Innovation drives our economy. It’s what keeps American businesses on the cutting edge of technology, manufacturing and commerce. In every industry, however, innovation is always one step ahead of execution. The same is true for the logistics services industry. New ideas simply have to come before implementation.
When a light bulb goes off in someone's head, that's just step one. After that, the idea has to be thoroughly explored. What will it take to get it off the drawing board and up and running? Can this new, exciting breakthrough be supported by existing technology, or will whole new systems of software need to be developed? Will customers embrace it? Will it be cost effective?
There are so many questions to be answered. And, of course, all this takes time. But, it is time well spent. Especially when that time expenditure results in the realization of a startling and fresh innovation— something that revolutionizes an industry.
But what happens when the gap between ideation and realization starts to grow? After all, as quoted in the European Business Review article, "Segmenting for Success - From Value Chain Theory to Everyday Execution," great theories have very little value unless they can be "translated into everyday execution." Great ideas that never leave the drawing board are meaningless.
Can We Close the Supply Chain Gap?
In the consumer marketplace, innovations are always on the horizon. Modern, tech-savvy consumers are always in the market for the next big thing, and many of those "big things" show great promise.
The logistics services industry plays a major role in seeing some of those innovations come to life. Think drone deliveries. Think omni-channel fulfillment. But, before the logistics industry can contribute effectively to the innovations created by other industries, it must close its own innovation-execution gap.
A quick glance at the list of subject areas suggested by the VHA 2015 Supply Chain Management Innovation and Creativity Award shows us that there are many areas in the supply-chain industry that are ripe for innovation— fulfillment, forecasting, vendor management and information technologies. Criteria for the award is also telling. It includes ideas such as "creativity," "a willingness to take risks," "achieving measurable results" and establishing valuable lessons "for the entire industry."
This puts execution of innovation firmly where it belongs: into the hands of the individual companies that make up the industry. The ideas are out there. It's time to put them into action. How? Consider these points:
- Upgrade. Technology that worked yesterday is not necessarily the best tool for the problems of today. Avoid that old adage, "If it's not broke, don't fix it." Something doesn't have to be demonstrably broken to be outdated. A technology, for example, that saves only a few seconds on a single order may seem like an unnecessary advancement. Multiplied by thousands of orders daily, however, it will save thousands of hours yearly— for both you and your customers.
- Train. Both the newest ideas and the newest software will be wasted if your personnel cannot use them effectively. Whenever you're updating your processes, provide your employees with high-quality training so that they are always up to speed.
- Always look to the future. Never rest on your laurels. Success today does not guarantee success tomorrow. The businesses that thrive are those that stay one step ahead of everyone else in the industry. Always keep your eyes open for innovations and changes that can streamline your processes, cut your costs or better meet the needs of your clients. When you spot them, find ways to make them work.
The future is out there, just beyond our reach. It is up to those in the forefront of the logistics services industry to ensure that these tantalizing innovations don't simply molder on the drawing board, but come to life as everyday realities.