What matters next for supply chain management? An insider’s look at day one of Kinexions ’18.

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It’s not about the future. It’s about what’s beyond it. And when it comes to what matters next for supply chains and supply chain management, it’s all about two things: digital, and the people enabling it. Hundreds of supply chain managers, planners, executives and experts gathered in National Harbor, MD on October 16 for the kickoff of Kinexions ’18, our annual user and training conference, to learn how to digitize, transform and revolutionize their supply chains. The opening keynote presentations didn’t disappoint.

Supply chain digitization

“We’re well on the journey to digitization,” said Kinaxis CEO John Sicard. A poignant reminder that despite all the hype recently, many of the ‘latest innovations’ people are screaming about have actually been around and available in products like Kinaxis RapidResponse® for years. But despite the differences between us – country, industry, age, gender and role – we’re all asking the same question. What comes next? For Kinaxis, the answer is simple: continue doing the impossible. We certainly have the experience and drive to do it. Twenty years ago we broke the supply chain planning software mold, doing things people just couldn’t fathom ever being possible. We’ve continued on that path ever since and once again find ourselves challenging the status quo—this time around some of the industries biggest trends like optimization, silos and the future of work.

Be an original thinker

Pulling off the impossible requires a few critical pieces. Adam Grant, named one of the world’s 10 most influential management thinkers, provided insights into one of the biggest pieces during his keynote—what it takes to be an original. And by original, he’s talking about those big idea thinkers who are revolutionizing the world we live in. He outlines five ways to help companies and individuals become more innovative, and foster a culture that nurtures and enables ‘originals.’

  1. Put your worst foot forward It’s much harder for others to find flaws in an idea if you’ve already pointed them out ahead of time.
  2. Make the unfamiliar, familiar It takes at least 10-20 repetitions of an idea for someone to actually comprehend it.
  3. Create psychological safety Executives need to foster a culture where criticism, even of them, is okay.
  4. Enlist the right allies One bad apple can spoil the bunch more than one good egg can help, so focus on keeping the wrong people off the team.
  5. Encourage help-seeking Create a model where everyone asks for, but also gives, help and support.

If you have an idea, don’t sit on it. And if you hear an idea, don’t dismiss it, no matter how crazy it may sound at first. People and their influence is one of the most powerful forces on Earth.

Just ask Tricia Wang, global tech ethnographer.

Three phases of big data

The difference between companies with enviable supply chains and those barely struggling to stay afloat isn’t some miraculous new technology. It’s the idea that doing digital isn’t the same as being digital. And being digital means taking a customer-centric approach to not only your supply chain, but your entire business. Wang says it’s possible to succeed at innovation, but fail miserably at decision-making. Companies that fall into that trap are company-centric and most often looking for magical data unicorns, instead of what really matters. Human insight and stories, or as Wang calls it, ‘thick data.’ Thick data is the backbone of Data 3.0, which is the maturity stage where companies drive value from insights, not just data. Access to data is no longer a viable competitive advantage. Companies stuck in Data 1.0, which focuses on implementing new tools, and Data 2.0, which focuses on making sure you have the skills in which to use those tools, are purely data-driven, and will ultimately reach a failure point. For companies Ford, MSD (known as Merck & Co., Inc. in the US and Canada) and Clorox, they’re taking steps to prevent that failure through supply chain innovation.

Supply chain strategies for the future

Multiple, disconnected ERPs, difficulty integrating people and technology, and the battle of optimization versus transformation are all challenges Ford, Merck and Clorox were facing before implementing RapidResponse to help drive their digital supply chain transformations. Kirk Niehaus, VP of Global Supply Chain Planning for Clorox says his company had no choice but to make the move to digital if they wanted to stay successful. But it wasn’t an easy process. Clorox needed to clearly define what digital meant to their company, outline what the benefits were for the entire organization, and get buy-in on the strategy from the very top. Merck put their focus on integrating people and technology after a cyber attack left them on the edge of disaster, with only RapidResponse able to bring them back. Doug Kelly, Director, Enterprise Solutions for Merck says their supply chain strategy is to solve problems for today and the future. David Thomas, the recently retired Director, Global Capacity Planning, for Ford says for him, there was no choice when it came to the debate on optimization versus synchronization. How can you optimize something when you can’t even add everything up because you don’t have all the numbers in one place? But he perhaps best summed up the theme of the conference when he said:

“You must always transform, not just incrementally improve. Otherwise you’ll never see the benefits you’re looking for.”

For more information on digital supply chain transformations, check out our on-demand webinar, Building the foundation of your digital supply chain.

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