Supply chain management today has never been more complex, more dynamic or more unpredictable.
The good news is that new techniques for analyzing country-level investments, network configuration and in-sourcing/out-sourcing decisions can enable more precise and effective span of control. The latest generation of network design and optimization applications has created broader opportunities to view and streamline links between supply chain network nodes.
New concepts in multi-channel demand signal capture -- and in pooling and data warehousing customer signals coming into the enterprise from retail stores, websites and call centers -- can bring the enterprise closer to the customer. Emergence of practices such as multi-channel supply management and virtualized cross-enterprise inventory pools are enabling rapid response to changes in demand, creating a level of "cyber-kanban" unimaginable a few years ago. Companies can now truly respond to the pull of the market rather than the push of supply.
Companies are also using advanced Business Intelligence (BI) software to mine the demand signal repository and cull critical insights for action and response. Case in point: Wal-Mart’s response to Hurricane Katrina was based on insights gained from mining community consumption trends during previous hurricanes.
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Lisa H. Harrington is president of the lharrington group, a strategic consulting and marketing communication services firm focused on supply chain management, warehousing and related technology. She also is a senior research fellow and adjunct professor at the Supply Chain Management Center, Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.
Dr. Sandor Boyson has over twenty-five years of global supply chain management consulting experience in the business and public sectors. He is the co-author (with Dr. Corsi and Ms. Harrington) of two books on Supply Chain Management, including In Real Time: Managing the New Supply Chain (Praeger, 2004). Professor Boyson is founding Co-Director of the Robert H. Smith School’s Supply Chain Management Center.
Dr. Thomas M. Corsi is Michelle E. Smith Professor of Logistics at the Robert H. Smith School of Business and founding Co-Director of Smith’s Supply Chain Management Center. He has authored three books: The Economic Effects of Surface Freight Deregulation (Brookings, 1990), and (with Dr. Boyson and Ms. Harrington) Logistics and the Extended Enterprise: Benchmarks and Best Practices for the Manufacturing Professional (Wiley, 1999).
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