Can Supply Chain Visibility Save Lives?

My recent SCN blog post “Focused Brand Management via Supply Chain Visibility” has received nearly 1,000 views since it was posted earlier in the month following my interview with Markus Rosemann, Head of Supply Chain Execution at SAP during the SAPPHIRE Orlando conference.  It is provided here as an abstract to create visibility in non-technical circles so we can all consider if increased supply chain visibility can detect issues before they occur. Or kill. 

Read the full article on SCN under the Business Trends topic for Sustainability and Supply Chain.

Rena Plaza collapse (image courtesy NY Times, Reuters)

In the wake of devastating tragedies in Bangladesh and Paskistan over the past 18 months, OEMs are developing action plans and mitigation strategies to avoid collateral brand damage associated with poorly run and often dangerously unsafe external contract manufacturers.  During my recent podcast for the IXN (Episode IXN002 on iTunes) I was asked what is the top challenge facing global supply chains.  My answer was terrifyingly predictive: brand management and the impact it has on brand sales when a horrific event happens overseas.  Two weeks later, over 1,000 workers (mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers) lost their lives in the building collapse at the Rena Plaza factory in Bangladesh.  While the death toll rose, Disney was one of the first brands to pull out of the country, and the EU developed a memorandum of understanding that many appareland footwear manufacturers were voluntarily adopting.

This week at SAPPHIRE I sat down with Markus Rosemann, Head of Supply Chain Execution, LOB Solution Management, to discuss this problem.  Given the actions of the previous several weeks this issue is top of mind in supply chain operations and risk management functions inside, it was a familiar topic.

Integrated supply chain issues for brand management is a critical success factor because as Rosemann put it, “you cannot lose on this front. How you integrate with your partners is a growing need, not only the process and order level (for example, who was manufacturing on Bangladesh and what percentage of your portfolio), but also the need for the supply network to create visibility.” While this has been an issue for years, the impact on brand management today creates a new need to track and trace supplier activity so companies can protect their brand.

Social and sentiment analysis can also play into that from a demand signal management perspective. Social plug-ins can see the sentiment analysis on brands, platform, and customer preferences. So what does this mean having a true voice of the customer in the wake of a horrific supplier event?  According to Rosemann, “that is finally changing, best margin is not the only driving force” in industries such as apparel and footwear. “This is an area that we see changing in the market place – demand patterns which are changing, and this can all be viewed inside real-time analytics. We see this as a huge opportunity to leverage the power of HANA, for massive data which can be analyzed and understood. From this, information can be pushed onto strategy, supply planning, and then sourced.  This is the real integration and opportunity for a real time supply chain.” I agree and none too soon.

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2 Comments

Filed under Audit and Oversight, Big Data, Change Management and Leadership, Communication Planning, Compliance, Global Trade, Information Technology, Marketing and Social Business, Operations, Program Management, Risk Management, Strategy, Supply Chain Management, Sustainability, Technology

2 responses to “Can Supply Chain Visibility Save Lives?

  1. Karen Righthand

    The more transparency the better. Companies cannot turn a blind eye to their supply chain if they are serious about sustainability and CSR. As was elucidated in today’s NPR morning edition story today about Asia Pulp and Paper, their deforestation policies and the impact on Mattel when Rainforest Action Network went after them, if you don’t pay attention and turn a blind eye you open yourself up to attack.

    Like

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