Social Supply Chains – Trend or Threat?

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Buzzwords like social sharing, interconnectedness, engagement, immediacy and transparency have left the confines of social media discussions dominated by marketers and have started scaring professionals across all levels and functions of organisations.

A report produced by included some clues to supply chain changes that need to be actioned sooner rather than later.

Social media at its core is not about tweeting, liking and Instagramming, but about access to information at a rate and volume that we’ve never experienced before. According to Adrian Gonzalez, founder and president of Adelante SCM, social media can – and should – play a central role in supply chain management. After all, social networking is not really about socialising, but about facilitating people-to-people communication and collaboration.

There are several issues that supply chains experience which require the urgent attention of professionals to find solutions that threaten supply chains. The ultimate goal is for challenges to be minimised. Most supply chains still struggle with the same issues – collaboration, integration, balancing customer satisfaction and supply chain performance and increased energy prices.

The biggest challenge for supply chain professionals willing to embrace the necessary changes is to convince the entire supply chain to consider approaches that are currently resisted because they pose a risk to the status quo. Here are some benefits of social supply chains:

Manage exceptions and risks faster – Supply chains can save time by evaluating the financial and operational consequences of any proposed changes in a timely and effective manner. For instance, an e-mail to 50 people that might be able to work on a solution takes considerably more time to process and return feedback than a post on an internal, collaborative social network that can simultaneously reach 50 000 people who already have the answer.

Shorten inventory lead times – Social media can create a virtual table around which resellers, wholesalers, manufacturers and suppliers can sit at the same time, and work towards fulfilling market needs all at the same time, not in a linear process as is currently the case.

Reduce response times – Being able to alter distribution based on social data, available in real time and at low cost is no longer a distant dream, but a reality already in use globally. Demand for new products based on trends can adjust import quantities, delivery schedules and even inform innovation. Adverse weather conditions forcing delivery delays can be logged and communicated before posing a threat to driver and fleet safety or customer satisfaction. Low stock level alerts can be triggered simultaneously at the retailer, manufacturer and distributor.

Supply chains that are most responsive and open to change will be the ones that are most likely to remain ahead of the game in our ever-changing, technology-driven world.


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