Fast – But Not Too Fast – Wins The Race In Supply Chain Management

Richard Howells

Bonnie D. Graham, host of The Digital Transformation of Your Supply Chain with Game-Changers podcast, opened her recent show by recounting the tale of “The Tortoise and the Hare.”

You know the story: A slow but steady turtle beats a swift yet arrogant rabbit in a footrace.

Bonnie used the Aesop fable to illustrate two points about supply chain management:

  1. If you respond too slowly to your customers’ needs, you risk being left behind.
  1. If you respond too quickly, you risk acting without the proper insight.

The truth is, you need to strike the perfect balance, responding in a timely fashion with sound information that adequately supports your response.

One of the panelists on the show, Eric Simonson, director of solution management at SAP, likened this to another well-known tale: “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

Your supply chain organization, he suggests, needs to respond to its consumers just right.

Don’t just respond – predict

Responding to the needs of your supply chain customers is one thing. Anticipating consumers’ needs is something else altogether.

“Basically, if we look back into what we’re trying to do traditionally in supply chain management and supply chain planning, specifically,” said guest Jeroen Kusters, senior manager of supply chain management at Deloitte, “is we’re trying to predict the future.”

He admits, however, that “we’re always a little bit wrong.”

How can we change this?

The key is gaining an optimal view of the information you have at your disposal. In addition to taking a deeper dive into your own data, it’s important to have some insight into your supply chain partners’ information. This will enable your company to respond earlier – with greater accuracy – and even help you predict future demand.

Supply chain in the year 2020 and beyond

At one point during the podcast, Bonnie asked her panel of experts what they think the future holds for supply chain management.

Jeroen envisions organizations better integrating their planning, response management, and other operations across the entire supply chain. This will allow companies and their partners to more easily share – and capitalize on – customer insight and other key data.

Eric foresees a world where digital collaboration is much more prominent.

“[M]aybe it’ll start with the supplier side of things,” he says, “and then, eventually … we can get to some of the customer collaboration type, too, to get some better demand visibility.”

With a more holistic view into what’s happening across the entire supply chain, your business is primed to provide well-informed, timely responses to ever-evolving consumer demands.

Srini Bangalore, managing director at Deloitte, believes the immediate future of supply chain revolves around digitalization. But his long-term outlook is more focused on cognitive intelligence.

“I look at cognitive supply chain as a 20-year journey,” he says, “where your machines and computing systems that you use within your supply chain have machine-based intelligence. They can learn, they can problem solve, and they can make decisions on your behalf in the processes in your extended supply chain. The role of a human being is to actually augment the machines.”

A first-rate lesson in digital response and supply chain management

As discussed on the show, predicting the future isn’t easy. But if you’re going to listen to anybody about what direction supply chain is headed in, it ought to be industry thought leaders like Eric Simonson, Jeroen Kusters, and Srini Bangalore.

Check out the entire episode of The Digital Transformation of Your Supply Chain with Game-Changers to hear more expert opinions on digital response and supply chain management from Bonnie and her panel of guests.


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.