As we wind down the year, as usual we are going to do some review and comment on this past year. In part 1, we are going to use some of the highlights from SCDigest to discuss key topics.
This was a year the full impact of globalization really started to be felt. We kicked things off in January with one of our most popular columns on "The Global Supply Chain - You Better Be Good" , in which we argued global supply chain excellence was more than just an emerging skill - for most companies it in fact will be a key determinant of overall company success, even survival. We cited, for example, a large glass manufacturer that in just a few years went from having almost all its production done domestically and its competitive advantage in its production skill and asset base, to one which is now largely sourcing offshore. The game has simply changed, and you better have the playbook.
We had tremendous reader interest in our list of the 11 greatest supply chain disasters of all time, from the Denver Airport automated luggage handling fiasco to the distribution meltdown that put large pharmeceutical wholesaler Foxmeyer out of business (our number 1 pick). If you missed it the first time around, take a look. Should any any of this year's supply chain troubles (think Sony Playstation 3 delays) make the list? We're still debating.
We had a tremendous response to our two part interview series with the founder of the Theory of Constraints Eli Goldratt. The key messages: in the midst of all this complexity, with the right approach you can find the "inherent simplicity," and that a lot more could be achieved intermally if only companies would really strive for "win-win."
We also stirred up quite a bit of commentary with our discussion of "The Intelligent Supply Chain," in which I did a review of my own analysis of what made a supply chain smart in 1999. I think I did OK back then, but updated my thoughts for 2006 - and generated a lot of reader feedback.
We got a similarly strong response from our discussion of the pressures so many companies are facing right now in "A Supply Chain Case Study 2006," which told the tales of a couple of companies I had talked to facing similar problems: increasing price pressure from large retailers, causing the need to move production offshore; savings from those efforts that hadn't much materialized yet; strong competition from the private label goods of those same retailers, further driving down prices and blurring more value-added features, etc. As one company told me, the strategy was just to "Keep their head above water for now, and hope a better model emerges over time."
We also caused a bit of stir with our discussion of "wave management" in the warehouse/DC - the question being, is it time in some cases for a new, more continuous flow model? Can't say we completely answered the question, but there is no question that some elements of lean thinking at one end, and the growing complexity of DC operations at the other, at the very least are causing many to at least think about wave processing in new ways.
There's no question there is a powerful and growing focus on better alignment between supply chain and the business/brand, which we discussed in August, and offered a model for supply chain managers to consider. Not uncoincidentally, our supply chain presentation of the year went to Paul Mathews of The Limited Brands, for his talk on "Aligning SCM and the Boardroom."
Also popular was our discussion of "Is it Really Supply Chain Versus Supply Chain," which suggested that the logic of this popular notion that the true competition is between supply chains often falls down a bit, due to the overlapping and complex web of relationships, and the imperative in the end of persuing one's own interest. There's an element of truth to be sure, and especially so in certain examples like Toyota, but generally just to a degree for all but that of the channel master's perspective.
Finally, we generated a lot of response to our piece on
"Synchronizing versus Simplifying Your Supply Chain," which suggested that these two strategies were at some level at odds with each other, and that in large companies especially the trend seemed to be towards simplification. Yes, as many wrote back, you can sometimes synchronize by simplifying, but I'll stand by my original perpsective in general.
There was a lot more of course, but these were many of the highlights. Next week, we'll have some Christmas fun and republish our most popular News and Views articles, Expert Insight submissions, and reader feedback. After a week off, we'll do part 2 that looks at overall supply chain trends in 2006, with an eye towards what will likely be the focus on 2007.
Do you have any comments on this 2006 SCDigest review? Agree or disagree? What topics would you most like to see covered on 2007?