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Why 3D Printed Food Just Transformed Your Supply Chain

Hans Thalbauer

Numerous sectors are experimenting with 3D printing, which has the potential to disrupt many markets. One that’s already making progress is the food industry.

The U.S. Army hopes to use 3D printers to customize food for each soldier. NASA is exploring 3D printing of food in space. The technology could eventually even end hunger around the world.

What does that have to do with your supply chain? Quite a bit — because 3D printing does more than just revolutionize the production process. It also requires a complete realignment of the supply chain.

And the way 3D printing transforms the supply chain holds lessons for how organizations must reinvent themselves in the new era of the extended supply chain.

Supply chain spaghetti junction

The extended supply chain replaces the old linear chain with not just a network, but a network of networks. The need for this network of networks is being driven by four key factors: individualized products, the sharing economy, resource scarcity, and customer-centricity.

To understand these forces, imagine you operate a large restaurant chain, and you’re struggling to differentiate yourself against tough competition. You’ve decided you can stand out by delivering customized entrees. In fact, you’re going to leverage 3D printing to offer personalized pasta.

With 3D printing technology, you can make one-off pasta dishes on the fly. You can give customers a choice of ingredients (gluten-free!), flavors (salted caramel!), and shapes (Leaning Towers of Pisa!). You can offer the personalized pasta in your restaurants, in supermarkets, and on your ecommerce website.

You may think this initiative simply requires you to transform production. But that’s just the beginning. You also need to re-architect research and development, demand signals, asset management, logistics, partner management, and more.

First, you need to develop the matrix of ingredients, flavors, and shapes you’ll offer. As part of that effort, you’ll have to consider health and safety regulations.

Then, you need to shift some of your manufacturing directly into your kitchens. That will also affect packaging requirements. Logistics will change as well, because instead of full truckloads, you’ll be delivering more frequently, with more variety, and in smaller quantities.

Next, you need to perfect demand signals to anticipate which pasta variations in which quantities will come through which channels. You need to manage supply signals source more kinds of raw materials in closer to real time.

Last, the source of your signals will change. Some will continue to come from point of sale. But others, such as supplies replenishment and asset maintenance, can come direct from your 3D printers.

Four key ingredients of the extended supply chain

As with our pasta scenario, the drivers of the extended supply chain require transformation across business models and business processes. First, growing demand for individualized products calls for the same shifts in R&D, asset management, logistics, and more that 3D printed pasta requires.

Second, as with the personalized entrees, the sharing economy integrates a network of partners, from suppliers to equipment makers to outsourced manufacturing, all electronically and transparently interconnected, in real time and all the time.

Third, resource scarcity involves pressures not just on raw materials but also on full-time and contingent labor, with the necessary skills and flexibility to support new business models and processes.

And finally, for personalized pasta sellers and for your own business, it all comes down to customer-centricity. To compete in today’s business environment and to meet current and future customer expectations, all your operations must increasingly revolve around rapidly comprehending and responding to customer demand.

Want to learn more? Check out my recent video on digitalizing the extended supply chain or download the latest SAP white paper around digitizing the extended supply chain.

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Hans Thalbauer

About Hans Thalbauer

Hans Thalbauer is the Senior Vice President, Extended Supply Chain, at SAP. He is responsible for the strategic direction and the Go-To-Market of solutions for Supply Chain, Logistics, Engineering/R&D, Manufacturing, Asset Management and Sustainability at SAP.

Three Factors Driving Business Agility

Anja Reschke

Why is business agility important in today’s digital era? Without it, you may be outwitted by swift new competitors that move into your industry. You might also risk becoming irrelevant, according to the SAP eBook, The Digital Economy: Reinventing the Business World.

Every sector is at risk of digital disruption, and you need to take action and adjust quickly in order to remain successful in today’s digital economy.

A group of consulting, technology, and business leaders from across the consumer goods spectrum addressed this issue at a recent forum. Their findings are outlined in the whitepaper, Rethinking the Value Chain: New Realities in Collaborative Business by Capgemini Consulting and The Consumer Goods Forum.

Three business agility influencers

The group determined that three key factors are significantly altering the business landscape and persuading companies to change the way they traditionally do business in order to become more agile:

  1. Consumers are changing. Consumer demands are increasing, and their omni-channel path-to-purchase is no longer linear. Their customer experience could involve a mobile app, web research, social media, an in-store visit, and an online purchase – in any order. They are also more influenced by online social networks than by conventional advertising methods, and they expect quick outcomes from responsive companies.
  1. Business is changing. Innovative business partnerships are becoming more important and technology is accelerating competition. There is an increasing threat from agile high-tech companies and start-ups that don’t follow established go-to-market patterns. Digital companies with completely new business models are gaining a competitive advantage as they boldly cross formerly well-established market boundaries.
  1. The world is changing. Global economics and demographics are shifting. Emerging markets are growing rapidly, with a different set of needs that agile companies are more capable of responding to quickly.

The biggest obstacle to business agility

The most challenging hurdle for business agility comes down to one thing: complexity.

Large organizations are so complex – with multiple layers, business units, legacy systems, and departmental silos – that agility seems almost impossible. But the ongoing pressures of the digital economy are forcing even the most complex global companies to become more agile just to stay competitive. What steps are you taking to make your company more agile?

For an in-depth look at how the digital era is affecting business, download the SAP eBook, The Digital Economy: Reinventing the Business World.

To learn more about the multiple factors driving digital transformation, download the SAP eBook, Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Transforming Our World.

Learn how digital technology is transforming the healthcare industry in the SAP eBook, Connected Care: The Digital Pulse of Global Healthcare.

Discover Five Things That Will Increase Your Business Agility.

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Anja Reschke

About Anja Reschke

Anja Reschke is the Senior Director of Strategic Ecosystem Marketing at SAP. She is responsible for the development of joint strategic marketing plans, programs, and activities, with global strategic services and technology partners.

How To Catch Up In The Digital Transformation Race

Paul Clark

It’s been said that every business is now a technology business, and if the competition is already forcing digital transformation in your industry, then it’s already too late for you to catch up.

I don’t buy that.

I don’t think it’s too late for any company to change course and succeed in today’s digital economy. New technology and innovative business models are cropping up everyday and changing the business landscape in multiple sectors, so there’s always something you can do about it. Indeed, a recent McKinsey article helps formulate some ways that incumbents can anticipate and deal with digital disruption.

The journey to business innovation

According to the SAP eBook, The Digital Economy: Reinventing the Business World, there are five main areas that organizations can focus on as they move toward digital transformation:

  1. Improve your customer experience. Innovate your products and services with a relentless customer-centric focus. Use streamlined messaging and a consistent approach through multiple customer touch points. You might also want to consider mobile customer engagement.
  1. Digitize your core business. Automate your processes with faster, simpler systems, and seamless integration between multiple areas of your business and value chain.
  1. Enhance your digital capabilities and create value from data. Focus on boosting your digital capabilities through advanced analytics, agile platforms, and continuous delivery. Consider a business model based on data, with digitally enhanced IoT products, and product-related services based on sensor data.
  1. Connect your workforce. Focus on training, attracting, and retaining employees and contractors with the high-tech skill set needed to support an innovative business model.
  1. Build your business network. Strengthen relationships with existing partners, and expand your digital ecosystem by working with innovative, and perhaps atypical but relevant organizations that could enhance your positioning.

Innovating in the digital era is not just about adopting new technologies. It is also about embracing a culture of innovation, encouraging collaboration, and tapping into digital ecosystems to achieve results well beyond the scope of an individual organization.

I don’t think it’s too late for any business to catch up. But you might want to be quick about it.

For an in-depth look at how the digital era is affecting business, download the SAP eBook, The Digital Economy: Reinventing The Business World.

Discover the multiple factors driving digital transformation in the SAP eBook, Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Transforming Our World.

Have you already gone through digital transformation in your business? Find out how to reinvent an entire industry.

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Paul Clark

About Paul Clark

Paul Clark is the Senior Director of Technology Partner Marketing at SAP. He is responsible for developing and executing partner marketing strategies, activities, and programs in joint go-to-market plans with global technology partners. The goal is to increase opportunities, pipeline, and revenue through demand generation via SAP's global and local partner ecosystems.

How Much Will Digital Cannibalization Eat into Your Business?

Fawn Fitter

Former Cisco CEO John Chambers predicts that 40% of companies will crumble when they fail to complete a successful digital transformation.

These legacy companies may be trying to keep up with insurgent companies that are introducing disruptive technologies, but they’re being held back by the ease of doing business the way they always have – or by how vehemently their customers object to change.

Most organizations today know that they have to embrace innovation. The question is whether they can put a digital business model in place without damaging their existing business so badly that they don’t survive the transition. We gathered a panel of experts to discuss the fine line between disruption and destruction.

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qa_qIn 2011, when Netflix hiked prices and tried to split its streaming and DVD-bymail services, it lost 3.25% of its customer base and 75% of its market capitalization.²︐³ What can we learn from that?

Scott Anthony: That debacle shows that sometimes you can get ahead of your customers. The key is to manage things at the pace of the market, not at your internal speed. You need to know what your customers are looking for and what they’re willing to tolerate. Sometimes companies forget what their customers want and care about, and they try to push things on them before they’re ready.

R. “Ray” Wang: You need to be able to split your traditional business and your growth business so that you can focus on big shifts instead of moving the needle 2%. Netflix was responding to its customers – by deciding not to define its brand too narrowly.

qa_qDoes disruption always involve cannibalizing your own business?

Wang: You can’t design new experiences in existing systems. But you have to make sure you manage the revenue stream on the way down in the old business model while managing the growth of the new one.

Merijn Helle: Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are putting a lot of capital into digital initiatives that aren’t paying enough back yet in the form of online sales, and they’re cannibalizing their profits so they can deliver a single authentic experience. Customers don’t see channels, they see brands; and they want to interact with brands seamlessly in real time, regardless of channel or format.

Lars Bastian: In manufacturing, new technologies aren’t about disrupting your business model as much as they are about expanding it. Think about predictive maintenance, the ability to warn customers when the product they’ve purchased will need service. You’re not going to lose customers by introducing new processes. You have to add these digitized services to remain competitive.

qa_qIs cannibalizing your own business better or worse than losing market share to a more innovative competitor?

Michael Liebhold: You have to create that digital business and mandate it to grow. If you cannibalize the existing business, that’s just the price you have to pay.

Wang: Companies that cannibalize their own businesses are the ones that survive. If you don’t do it, someone else will. What we’re really talking about is “Why do you exist? Why does anyone want to buy from you?”

Anthony: I’m not sure that’s the right question. The fundamental question is what you’re using disruption to do. How do you use it to strengthen what you’re doing today, and what new things does it enable? I think you can get so consumed with all the changes that reconfigure what you’re doing today that you do only that. And if you do only that, your business becomes smaller, less significant, and less interesting.

qa_qSo how should companies think about smart disruption?

Anthony: Leaders have to reconfigure today and imagine tomorrow at the same time. It’s not either/or. Every disruptive threat has an equal, if not greater, opportunity. When disruption strikes, it’s a mistake only to feel the threat to your legacy business. It’s an opportunity to expand into a different marke.

SAP_Disruption_QA_images2400x1600_4Liebhold: It starts at the top. You can’t ask a CEO for an eight-figure budget to upgrade a cloud analytics system if the C-suite doesn’t understand the power of integrating data from across all the legacy systems. So the first task is to educate the senior team so it can approve the budgets.

Scott Underwood: Some of the most interesting questions are internal organizational questions, keeping people from feeling that their livelihoods are in danger or introducing ways to keep them engaged.

Leon Segal: Absolutely. If you want to enter a new market or introduce a new product, there’s a whole chain of stakeholders – including your own employees and the distribution chain. Their experiences are also new. Once you start looking for things that affect their experience, you can’t help doing it. You walk around the office and say, “That doesn’t look right, they don’t look happy. Maybe we should change that around.”

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. 

To learn more about how to disrupt your business without destroying it, read the in-depth report Digital Disruption: When to Cook the Golden Goose.

Download the PDF (1.2MB)

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Internet Of Things: Where Is All The Data Going?

Tim Clark

The Internet of Things (IoT) is no longer happening in a galaxy far, far away. It’s happening right here, right now. It may be in your pocket, on your wrist, in your clothes – heck, it might even be helping you drive your car.

In fact, IoT is moving so fast, we’re actually on the third wave, according to a panel of experts who weighed in on the topic during a recent episode of Internet of Things with Game-Changers, presented by SAP.

However, a nagging questions arises when it comes to this third IoT wave: What’s going to happen to all the data that’s being collected?

Coping with IoT reality

Gray Scott, futurist and founder/CEO of seriouswonder.com believes serious questions remain around IoT data collection because technology is moving faster than we can cope with.

“The main thing I’m concerned with right now, is getting people to understand that the Internet of Things is already in their lives,” said Scott. “So if you look around your house, either your television, refrigerator, or some of your appliances – they are probably already connected.”

And because IoT is now permeating our everyday lives, it must provide tangible results to consumers and businesses, according to JR Fuller of HP Enterprises.

“It can’t just take our data and subject us to additional advertising, which is one of the ways that it pays for itself,” said Fuller. “It has to provide something to us. It has to provide convenience.”

Evangelizing IoT convenience

The conveniences of IoT, such as a refrigerator that breaks down and automatically alerts the manufacturer to send a repairman, needs to be evangelized during this critical time, said Ira Berk, Vice President of Digital Transformation Solutions, SAP. Making proper use of the massive amounts of data IoT generates also plays a critical role in evangelizing its benefits.

“Think about what happens when you start to mix and match different sources of information,” said Berk. “You start to understand the data behind the world around you. In your house, car, environment, earth, public transportation, smart cities and factories. What questions can you ask that you wouldn’t even imagine being able to ask before, because you can start to synthesize the information?”

Gray Scott believes synthesizing different data sources “is a continuum of everything,” a great example being traffic in urban areas. Apps like Waze and Google Maps help drivers circumvent traffic.

“It’s a physical thing that can grab a hold of data and literally rearrange our lives by changing the direction you take your car in,” said Scott. “This continuum is going to keep building on itself as we move forward into the future.”

Living in a post-privacy world

While the general populace may not want to admit it, we are living in a post-privacy world. Anything put online is made public and everything that can be hacked, will. The question is what do we do with all of that data? Can we rise to a higher state of humanity and not just use data for advertising purposes, but to make our lives more convenient?

“I think we don’t mind giving up some of our personal information if it benefits us,” said JR Fuller. “It makes for a very interesting time, especially companies that can add value to bridge the gap and help enterprises achieve the benefit that we know are possible with IoT.”

Internet of Things with Game-Changers, presented by SAP, is hosted by Bonnie D. Graham. Listen to this broadcast in its entirety here.

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Top image: Shutterstock

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Tim Clark

About Tim Clark

Tim Clark is the Head of Brand Journalism at SAP. He is responsible for evangelizing and implementing writing best practices that generate results across blog channels, integrated marketing plans and native advertising efforts.