Catching up on my reading, I recently read an article by Dan Gilmore, Editor-in-Chief of Supply Chain Digest, which was titled End of a Supply Chain Era (link to article). Dan’s primary premise in the article is that too often today, most companies take a U.S. or European-centric point of view of supply chain strategy, and that this thinking is changing rather quickly. Supply chain groups in international geographies are often treated as second cousins, being the last to get new technology, process, or best practice.
I tend to believe differently. Whether by accident or concerted strategy, many U.S. led supply chain groups do often test new processes and supporting new technologies in their international organizations first. The reasoning is often the fact that there is perceived to be less business risk in prototyping a new process in a smaller, more focused international arm, than the more complex and mission critical U.S. operation. Sometimes, an international group is targeted to avoid complex change management obstacles that may be perceived as a barrier within the U.S. group. In my previous dealings as an industry analyst investigating the deployment of new software applications, it was quite often that I heard that the implementation began in an international subsidiary such as Eastern Europe, South America or other region.
But more importantly, innovation can come from any organization. Supply chain organizations in China, India, South America and other countries face significant challenges, and when given leadership and senior management and mentoring support, can often rise to the heights of innovation. Procter and Gamble’s efforts for micro channel delivery of consumer products in China and other emerging markets originated from those country-specific logistics groups. Logistics teams in Hong Kong, China, and Mexico are leading in RFID and sensory network based tracking of goods. Europe has implemented high speed rail freight bridging from major ports of entry to emerging eastern European manufacturing regions, and have their sights on a land rail route to Asia and China.
Yes, we have moved to a New Supply Chain World Order, and the need for global process innovation and collaboration has become the shared agenda among the entire global supply chain team.