Yes Virginia, there is a Supply Chain

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My children are getting to the age now where the question that inspired the title of this blog is creeping into our dinner conversations. Luckily for me, the suggested twist in this classic exchange is not nearly as contentious or potentially upsetting as its original… Or is it? Unlike our belief in Santa Claus which starts out with us as toddlers “knowing” that he exists and progressing through a cycle of hoping, questioning, doubting, to ultimately, and somewhat tragically realizing that he…

Our adoption of the notion of Supply Chain Management as business strategy is often the opposite ̶ from disbelief/disinterest, to fervent conviction that it is so.

As children we knew everything there was to know about Santa Claus, we had no trouble putting a face to the name and he knew exactly what we wanted before we even asked, we understood his order management system, received order confirmations, we knew how his products were made, his method of delivery, his key suppliers, his delivery route, landed cost (naughty/nice, sleeping/awake), due date/promise date, we were able to reduce the bullwhip effect by (subconsciously) sharing our anticipated demands with his suppliers, many of us could even receive advanced shipping notices and track our packages through NORAD. Yes it’s true, Santa has one of the most sophisticated supply chain networks in the world. Yes Virginia, there is a Supply Chain And yet, with this fact so deeply woven into our fabric of early life, why do some of us have trouble acknowledging that EVERY organization needs a sophisticated and competitive Supply Chain? I don’t mean to imply that this is the rule, surely we have seen the successes of many large, multinational corporations rise to astronomical heights based on the strength of their Supply Chains. Something that seems to be getting more and more attention in the mainstream media. Take this excerpt from an article in the Huffington Post written by Peter Henderson and Poornima Gupta where they state (of Tim Cook, CEO of Apple)

“…Rather, it was the speed of the global launch that astounded, validating the new CEO’s much-touted wizardry at the essential but unglamorous task of managing a supply chain.”

Read more about this article: My disbelief refers to the laggards, the late adopters of the advancing principals of Supply Chain Management. We see it too often, companies closing their doors because they were unable to compete with the giants of their industry, or even some of these giants closing their doors due to ballooning inventories often directly related to a loss of control of their Supply Chains. Yet, these companies faced the same problems that the successful ones did; their key competitive advantage (I would argue) was how they managed their supply chains. One passage of the classic newspaper column stands out to me in this… Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s not proof that they are not there. So, to all the doubters out there who feel inclined to ask “Is it real?” I will borrow the words of Francis Pharcellus Church… Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Supply Chain strategy! It lives, and it lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, it will continue to make glad the hearts of all.

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- October 18, 2012 at 11:00am
Yes I agree - Most of companies don't want to invest much in Supply Chain because it is complicated and the day-to-day business is often enough...Meaning fulfilling the orders more or less on-time is okay for firms.

But it's true that some companies go bankrupt because of an inefficent supply chain, mainly to poor anticipation and poor transformation. See all the disease in China, Japan and flood in Thailand that mess up many companies (HP, IBM, Apple,...)
Navdeep Sidhu
- October 18, 2012 at 1:24pm
"Santa has one of the most sophisticated supply chain networks in the world."

How does Santa deliver presents all around the world in one night? Supply chain management! (maybe not the typical response from most parents) But if Santa can use supply chain management to help run his global business than who are we to doubt it's value! I actually think it's a great metaphor.
Trisha Banerjee
- October 22, 2012 at 4:17am
I most definitely agree - most companies aren't willing to put aside enough budget for supply chain but they fail to see its high-end advantages. Here is an interview to focus on logistics strategy to help improve this short-coming -
Bradley Elliot
- March 10, 2014 at 1:02am
Thanks a lots to deliver this sort of information!
Franz Klammer
- August 14, 2018 at 12:24pm
What's interesting, albeit sad, is that among the many huge multi national companies out their, each with their own customized methods of demand management and supply strategies is that there is a spectrum from infant behaviors to adult maturity that predominate. It begs the question as we mature technologically, will Artificial Intelligence ( aka Santa ) fix all/most of our woes in the supply chain? Or will it like Ex Machina leave us dead?

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