On July 10-12, SCM World hosted 100 C-level supply chain executives in London for our 7th annual Leaders Forum. Our theme, “Mastering the Matrix,” was all about empowering supply chain professionals to take point on developing the roadmap for digitization.
We heard from companies as diverse as General Electric, TomTom, Heineken, Bayer, Ford, Land O’Lakes and Kimberly-Clark about how they are approaching the massive wave of digital innovation that confronts us right now. We also took an insider’s look at issues beyond the traditional boundaries of information technology as applied to supply chain. This included TED-style talks on blockchain, Uberization and a sociologist’s view on the future of work, plus a deep dive on artificial intelligence.
The takeaway for most was a heady mix of exciting possibility, genuine threat and budding confidence that supply chain leaders are ready to build and own the roadmap for taming digital disruption in operations.
The Matrix is Real
To kick off, I showed a famous clip from the 1999 classic film The Matrix, in which Morpheus offers Neo a choice: take the blue pill and remain blind to the truth, or take the red pill and “see how deep the rabbit hole goes.” The challenge implicit in this parable is that supply chain leaders face a similar moment with familiar tactics like process-heavy S&OP or single-instance ERP lulling us into a false sense of security, while new realities like machine learning, molecular-level material design and brain computer interfaces give birth to a world in which science fiction becomes reality.
Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies covers crazy-sounding stuff like quantum computing, smart dust and human augmentation. All of it is real and most of it is moving faster than most people realize. Supply chain, which encompasses nearly all material movement, conversion and delivery is suddenly faced with a digital technology landscape that is far more than just software for process enablement and transaction tracking.
Write Your Roadmap, Start Your Journey
Digital is transforming process, product and even people. As such, it demands much more than just a project plan. For many, this remains a challenge. Live polling of the audience on the question of barriers to digitization found a huge portion hindered by the lack of an overall roadmap.
This was puzzling to me.
Confusion in the face of so much technology change is understandable, but who is better qualified to cut through it all than you? Supply chain’s scope includes everything from drones and 3D printing to cloud and AI. It also naturally spans nearly all existing ERP and related systems. Plus, we have clear objectives on cost containment in internal operations and service excellence in customer experience providing a north star for direction setting.
One of our panelists, Yone Dewberry, CSCO of Land O’Lakes expressed surprise at how many felt the lack of an overall roadmap was a problem. His message was simple and powerful: “we pretty much know where we’re going, so we’re just getting started.”
Mastering the Matrix
Approaching digital with a bias for action is correct. And yet, it’s so big that chunking it down is necessary to avoid starting too many random initiatives. To make this easier and provide a single page view of everything from supplier to customer, and from sense to respond we have a framework that we call the Matrix.
Its purpose is to ground work on everything digital in one or more practical business areas – knowing what customers need, knowing what is possible to supply, deciding what is profitable to promise, making it happen, and finally delivering what customers want. Land O’Lakes’ roadmap, for instance, emphasizes demand response because its farming customers’ needs are extremely time sensitive.
Mattel’s EVP of Global Development and Product Supply, Peter Gibbons, offers a different take in comments to financial analysts: “technology will enable a digitally-connected supply chain. At Mattel, this means: digital design and modeling tools; automation, robotics and 3D printing; planning systems that enable end-to-end visibility; and enhanced e-commerce capabilities.” In terms of the Matrix, this means betting on demand sense, decide & commit, and supply response.
Your roadmap should reflect your reality. You are the one to lead the way.