmethods to hear its thoughts on the topic. Heiko Schwarz, riskmethods founder and managing director, pointed to increased external risks, globalization and regulation compliance as the main issues procurement and supply chain managers will have to tackle in the new year.

These three major trends will expose organizations to risks in 2016, Heiko said. External risk will continue to be an issue. For example, extreme weather such as rain or snow storms will expose and disrupt supply chains even more than in the past, he said. Political risks have been a growing trend for years, but will continue in 2016 as well, he added.

Globalization is also pushing enterprises to search for new suppliers in countries or regions they probably have not worked in before. Procurement’s scope in the last year has dramatically changed, going from a “domestic-centric” view to a more global one, Heiko said. Specifically, he believes we will see movement away from China as the cost of operating there continues to rise. China is no longer a low-cost sourcing country, and this is putting pressure on companies to move to new areas, places such as the northern regions of Africa, he said. This globalization push will put increase supply chain complexities in 2016.

Read more at Globalization Creates New Avenues for Supply Chain Risk: riskmethods Shares its Predictions for 2016

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2016: The Year of Wearable Technology in the Supply Chain

Wearable technology, and the use of cloud software, will become much more widespread across the industry in 2016. The ability to access and input data in real time is the key way in which suppliers will be able to meet the stringent demands of supermarkets.

The adoption of cloud software will be aided by the fact that the price of good quality laptops has fallen below £200, with good quality tablets available for under £50. These prices, which may fall even further in 2016, mean the bar to entry associated with cloud technology in the supply chain has been significantly lowered.

With the ability to put these powerful devices in the hands of everyone, 2015 required us at Linkfresh to think about making core lines of business software available across these devices. That sea change has laid the foundations for what we will see in the industry in 2016.

Supermarkets are pushing suppliers harder than ever, a situation which looks certain to continue throughout the coming year. Dealing with this pressure is the biggest challenge the industry faces.

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China’s supply chain plan could pose threat to Taiwan

A plan laid out by Chinese authorities to cultivate a domestic supply chain for the country’s high-tech manufacturing sector is expected to pose a serious threat to Taiwanese companies, government sources said Saturday.

In voicing the concerns, Ministry of Economic Affairs sources said China’s efforts to help its own high-tech supply chain flourish to lower dependence on imported parts have already reduced China’s trade dependence on Taiwan.

The plan unveiled by Beijing in May to create a manufacturing revolution underpinned by smart technologies over the next 10 years could deal a further blow to Taiwan’s exports, they said.

The latest plan for the mainland to grow its own high-tech sector, called “Made In China 2015,” takes aim at various sectors, including the information technology, and puts a heavy emphasis on the semiconductor segment.

According to figures compiled by the Bureau of Foreign Trade (BOFT), the ratio of China’s imports from Taiwan to total imports fell to 7.76 percent in 2014, from 11.3 percent in 2005.

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Bringing Elegance and Simplicity to Problem Solving and Enterprise Technology Adoption

There’s an old expression, “Don’t work harder; work smarter.” Old as it may be, this is one of the adages of New Purchasing: The answer to complexity does not have to be more complexity.

Is this not the reason for enterprise technology? Organizations adopt solutions that enable their employees to work more quickly, more efficiently and with better organization. Really, this is the same reason that many people adopt technology in their personal lives, as well.

If you’re looking to build a website, you no longer need to code everything from scratch. Instead, services from sources like Google and Homestead can do that for you. With Google Domains, you can easily find a domain and build a website for your business, while their innovation services provide developer tools, APIs and other resources for quickly adding novel features. Similarly, Homestead offers you the means to “Get a site. Get found. Get customers.”

Each of these solutions providers offers you a simple, elegant solution for what seems like a pretty daunting task. Wouldn’t you expect the same technology treatment for improving your enterprise procurement?

Just as building a website for a personal blog or corporate website has never been easier, the same is true for creating an online shopping site. Shopify’s solution can help you to create an online storefront for one product or millions – without needing any specific design skills. With a platform like Mobify, you can even extend that digital marketplace with mobile touch points.

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Preventing a talent gap in supply chain management

When you hear about skills shortages and talent gaps, the discussion tends to surround STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — professions. However, a new concern also is breaking through.

Supply chain management has become a far more complex and skill-demanding ordeal for businesses in a wealth of industries operating in virtually every location around the globe. This has been driven by the fact that commodities markets, global trade and regional economic conditions have been volatile at best, and show no signs of simplifying or stabilizing anytime soon, meaning that managers of the supply chain have a lot more variables to worry about today than in the past.

Thankfully, it appears as though many businesses, including those operating within the manufacturing sector, are working to nip this problem in the bud by providing their own types of training for supply chain managers to digest. After all, the greatest weapon in the fight against any talent gap is increased investment from the private sector in training and development, and this medicine appears to be more commonly embraced in the modern era.

Automotive excellence
Manufacturing Business Technology magazine recently reported that a new study from DHL revealed automotive giants are likely to face what it calls a “perfect storm” that will wreak havoc on supply chains from around the globe. According to the study, supply chain management professionals, specifically those looking to get a job at an automotive manufacturing firm, already are few and far between, and this problem is expected to become more complex in the near future.

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How do you deal with the talent gap in supply chain management? Share your thoughts with us in the comment box.

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