Sharing Is Caring: Networking Facilities, People, And Assets For Supply Chain Success

Richard Howells

Companies such as Uber and Airbnb are impacting your business, whether you realize it or not.

In addition to spurring today’s sharing economy, these two leading companies have figured out ways to navigate this complex environment.

With Uber and Airbnb having turned traditional business processes completely upside down, companies in every industry and line of business are left grappling with how to cope.

Supply chain organizations have been particularly cautious about entering the sharing economy. In fact, only nine percent of companies consider themselves “fast movers” in capitalizing on the monetization opportunities presented by the sharing economy, according to recent SCM World research.

By simply combining their facilities, people, and assets, however, supply chain organizations can begin leveraging their strengths more broadly and thriving in today’s sharing economy.

Create an ecosystem that provides networked opportunities

The old adage that there’s strength in numbers is tried and true. Companies operating in today’s sharing economy are subscribing to this idiom in earnest. That’s because the sharing economy consists of a network of networks, and business leaders are increasingly discovering that the effective management of these networks will enable collaborative success.

From project networks, which drive collaboration across departments and companies, to supplier networks, which streamline the selection, onboarding, and compliance of suppliers and their materials, networks provide myriad opportunities for companies to work together and fuel their business growth.

While a majority of the supply chain community maintains its independence, a growing number of organizations are co-managing their resources, especially with regard to their facilities, people, and assets.

Here’s how:

  • Facilities: If your company specializes in the manufacturing and selling of Halloween gear, you likely won’t have much activity after October 31. Why not rent out your production facilities and/or warehouse space to a business that can use it through the winter, spring, and summer months? More and more, organizations are capitalizing on lulls in activity by opening up their facilities to partners – and even competitors – to reduce costs. In a recent SCM World survey, 56% of respondents found this strategy low-risk, while 53% considered it high-reward.
  • People: Working in a shared facility enables organizations to take advantage of the skills and expertise of their partners’ employees. Businesses can also reap the benefits of a shared workforce through the use of contingent staff. More than 50% of the supply chain community employs temporary workers in skill-based positions or seasonal roles. This enables businesses to fill essential talent gaps while minimizing the long-term costs of employing regular, full-time staff.
  • Assets: In addition to sharing manufacturing assets in joint facilities, organizations are increasingly taking advantage of one another’s logistics networks and benefiting from partners’ data. The former enables companies to optimize their transportation fulfillment needs, helping businesses to maintain low shipping costs while delivering products quickly and safely. The latter, meanwhile, empowers multiple organizations to visualize real-time insights, so they can conduct predictive maintenance and provide buyers with superior customer experiences.

Take a cue from these fast movers

A number of leading organizations are combining their relative strengths to succeed in today’s sharing economy.

Dr Pepper Snapple is collaborating with two competitors to optimize its distribution operations. The three organizations share a combined supply and customer collaboration solution that gives them real-time insight across the network and helps them better deliver their products to market.

Pfizer, meanwhile, is using a collaborative Web portal to provide the company and its partners with increased visibility into their customers, suppliers, contract manufacturers, and third-party logistics providers. This enables a greater, stronger link between partners and increases operational efficiencies.

Finally, UPS, Fast Radius, and SAP recently partnered to create an on-demand 3D printing manufacturing network. By combining the respective companies’ logistics expertise, manufacturing capabilities, and extended supply chain offerings, the organizations are optimally equipped to help customers reduce low-selling, onsite inventory; customize goods; and enable small production/prototype runs.

Reimagine your organization and flourish in today’s sharing economy

Achieving success in the sharing economy requires imagination. A decade ago, few people would have considered calling a stranger for a car ride or spending the night out somewhere other than a hotel.

Companies such as Uber and Airbnb have changed all that. They’ve helped to usher in a brand-new age of connectivity, where, through sophisticated platforms, customers and companies are continuously linked.

Collaboration shouldn’t be relegated to merely buyers and businesses, however. Organizations must reimagine how they operate, partnering with other companies and combining their supply networks, logistics networks, asset networks, and other networks to create value across the extended supply chain.

Read this SCM World white paper, "Connecting the Shared Economy," to discover how your business can begin aligning people, processes, and technology to drive profitable growth.

About Richard Howells

Richard Howells is a Vice President at SAP responsible for the positioning, messaging, AR , PR and go-to market activities for the SAP Supply Chain solutions.