A few times per year, I take the easy road, and let SCDigest readers carry the First Thoughts' burden.
That’s my approach this week, especially convenient while having a fairly heavy travel schedule. The topic: my recent column on Microsoft’s Xbox Live gaming system as a model for how the supply chain of the future might look.
The quick summary: I was blown away when my kids started using Xbox Live versus traditional Xbox, and perceived almost instantly the possibilities for the approach to benefit the supply chain. Real-time connectivity, the ability to “date” before commitment as supply chain partners, instant voice and instant message communications, scorecards for game players, and more. My original piece is here: Xbox Live is the Future of Supply Chain.
“Koh Niak Wu from the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology sees the overall approach as a great weapon against the well-known “Bullwhip Effect."
What do you say?
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We received an avalanche of Feedback on that piece, most of which we have on that same page/link. It was almost all very insightful and interesting. Most agreed with me; a few didn’t.
I was glad to see a number of people who responded similar to Kirk Bluebaugh of Hidden Valley, who wrote: “Wow! I use the Xbox system and never looked at the possibilities of networking you can achieve with a tool I use quite often. Great article!”
As I hope everyone understands, our main goal is to ask the interesting/
tough/provocative questions to get our readers thinking, fully aware we aren’t always right on any given topic.
Speaking of which, Lalit Panda, SVP SCM and IS of Harman Consumer Group, somewhat disagreed with me, writing that although he found the piece interesting, he had “a somewhat different point of view.”
“I think from a data and trend visibility point of view, there are enough tools out there to seamlessly share data. What is important in supply chain interactions is management by exception,” Panda wrote. “My concern with real time communications is getting overwhelmed with too much contact, especially in a situation where there are many vendors, and reacting too quickly and dynamically before a trend has really occurred.”
Tom Miralia of Distribution Technology also found the idea interesting, but in the end overblown.
“At first glance, I am thinking that the analogy, though intriguing, is pretty flawed in that in a game most players are focused on the one 'episode,' and in supply chain, we are likely conducting many, many 'episodes' or transactions simultaneously, in some cases across lots of time zones,” he wrote.
“Further, managing relationships across an extensive number of touch points at various levels of authority...there is a lot of opportunity for misunderstanding in the communications,” he said. “Nevertheless, if there were a 'lead' monitoring the whole network from 'above' with alert capability, yet only costing a penny a case (or less), that would be impressive!”
Kerry Enright, however, said that, “This is one of the most interesting and insightful supply chain articles I have ever read.” (Thank you!)
He added: “Isn't this how many advances are actually made - leveraging developments in other areas? The analogy is not perfect, as you say, and it is certainly some years away from happening in the real supply chain, but Xbox Live absolutely can serve as a model to which we should be using to craft the supply chain of the future.”
Similar sentiments from Azucena Tamez of Cardinal Health, who said that: “I loved your article, and I couldn't agree with you more! We need to start thinking outside the box and really pay attention to these new ways of living that are emerging around us. There is so much that we could do by adding some creativity to how we use the tools that are already available to us.”
Erick Barden says he sees the vision, but worries that some “generational barriers” may keep it from being realized for awhile.
“You could not be any more right. The Xbox live service is like no other. Is it possible to see that type of networking in the supply chain field?” he wrote. “I am not so sure, not because of technological restraints, but the current culture within the supply chain field. I cannot speak for all individuals, but at the age of 26 I am always the youngest at the table (by quite a few years)…being the first generation to see the transition from pen to mouse, I feel I am more open to significant changes similar to what the Xbox live service has brought to the video game industry.”
Koh Niak Wu from the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology sees the overall approach as a great weapon against the well-known “Bullwhip Effect.”
“As we know, a major cause of the Bullwhip Effect is information latency, i.e., each upstream entity in the supply chain sees a slight increase in demand -- highly prominent in a forecast-driven environment,” he wrote us. “The mere notion that real-time data is communicated throughout the entire Xbox Live network seems to me that the crux of supply chain visibility (and thus a weakened Bullwhip Effect) can be achieved.”
Jon Fricke of the Snelling Transportation Group at High Road Partners had an interesting take – that this type of technology might actually push more people to a supply chain career.
“You may be able to better attract the top engineering talent that loves to play Xbox Live, but may be currently in Chemical Engineering!” he wrote.
Jon Kirkegaard of DCRA Inc. took the column in the right spirit, as a metaphor more than a specific recommendation.
“Your enthusiasm for connecting the supply chain participants is phenomenal, and the Xbox metaphor is good and fun,” he wrote, but added that the financial aspects of the supply chain need to be better considered. “Inter-enterprise commitments of dollars just cannot happen in real time. Communication can, but the important part is, after the communication, what is the commitment?”
Finally, we got a late email from Microsoft’s Paul Manikas, who says that much of what I saw in Xbox Live for the supply chain exists right now in other Microsoft business solutions.
“Microsoft offers the real-time communication capabilities that you highlighted (web conferencing, instant messaging, “presence”) at the enterprise level with our Office Communications Server (OCS),” he wrote. “We have combined OCS with Sharepoint and our Business Intelligence and database management tools to create a solution that specifically addresses supply chain collaboration and visibility.”
Hope you enjoyed these comments. Would welcome some more. What in the end I would just encourage is that if you are an Xbox Live player already, consider the general potential in a supply chain light. If you are not, find the nearest teenager you can to explain the system to you (it may take a couple of passes), and see if it triggers some excitement in you as it did me.
What’s your reaction to our reader Feedback on Xbox Live and the future of supply chain? Do we already have these tools, as some suggest, or is this really a potential leap forward? How could or should it work in practice? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button below.
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