Several supply chain management executives explored innovation in the supply chain and what it takes to drive supply chain innovation consistently in a panel discussion at the 2016 Leadership in Supply Chain Management and Procurement Forum in New York on Nov. 16. The discussion, titled "Fostering Innovation Within Your Supply Chain," included insights from:
Vice President Supplier Diversity Manager
Vice President, Global Brand Supply Chain
Vice President Supply Chain, Procurement and Trade Compliance – United States & Canada
Vice President, Head of Procurement
The discussion focused on several key supply chain management topics, including:
1. Driving Innovation from a Supply Chain Perspective
To drive innovation, supply chain professionals must have a seat at the executive table, according to Setty.
Obtaining a seat at the executive table may require hard work and patience. However, those who persevere will be able to share their ideas with executives who can provide supply chain professionals with the resources needed to deliver meaningful business improvements.
"Procurement has been able to sit at the table at the direct materials side and the indirect side," Setty noted. "Once you get the seat at the table, you have to lay out your vision and align your objectives [with different business functions]."
2. Using Innovation to Provide Improved Products and Services
Although innovation empowers supply chain professionals to enhance their day-to-day operations and processes, it also can enable these individuals to find ways to bolster a business' products and services.
"The technology of today is not the technology of tomorrow, so you really need to be aware today of what happened yesterday, and those who are bringing this [to the table] today are Millennials."
Ultimately, supply chain professionals who consider the "voice of the customer" may be better equipped to drive long-lasting innovation than others. These individuals will be able to explore how operational and process innovations can lead to enhanced products and services, and as such, enable a company to provide its customers with first-rate products and services consistently.
"You still need products to do a service," Santamaria said. "You want to hear the voice of the customer and hear what the customer wants and address the customer's needs."
3. The Biggest Pain Points to Overcome to Foster Innovation
Understanding a business' target audience is crucial, regardless of industry. If a company allocates the necessary time and resources to learn about its target audience, it will be able to find innovative ways to connect with them day after day.
Furthermore, leveraging best-in-class technologies may make a world of difference for supply chain professionals who want to foster innovation. These technologies can make it easier for supply chain professionals to understand why customers may select one brand over another, collect customer feedback over an extended period of time and retrieve actionable insights that can be used to drive their companies forward.
"There is a lot of technology in terms of doing more customer listening. You can find out what the customer wants and find out what the next trend will be," Entrup said.
Finding the right partners may empower supply chain professionals to innovate. And with an innovative partner at their disposal, supply chain professionals could drive collaboration that leads to unparalleled innovation.
"[Using partnerships] seems to be a road that from a supply chain perspective seems to have a lot of legs and will be a big part of our future," Entrup noted.
4. Driving Continuous Improvement Along the Supply Chain
Innovation must remain an ongoing priority for supply chain professionals, one that requires the use of technology and forecasting tools.
"You want to hear the voice of the customer and hear what the customer wants and address the customer's needs."
Technology continues to evolve, and the supply chain is changing accordingly. Thus, supply chain professionals must be ready to use the technology that is available to understand the supply chain and find ways to improve it.
In addition, supply chain professionals must recognize that new technology could become available that may force them to rethink the way they look at their supply chain operations for years to come and respond accordingly.
"Continuous improvement by itself is a pain point. … You have to cope with the traditional supply chain and the new view of the digital supply chain," Santamaria stated. "The [digital] supply chain depends on the regular supply chain at the same time."
5. Leveraging New Talent to Foster Innovation
Santamaria pointed out the supply chain is like the heart, and new talent helps keep the heart pumping consistently.
"Talent is part of the new stream of ideas that is coming to the table," Santamaria said. "The technology of today is not the technology of tomorrow, so you really need to be aware today of what happened yesterday, and those who are bringing this [to the table] today are Millennials."
The Millennial workforce is growing, and organizations must find ways to connect with Millennials to ensure their supply chain operations remain successful. By doing so, an organization may be able to reap the benefits of a superior talent pool and gain a long-lasting competitive advantage over its rivals.