Intelligent Networks: Holding Supply Chains To A Higher Standard

Paul Clark

Ever since Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel, The Jungle, exposed the horrific practices of Chicago’s meat-packing industry, supply chains worldwide have been under close scrutiny. Coalitions and unions have been formed. A variety of food, drug, and product safety reforms and regulations have become institutionalized. Stringent laws have been passed to ensure everything from workers’ rights to environmental responsibility.

A lot has happened since Sinclair first penned his work over a century ago. And thanks to advancements in automation, and more recently artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics, most supply chains have improved their ability to sense and shape operations in a compliant manner. But they are still far from perfect.

Businesses are still struggling with a significant blind spot across their internal and external operations – opening a backdoor for substantial legal, financial, and reputational risk to step in. According to Jan Wouters, head of Capgemini’s global supply chain community and thought leadership, “Things are getting worse even as new systems and processes are added to the scattered IT landscape and IT architects try to solve them with the tools already in place.”

Such a realization inspired Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) to leverage innovations – such as the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, artificial intelligence, and robotic process automation – to hold its supply chain to a higher standard.

HPE: Cracking the code for accountable, transparent supply chains

“Climate and human rights risks have the potential to affect every part of our value chain, including setbacks from materials scarcity and supply chain disruptions,” Antonio Neri, president and CEO of HPE, shares in the company’s 2017 annual report. “Maintaining a resilient business means being proactive in addressing these risks before they affect customers and communities.”

HPE is undertaking an initiative that uses climate science to reduce 100 million tons of manufacturing-related greenhouse gas emissions on an absolute basis within its supply chain by 2025. With this 15% reduction of its current levels, the company’s efforts will improve environmental and working conditions worldwide – similar to taking 21 million cars off the road annually. And more importantly, it will set off a chain of sustainability improvements across its customers’ operations as well.

“Enabling our suppliers to set science-based targets will help to improve their environmental footprints and, indirectly, those of our products,” says Cliff Henson, senior vice president of global supply chain for HPE. “This creates a ripple effect throughout our value chain. When our customers implement these sustainable IT solutions, they, in turn, lower their own footprint, allowing them to do more with less environmental impact.”

From strategic commodity suppliers to final assembly, HPE is not just mandating greater responsibility and accountability across its diverse supply chain. The program is designed to help suppliers set and achieve their individual goals successfully by providing support and tools developed in collaboration with leading technology and best practices experts.

HPE is working to roll out technology to its suppliers to create a foundation of speed and predictability that drives social and environmental responsibility in every aspect of its supply chain and the brand experience.

“Although HPE is at the forefront of rapid innovation, we haven’t forgotten the values that define us,” states Neri. “The technology sector should remember that innovation has always been confronted with ethical choices. We are proud to remain a responsible partner for our customers – to be a company that invests in its employees and sets high standards for its supply chain.”

To learn more about HPE’s efforts in improving supply chain visibility, read “HPE Supply Chain Responsibility: Our Approach.”

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.