Today I will be discussing multi-enterprise supply chains. Specifically, collaboration and communication methods used to facilitate coordination across multiple legal entities.
Modern supply chains have successfully become increasingly connected and global. This success has been the result of efficient digital operations. Connected supply chains are able to visualize demand (from consumers, retailers, distributors) and supply (from raw material supply, component & contract manufacturers).
However, having connected data is only part of the equation. To be able to act in an optimal manner, the people and planning processes must be orchestrated across the supply chain.
You would think that connecting people shouldn’t be too difficult in this social media savvy world. We all connect daily with potentially thousands of people. But how does one make the transition from a collaborative Facebook chat to collaborating on a supply chain risk or opportunity across a multi-enterprise supply chain? Surprisingly it is not so difficult.
There are two key fundamental steps to multi-enterprise supply chain collaboration.
The first is to recognize that supply chain planning is no longer just about the numbers. Demand and Supply plans are great but they don’t tell the entire story. Where are the risks and opportunities? What mitigation is planned? What action and follow up is required? Evaluating a supply chain plan solely by the numbers is like evaluating a company solely on its balance sheet and income statement. You need to read the Form 10K to get the whole picture. Consequently, Supply Chains, and especially Supply Chain technology must have parallel support for qualitative intelligence as it does for quantitative intelligence.
The second step is what happens next. Data for the sake of casual reference it is pointless regardless of whether it is quantitative or qualitative. Data must have a life and be part of a process. Qualitative data (a question, a risk, an opportunity) becomes the stem of a communication thread. Not unlike social media, the thread needs to be shared in a subscriptive manner to relevant stakeholders. It creates an indelible collaborative record of discussions across a multi-enterprise supply chain. Not unlike social media, it needs to be delivered on the platform that stakeholders are already using. Unless you are very influential, people are going to adopt an alternative communication medium solely to collaborate with you.
In the future supply chains will operate in a digital ecosystem that transcends legal entities and countries, and currencies. Such an ecosystem will support more coordination and cooperation amongst the actors.