Non-Traditional Supply Chain Pt 2: People

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In part one of this series I talked about how businesses trading in data as a commodity could be classified as using non-traditional supply chain. It was the most obvious case to prove non-traditional supply chain is actually a valid concept. After giving it some careful consideration, I can come up with an additional area that falls into the non-traditional supply chain category – people. Take my sister for example. Her job requires her to travel to multiple hospitals in the region to provide a service, and she often has to visit more than one location in a single day. As her employer it would be nice to know exactly where she is, how much she has left to do at each location, and what her ETA is for arriving at the next one. Short of installing a tracking device and camera to monitor her every move (I’m sure she’d love that!), the only option is to put in place a standardized procedure where she checks in with her supervisor at regularly scheduled intervals to give a status update. Great in theory, but full of potential pitfalls in practice. What happens when the unexpected strikes? Say her car breaks down, or traffic is heavier than normal or she’s delayed at one of the locations for reasons beyond her control. How does that impact the rest of the hospitals she’s scheduled to visit? Will she still be able to get all of her work done at all locations within the promised time frame? What if one of the other hospitals has a last-minute request. Can that be accommodated without disrupting the rest of the timetable? It’s starting to sound like they’re facing traditional supply chain challenges. So what are they doing? Right now they’re using the ‘best guess’ model, which often means overtime for my sister, and higher expenses for her employer. Too bad they don’t have the ability to quickly run what-if scenarios! Then they’d know if they needed to call in extra staff (change suppliers) or alter my sister’s work schedule to fit the changing demand (response management). Can you image the implications if businesses were able to more quickly and accurately track and analyze the movements and work of their employees? Hospital wait times could go down for routine procedures (there will always be emergencies), cable installers could give you a more accurate time frame for when they might show up, instead of saying sometime in the next four hours. Companies would be able to better predict how a potential delay or unexpected occurrence would impact the schedule and adjust accordingly. The cost savings could really add up, right alongside the customer satisfaction levels. Of course there are some huge hurdles that need to be overcome before that level of information would be available – most notably the fact the employees want to be treated as people and not data (rightly so!).

Do you agree there is such a thing as non-traditional supply chain? Can you think of any examples of companies using supply chain in non-traditional ways? Let me know in the comments section!


- May 08, 2015 at 5:33pm
Hi Alexa;

Thank's a lot for very interesting article. I have been former in Service based company (B to B markets), and have just send my application to them, for totally new job & responsible area. If I manage to get this (or similar job) it will include exactly those characters you have named in your article.

My example case is located in Airports / civil aviation / ground level services, where need of workers will variate every day, at certain intervals. Good thing is that there is always several workers (never one alone) coming & working in some places, then moving into next point (in area of airport).

Need to manage & plan human resources is obvious and driven by daily, weekly, monthly and Seasonal basis.
Daily needs occures at certain timetables, seasonal needs will mean also relocation between different airports.

IF I will get this new role in my ex-employer, I certainly will be looking for more good advises and tips for this kind of management of "human flow" as recourse.

Kindest Regards: Tapio

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