In our Expert Insights Series, we ask supply chain thought leaders to weigh in on key topics. This time, we talk about innovation!
In a world marked by ever-accelerating change, the supply chain industry stands as a linchpin of global commerce, constantly evolving to meet the dynamic demands of consumers and businesses alike. In this fast-paced environment, we all agree innovation is paramount to thrive. But how do we perceive the meaning of innovation?
Supply chain innovation transcends the realm of mere technological advancements or process optimizations. It is the very essence of transformation, the heartbeat of progress, and the key to unlocking untapped potential within an industry that spans the globe. As we stand at the intersection of digital revolution and environmental consciousness, it is more crucial than ever to engage in a dialogue that explores the multifaceted aspects of innovation in the supply chain.
Our perspectives on the impact of supply chain and the responsibilities of business are rapidly evolving, shaped by shifting market conditions, cutting-edge technologies, and the urge for strategies that place emphasis on sustainability, ethics, and social responsibility as integral components.
To help gauge industry sentiment we asked supply chain experts and thought leaders to share their views and perspectives on what supply chain innovation means. Here are their thoughts:
“As humans, the desire to innovate is as old as the hills. Developing new ideas, new ways of doing things, new tools and products… it’s how we’ve always adapted to changing conditions, how we’ve evolved and improved our situations, how we’ve improved our chances of survival. So too in business and, consequently, in supply chain, where we pursue innovation that must offer balanced outcomes economically, socially, and environmentally.
When we talk about innovation in supply chain today, we often do so in the context of advances in digital technology. What separates success from failure in innovation also comes, I believe, in the unique blend of strategic, tactical, analytical, problem-solving, and creative skills that supply chain professionals bring to bear in often incredibly complex and challenging scenarios. Combine this with innovation in how we are increasingly bringing together teams offering diversity of capability, experience, identity, cognitive thinking, and other enriching characteristics, and we have all the ingredients to take the seeds of innovation right through to delivery and beyond.”
“Supply chain innovation, to me, is the relentless pursuit of efficiency, resilience, and adaptability within the logistics, procurement, and broader supply chain domains. Since founding the Global Supply Chain Council (GSCC) in 2002, I've been fortunate to witness first-hand the transformative potential of innovative strategies, technologies, and practices in the Asia-Pacific region. Through our extensive community at GSCC and our technology marketplace, we constantly strive to foster and elevate ground-breaking solutions that not only optimize the supply chain but also enhance its sustainability and responsiveness to global challenges.
Innovation in supply chain, as I've come to appreciate it, is not just about adopting the latest technologies but also about reimagining processes, fostering collaborations, and nurturing a culture of continuous learning. It's about recognizing the potential in every link of the chain and empowering professionals to think beyond the conventional. In this rapidly evolving profession, our role at GSCC is to be both, a beacon and a catalyst, guiding and inspiring our community to pioneer the next wave of supply chain excellence.”
“To me, Supply Chain Innovation is the eradication of the phrase "We've always done it this way, why change?". It is all about incentivizing internal disruption and shaking the status quo; looking at processes, performance and standards from a different perspective while bringing new ideas to the table. Personally, I think the best way to do this is to look at what other industries and companies are doing, regardless of your product or customer being completely different because at the end of the day, supply chain principles remain the same.”
“Supply Chain innovation, to me, is when the people, processes and technology of supply chain come together to drive value, progress and positive change for the complex world we live in.”
“Innovation was, is, and ever will be the driving force for excellence in Supply Chain Management! But be careful in choosing the right views and triggers for supply chain innovation. It is not IT, AI, ML, or other high-tech tools per se. Although these can be important and critical elements to achieve operational excellence. It is the Breakthrough Thinking that makes it happen, starting from the business strategy, creating a best fitting supply chain strategy, coming from the basics of Supply Chain Management, designing the appropriate operational processes, and helping to get everything integrated from end-to-end with tools that fit into the pattern.
Most companies which followed this logical and holistic approach are successful in an ever-changing business environment because every supply chain or supply network is unique. There are basics which are similar in each domain, but the details are all different and need a tailormade design and operation in every company.
For those who want to know what supply chains REALLY are and WHY we need them, I can recommend for further insights and guidance to Breakthrough Thinking the new book; “Breakthrough Supply Chains.”
“What does Supply Chain Innovation mean to me?
The popular supply chain innovations and tools that so many people speak about these days (digitalization, data analytics, AI, ML, digital twin, automation, robotics) are truly promising for the future of our way of working. When starting the innovation journey, they make me think of two things: the goal and the data.
In most companies, fundamental preparations have to be done to achieve the great things that are out there, which means the cost comes before the benefit. And the goal and the data are the key starting points.
First, to agree on the goal (what do you want to achieve) will clarify expectations, decide what type of innovation you really need to make it, and allow you to design a clear roadmap because you know where it should lead to.
The second point is the common prerequisite for all innovations: data! It is not unusual that the data is hidden in all corners of the organization, if it is even there. It means it will be quite an effort the gather what you need to run new applications and tools.
So, what does innovation mean to me? It means two things: why do we do it, and where is the data?”
“As we have emerged from the global Coronavirus pandemic, I believe that we have entered a period that I call the ‘Supply Chain Renaissance’. The next several decades will see innovation and advancement in Supply Chain unparalleled in history.
Powered by an extensive suite of technologies, recognition of the need for change and an ever more educated and developed talent base, innovations will create more resilient, more sustainable, more connected, more effective, more reactive, and better led Supply Chains.
In short, the future will be defined by innovation that creates the Digital Supply Chain.”
“To me, supply chain innovation is like an exciting adventure. It's a mix of fun, challenge, and curiosity. It keeps me wondering about what new things will pop up next, and it's incredibly interesting. Supply chain innovation breaks the monotony of using the same methods, technologies, or processes for years. We all tend to get bored with routine tasks, but innovation injects new life into the supply chain and renews our enthusiasm.”
“Supply chain innovation is the driving force that enables organizations to stay competitive and agile in today's dynamic market landscape. It encompasses a continuous pursuit of creative and efficient ways to optimize every aspect of the supply chain, from sourcing and production to distribution and delivery. This involves embracing emerging technologies like blockchain, IoT, and AI to enhance visibility, traceability, and decision-making.
Additionally, it means fostering collaboration and integration with suppliers and partners, creating more responsive and sustainable supply networks. Ultimately, supply chain innovation is about adapting to evolving customer demands and market conditions, all while striving for cost-effectiveness and sustainability to secure a competitive edge in the marketplace.”
The meaning of supply chain innovation can be as diverse as the individuals who contribute to it. We've heard from thought leaders who each bring their unique perspectives. But beneath these varied viewpoints lies a common thread: the universal recognition of innovation's vital role to keep moving forward, driving transformative change, and embracing opportunities that pave the way for a brighter future across every facet of our supply chain endeavors.
Stay tuned for more in our Expert Insights Series as we share views and opinions from thought leaders and industry peers on key topics on the ever-evolving and exciting supply chain landscape.