Is a Measured Approach to Supply Chain Collaboration Best?

Published : April 4, 2015

tape-measure-extendedPredictability is one of the most valuable assets in a supply chain. Arguably, the greatest threat of disruption comes from not knowing about or not properly anticipating shortages, surpluses or delays. Therefore, it would seem straightforward to equate supply chain risk mitigation with a slow-to-grow, highly researched pace that eschews snap decisions—but that's not necessarily the case.

The history of business itself underscores the need for leaps of faith and the fact that risks deliver rewards, so why should supply chain collaboration take a back seat to progress?

Think, Don't Overthink

If decision-makers ignored the upstarts and startups, the industry-wide result would be a lot more big names eventually capsizing from the proverbial death of a thousand cuts. Why do startups—small, lean enterprises with no real capital to speak of—succeed and grab up market share from more established names? The answer is agility.

Without as much "cargo" to slow their movements, these businesses are able to make fast decisions that seize in-the-moment opportunities and turn them into profitable endeavors very quickly. The steady backbone of the supply chain isn't immune to this David-vs-Goliath story, and smart companies learn from the example by getting on board with collaboration before they have to.

The Actual Cost of Collaboration Opportunities

It usually costs nothing to hear an idea, little more to research it. The largest investment is found in implementation. Make no mistake, though—missing an opportunity is the greatest cost of all. When you err on the side of caution too often, that missed opportunity can ripple through your supply chain, amplifying itself at every jump. A slowdown or shortage at your material provider can slow up your manufacturer, who in turn slows up your warehouse team, and so on. If you aren't calculating what this seemingly small hiccup will end up costing you in lost business, empty shelves or added work, you're not seeing the big picture.

It's Time to Talk as an Industry

Brad Huff of Digital Supply Chain cautions that holding your cards too close to your chest may mean you'll get left in the dust as rivals embrace supply chain innovations like cloud computing and real-time stock visibility throughout your chain. Scheduled supply chain assessment and upgrades may seem like a tidy approach that fits neatly into a long-range business plan, so why not use it? If it doesn't give you the flexibility to take those gambles, those leaps of faith as they present themselves, it's going to end up being too restrictive on your overall growth and evolution.

Innovative supply chain tech is the rising tide that’s lifting all boats, and it's time to climb on board. Yes, it may mean that you and your competitors end up using the same software or even the same supplier, but better to remain competitive at the front of the race than end up out of it entirely.

Let Go of Your Legacy In Order to Build One

Supply chain risk mitigation is undoubtedly easier when it’s applied to the same legacy systems and technology you've been using for years. Risk is holistic, however, and opportunity risk needs to make your checklist as much as shortages and delays do. Supply Chain Management Review's Patrick Burnson mentions that even huge names like Oracle are getting in on the cloud computing in supply chain management trend, so it's all but officially been declared as a lasting trend. If Oracle's looking towards the future, isn't it time you considered it as well?

Ultimately, your resources and risk profile will determine how big of a step you're able to take in terms of collaboration, but taking no step at all is a mistake. Don't let supply chain risk mitigation and fear of collaboration become your albatross. Enthusiastically adopting new viewpoints and opportunities and staying competitive will be a given, rather than a goal.

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Topics: Supply Chain Logistics

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