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Supply Chains Run On Brains, Heart, and Soul

Take the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow, and what do you get? You get a pretty decent supply chain out of it. Deb Miller writes an article about why it takes a combination of brains, heart, and soul to manage the best supply chain, providing a lot of useful examples along the way.

Brains of the Operation

Business process management (BPM) technology streamlines the work to be done, making it so that either less workers are needed or the same workers do the work more efficiently. This is the brainy way of doing business. Zappos uses technology from vendor Kiva Systems, employing some really impressive robots to zip large racks all around a warehouse in no time at all. Without Kiva tech, Zappos can fulfill in an order in between 48 minutes and 3.5 hours, but with Kiva, it takes a flat 12 minutes.

Hearts on Fire

Customers are at the heart of the supply chain, so maximizing profits becomes a matter of finding out what customers want and giving it to them. Miller cites a story of Walmart using its customer behavior data to improve profits:

As the case study goes, customer data revealed that female shoppers wanted low prices on detergents, and they wanted detergents in large enough quantities that they didn’t have to buy a box more than once a month. But the packaging they wanted was boxes small enough to carry easily to the car. Walmart integrated that consumer-focused information into their supply chain packaging and pricing. At the same time, a Walmart competitor stuck with a policy of selling huge boxes of detergents. On a unit-basis, their boxes were priced about the same, but Walmart’s detergent sales quickly dwarfed the competitor.

Having a “customer first” mentality is not a platitude; it is the ticket to getting ahead of the competition.

Soul Man

Since customers come first, and customers are demanding sustainability these days, it stands to reason that a business with environmentally friendly practices is going to prosper. This is how a supply chain can hear its soul. Staples reduced its packaging sizes enough that it “estimates [there]is an annual carbon footprint reduction of 30,200 tons, or roughly 120,000 trees,” which puts more money back in their pockets while increasing favorability with the public. Meanwhile, Kimberly-Clark has seen $100 million in sales of its Scott Naturals product line after just 5 years. It pays to promote sustainability.

Living, Breathing Supply Chain

As Miller keenly demonstrates, brains, heart, and soul together make for a pretty sturdy supply chain. You can read her full article and gain even more insights here:

About John Friscia

John Friscia is the Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and continues to provide graphic design support for AITS. He graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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