Design for the Supply Chain Pt 8: Long-Lasting

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"Oxfords, not Brogues"

If you're into supply chain and liked the movie this quote is from, then we're on the same street! Ok, now that we’re straight on ‘classic’ shoes, let’s talk about the next principle in the “10 Principles of Good Design” as applied to supply chain and supply chain management (Design for the Supply Chain).

Principle #7: Good design “Is long-lasting”

“Is long-lasting - It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today's throwaway society.” – ‘Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design

I was talking with my wife recently and she mentioned the 80/20 rule (Pareto principle) for some systems engineering project she’s working on. I gave an example from inventory management about ABC classification.

This way of classifying inventory to provide guidance on which items to place the highest focus on has been around since the 1950’s. There are a multitude of approaches or techniques for managing inventory (e.g. just-in-time, kanban, postponement, backordering, consignment/vendor-managed-inventory, etc.).

Different techniques are appropriate for different businesses and even different segments of inventory within a business. However, there’s always a need to do some level of classification to determine which technique makes the most sense. I keep debating with myself whether to say some techniques have gone “out of fashion” or we’ve just gotten a lot better at determining which ones to use as we’ve learned to manage extended supply chains. Likewise, I’m not sure that it’s fair to say that outsourcing to low-cost countries was a fad now that there’s a case for moving manufacturing again (U.S. Manufacturing No More Expensive Than Outsourcing To China By 2015: Study).

What I can say though, is that putting window dressing on a technique, much like broguing a shoe, may add some style, flash, or sense of ‘new and improved’, but it doesn’t change the basic functionality. I believe that as we identify new or different techniques for managing inventory we should be constantly asking ourselves, "what is the basic, fundamental element of the solution that gets the desired results versus what is simply ‘broguing’".

There was an article in RetailWeek last year where some experts predicted what supply chain technologies were fads. Interestingly enough, they noted mobile apps as a fad where "instead of apps we could be moving to an ‘internet of things’ age with connected products in-store". This is very much in-line with Industry 4.0.

When I think about mobile apps, I get the sense that most apps are pushing information to the user in an effort to get them to make a purchase. That's great from a marketing perspective, but I think the fundamental advantage we want from a supply chain perspective is better forecasting.

What if the connection allowed us to be able to apply probability/statistical analysis based on knowing that a customer physically went into the store, went to a specific aisle or department, spoke to a sales person, etc., much like the analytics applied to on-line shopping. That’s where the connection to products in-store would make a difference and meet a fundamental need without the window dressing (pun intended). What do you see as a supply chain fad?

Want to learn more about Design for the Supply Chain? Check out the rest of the series:

Additional Resources


Ted Linklater
- May 27, 2016 at 2:57pm
As per our earlier discussions the Supply Chain discussion refers to consumer purchases and that in turn relates to the excellence of the marketing departments in using various media tools to promote products for the 10 - 35 year old demographic.
Ex: Music videos, connections to existing and not yet released social marketing apps.....

Therefore I feel that there must be strong and non-biased analytics from the marketing departments in order for new supply chain initiatives to be effective.
- August 21, 2016 at 11:48am
You are so interesting! I don't believe I've read through a single thing like that before. So great to discover somebody with some unique thoughts on this topic. Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This website is something that's needed on the web, someone with some originality!
Jonathan Lofton
- August 26, 2016 at 9:42am
ChanteRieger19, thank you for the feedback and encouragement and ... THANX for following the 21st Century Supply Chain blog!