Blame Amazon. Or Google. For that matter, blame all of Silicon Valley. They’ve trained us to become accustomed to having access to all of our data in an instant. We can order anything online, change the home thermostat with our cell phones and access the world’s information in seconds. So why are the connections between technology platforms in our supply chains so awful? 

It’s time for a change. We need better connections built on modern technology to manage the procurement of goods and their transport to customers across the globe. The challenge isn’t that the technology doesn’t exist; it’s used ubiquitously across other industries. Our dilemma is that we’ve built our IT infrastructure on outdated platforms and haven’t made the commitments to standardize the language to transmit data. There’s talk of big data and advanced analytics, but do we even have the back-end infrastructure to enable it?

Why Outsource?

In today’s discrete manufacturing ecosystem, humans and machines work in tandem to cut, drill, mold and assemble an unending variety of parts. Finished goods are pushed out to distribution through warehouses, stored and sent to customers as needed. In general, made-to-stock is far more prevalent than made-to-order.

Manufacturing locations are commonly determined by the lowest cost of raw materials, labor, facilities, freight, taxes and insurance. Factors such as quality, fulfillment reliability, production time, delivery time and public image are balanced against price incentives to narrow the field of potential manufacturing locations. 

Integrated Solutions

One newer solution to hit the market came from Citi. Through its Treasury and Trade Solutions unit, Citi recently announced the launch of Citi Integrated Payables Solutions. It is being billed as a suite of analytics, advisory and payment services that can assist organizations in optimizing their working capital and maximizing efficiency across their complete supply chain.

Among the system’s touted benefits are proprietary analytics, advisory services, client-to-bank connectivity channels and universal supplier on-boarding mechanisms. Citi says all of these features are intended to help address an organization’s continuum of suppliers, and that users will be able to influence working capital, reduce total costs, minimize supply chain risk and support their suppliers.

Winning Effort

The 2014 Hermes Retail Week Supply Chain Awards honored a number of companies. The Clipper Online Fulfillment Initiative of the Year went to Shop Direct with ArrowX, Project Delight: Two-man Diary Booking. The Damco Supply Chain Technology of the Year award was presented to Otto with Blue Yonder, Closed Loop.

The iForce Distribution & Warehouse Initiative of the Year went to John Lewis, Omnichannel Fulfillment, while the BiS Henderson Third Party Logistics Provider of the Year was DHL. The Green Supply Chain Initiative of the Year award was presented to Sainsbury’s with Carrier Transicold, NaturaLINE Trial.

Among the companies investing in sustainability is The Procter & Gamble Company. Proctor & Gamble recently expanded its sustainability goals to continue creating value with consumer-preferred brands and products while conserving resources, protecting the environment and improving social conditions for many.

“We continue to improve the environmental sustainability of our products across all aspects of their lifecycle – from manufacturing, packaging and delivery through consumer use,” says Martin Riant, P&G executive sponsor of Sustainability and group president, Global Baby and Feminine and Family Care. “We are reducing the environmental footprint of our products for shoppers, our communities and the company while still delivering the quality and performance people expect from P&G products.”

The pressure this places on healthcare supply chains is immense. Making matters more difficult is the snails pace at which change tends to occur. 

UPS recently released its annual UPS Pain in the (Supply) Chain survey. It examined the risks that are getting in the way of growth and change in the industry’s supply chain, as well as taking a look at some of the ways leading organizations are working to proactively evolve the supply chain.

Through strategic relationships, forward thinking organizations are able to handle difficult issues such as regulatory hurdles, cost management and reaching markets on a global scale. They are investing in technology that is helping with order flexibility and visibility, enhancing protection of products as they move though expanded supply chains. In short, they are working to make their supply chains more agile, efficient and flexible.

Smart Labels 

One recent undertaking came from across the Atlantic at Insignia Technologies, an intelligent packaging company in Scotland. The company announced the launch of the Stock Rotation smart label, which is designed to cut down on food waste and improve food safety at every stage of the food supply chain.

Once the smart label is stuck to a box or pallet of fresh produce, it starts to change color over a pre-calibrated period of time. This means that at any point in the supply chain you can actually see how fresh the fruit, vegetables, meat or dairy goods are inside the box.

The study is billed as a comprehensive assessment of the unconventional energy supply chain. It focuses on direct and indirect contributions related to the specific supply chain industry portion of that economic activity. The study measures across 56 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) sectors the economic activity specific to those industries that directly and indirectly support unconventional oil and gas activities in the upstream, midstream and downstream segments of the energy value chain.


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