And The New Number One Is?

We offer our reflections on the recent Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference in Phoenix.

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Last Wednesday Amazon took home the top spot in the 2015 version of the 11th annual Gartner Supply Chain Top 25 at the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference.  This was my first time attending the conference, and I found the unveiling of the Top 25 to be very similar to an American College Football Top 25 Rankings Poll.  With the similarity being a set of experts who unveil picks twenty five down to the number one ranking, and discuss why each representative deserved their ranking.  However instead of discussing wins, losses, points scored, and turnovers which lead to a ranking: the Gartner Supply Chain executive team discusses top-tier supply chain organizations evaluating many factors. These include: peer opinion, Gartner opinion, inventory turns, return on assets, and revenue growth which lead to a ranking.

After attending the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference my top three takeaways are:

  1. Supply Chain Optimization is more than just cost takeout.  In 2015, a top performing supply chain must be able to remove inefficiencies, but also push top line revenue growth higher. This is accomplished through innovative services supporting new product offerings or entry into a new geography. One great example of a Qlik customer who was able to remove these inefficiencies is Greencore who specializes in ready-to-go foods in the United Kingdom.  In the case of Amazon, innovations have been rolled out for same day delivery in many major metropolitan areas, and new innovations are being piloted for future services like drone delivery as well as direct delivery to the trunk/boot of an Audi in Germany.  Gartner refers to the dual role of a supply chain as “bimodal”, and it underscores the changing role of the supply chain.
  2. Supplier Collaboration is incredibly important, but we still use spreadsheets.  Several speakers at the event discussed supply chain business intelligence, and how important it is to share performance data with key suppliers.  For instance, retailers want to share in-store stock levels and inventory turns data with suppliers to so both parties can create a more accurate demand forecast. They can also hold suppliers accountable for perfect order metrics like service level, fill rate, and on-time delivery.  Yet, most speakers admitted they still fall back on Excel spreadsheets for some component of supply chain business intelligence.  There is no better way to share performance data with key suppliers than a visual analytics dashboard, as shown here in our Qlik Product Availability Solution Demonstration App.
  3. Digital Matters.  The Internet of Things is more than just a marketing message.  Sensors are becoming pervasive across many industries including manufacturing, retail, transportation, and logistics.  What I learned at the Gartner Supply Chain conference was the technology behind sensors is coming down in price which will encourage further adoption.  A great example of how data generated from sensors can be found is discussed in an article from Computing UK indicating, “GE is using sensors to collect data to manage and repair jet engines preemptively, detecting tiny faults before they have a chance to grow to big ones”. 

With my first Gartner Supply Chain Executive Summit in the books, my big picture point of view is the classic supply chain challenges around visibility and data everywhere are going to become more prominent in the future.  Organizations who master those challenges may claim the top spots of future Top 25 Gartner Supply Chain rankings, and more importantly continue to be relevant in the global economy.

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