Almost every company would love to have their innovation plucked from thin air; to set all the trends and lead their industries in every way possible. In reality, however? Supply chain strategies often borrow ideas and learn from the mistakes of their competitors, rather than slogging through everything the hard way. No single company's supply chain nails all the bullseyes across the board, but some come close enough to warrant a mix of awe, study and emulation. Here are three worth keeping notes on when it comes to your own supply chain strategy:
Apple: Hope for the Best and Plan Otherwise
Gary Meyers of Supply and Demand Chain Executive points to a make-or-break moment in Apple's recent push to get the hotly-anticipated Apple Watch to market. When the so-called "taptic" engine revealed a fatal flaw in ongoing testing just as millions of units were preparing to ship out, a lesser company might have panicked and torpedoed the project's momentum. Apple, rising above the problem, calmly switched gears to their backup supplier and moved forward with only a slight delay. Admitting and planning for potential problems—even in a "superstar" offering—isn't always easy, but Apple knew that overall company momentum meant more than pride. Ask yourself how you would respond if a component of your most popular product or service was found to be flawed or harmful—would you need to consider and plan in the moment, or do you know exactly what your next step would be? Apple knew, and so should your company.
P&G: We're All in This Together
Steve Banker of Logistics Viewpoints expresses insider admiration for the efforts of P&G's C-suite to connect cause-and-effect beyond the warehouse. Their proprietary blend of analytical tools and reports allows the company to take logistical advantage of not-strictly-logistic opportunities that may still affect shipping in the long run. This unprecedented top-down view makes implementing changes and decisions infinitely easier; P&G actually keeps actionable "playbooks" at the ready for when certain parameter sets show on their advanced analytic dashboards. If your business doesn't have a control center or sphere-like connection between departments yet, it may be time to start laying the groundwork by following P&G's lead. Not only will it facilitate communication and discussions on strategic planning with other areas of the company, it will also help reinforce the importance of supply chain strategy in meetings with the C-suite.
Cisco: Land on Your Feet
It seems as though technology is moving faster than we can adapt to it, and in the case of Cisco, that had the potential to be very bad for profits. When the movement of the market flipped the company's former focus on buyable hardware and free software to the opposite end of the spectrum, their in-place systems were suddenly—and devastatingly—pointed in the wrong direction. Like the old fable of the Oak and Willow, rather than try and force the market back to their strategy, they adapted and rose to the challenge. Cisco recognized the tides shifting and rapidly reorganized their supply chain to accommodate it. Can your business survive a radical change in the market? Building an expectation of adaptability and talking out the "what ifs" on a regular basis will help keep you on your feet if the rug is suddenly pulled out from under your sector.
Your supply chain strategy and structure is unique to your company, but that doesn't mean it can't be optimized by mimicking some very successful businesses. At their cores, all supply chains share similar goals, and success—even through emulation, as long as it's ethically achieved—should remain as the ultimate goal.