Marketing teams are discovering great brand stories in supply chain

Jennifer K Daniels
Vice President, Marketing, APICS

The number of CMOs becoming more knowledgeable and enthusiastic about supply chain management is increasing as leading companies lean on supply chain attributes to position, promote and differentiate products, services and brands.  If you’re a marketer looking for a great story to tell about your company—one that will capture the hearts and minds of a generation of customers—you may need to look no further than your supply chain.

While product marketing and sales teams have always worked with supply chain to balance supply and demand and ensure a positive customer experience, the corporate marketing teams are waking up to the power of supply chain performance.  Supply chain performance is a big deal, a big differentiator, and a game-changer that can dictate the difference between generations of locked-in loyal customers and lost customers for life.

In the past, marketing leaders dug in to supply chain particulars when there was an issue that affected marketing—like a product recall or stockout over the holidays; or an environmental or social issue that might negatively impact the brand; or when there was a risk challenge that required public relations support, like a plant closure, natural disaster or political unrest.

But now, as the supply chain becomes more integral to competitive advantage, profitable growth and sustainable practices, a growing number of CMOs are recognizing that a high-performing supply chain is an important differentiator, and they are incorporating supply chain capabilities into messaging, campaigns, loyalty programs and even events. They are aware of the impact the supply chain can have on their brand—both positive and negative­—and they take proactive measures to protect and promote it.

To the visionary CMO, the supply chain doesn’t run in the background. The supply chain is part of the story. It is part of the customer experience and an ingredient in the brand promise. It’s become a visible component in the marketing mix.

Excellent examples of marketing that weave in supply chain stories abound.  Remember the Ralph Lauren sweaters for the Sochi Winter Olympics? They were the flagship product for Ralph Lauren’s “Made in America” line of apparel for the athletes, rolled out with the story of the Oregon ranchers who raise the sheep and shear the wool, and all the steps in the supply chain required to provide the red, white and blue yarn for the sweaters.  An example of a supply chain inspired marketing event is Amazon Prime Day, when Amazon marketed its Prime subscription service through a rotating lineup of retail specials and same-day shipping that showed off its supply chain supremacy. And there’s the ongoing Jimmy John restaurants’ “Freaky Fast” campaign that’s not just about speedy sandwich delivery, but also embodies an entire corporate culture and its nimble supply chain of fresh ingredients.

Beyond the aforementioned high-visibility examples, there’s the almost endless number of companies offering personalization options (pick your color, add that monogram, design the perfect product just for you!) enabled by supply chain mass customization and make-to-order flexibility. If you’re a marketer and you haven’t been thinking about supply chain, it’s time to start.  Your supply chain is – or could be – a key chapter in your brand story or the attribute that that turns your customers into evangelists.

Is your CMO forging a more strategic relationship with the supply chain organization? If not, can the supply chain manager reach out to marketing to begin such a partnership? How could your firm’s supply chain performance be leveraged as a marketing tool? Weigh in with your thoughts.

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Digital Transformation of Supply Chain Planning

Henry Canitz, Director of Product Marketing & Business Development, Logility

In almost every new supply chain focused industry periodical, you will find an article discussing transformation or digitization. Industry analysts, consultants, solution providers, executives and practitioners are all focused on how to transition from traditional to more “digital” planning capabilities. In fact, a Google search using the words, “Digital Transformation” yields 2,800,000+ results. As a supply chain practitioner it is critical to understand what digital supply chain planning looks like and how to ensure your supply chain is on the right transformational path.

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What is Digital Transformation?

Digital Transformation involves a focused effort of activity across multiple processes that accelerates performance and delivers new value-added capabilities. Digital Transformation in supply chain planning usually involves development of new tools, skills, and/or processes that target a step change in speed and/or agility.

Why is Digital Transformation Important?

Digital transformation is one of the top concerns and areas of focus for C-Level executives. There is a growing awareness within senior executives that transforming supply chain planning capabilities to take advantage of the emerging areas of “Big Data,” “Artificial Intelligence,” “Advanced Analytics,”  and “Cloud Computing” is a competitive imperative.

Most supply chain managers already know that there is a “War for Talent” being fought to find and retain qualified supply chain personal. Today there is only one qualified supply chain candidate for every seven planning openings and this ratio is projected to increase before it gets better. The best supply chain planning candidates want to work with advanced technology platforms that allow them to spend more time analyzing problems and developing value-added recommendations. Digital transformation of supply chain planning capabilities is critical to hiring and retaining the best talent.

Supply chain practitioners are being asked to accomplish more with less, to be involved in more business processes and deliver more value-added capabilities while lowering costs and ensuring high customer service. Materials and components are sourced from ever-more remote locations and finished products are being sold into expanding regions and channels. The amount of external data continues to grow at exponential rates. Planning cycles continue to shrink and customers expect shorter and shorter delivery cycles.  All these pressures demand a step change in performance building the need for Digital Transformation.

As a Supply Chain Practitioner, How Can I Facilitate a Digital Transformation?

The first step is to obtain C-Level sponsorship. Unlike most supply chain improvement efforts focused on managing and maintaining the current state and making incremental improvements, transformation involves multi-year, multi-functional, disruptive, and expensive efforts that can only be accomplished when embraced by top company executives. Often to gain executive approval requires a business case showing substantial hard and soft benefits.

Start with documenting the “As-Is” process capabilities and corresponding key performance metrics. This will lay the foundation for any future performance comparison and provide the starting point to develop benefits for transformation. Envision the “To-Be” process capabilities and desired performance metrics through benchmarking, group brain storming sessions, and alignment to business strategy and direction. Include envisioned capability cases to provide a vision of what the “To-Be” environment might look like. Develop a flexible roadmap with critical milestones required to transition from the “As-Is” state to the “To-Be” vision. The trick is to have enough detail in this transition plan to execute against while still maintaining flexibility to adjust to new priorities and emerging technologies.

The skills people need to operate in the envisioned “To-Be” environment will be drastically different requiring training and education. Some employees will find it impossible to make the transition requiring the hiring of new talent. A dedicated focus on change management and employee development is necessary for successful transformation.

Conclusion:

The move to digital business capabilities is affecting all areas of a company including the supply chain. Today, technologies such as RFID, GPS, and sensors have enabled organizations to transform their existing supply chain execution capabilities to be more flexible, open, agile, and collaborative. This same type of transformation from embracing digital capabilities is starting to take place in Supply Chain Planning.

To be truly competitive in an increasingly volatile world, forward-thinking companies will need to transform its supply chain planning capabilities by investing in digital supply chain planning capabilities to improve customer service, reduce costs, and enable company strategies. This new vision of a digitally transformed supply chain has caught the attention of executive management and supply chain practitioners must step up and meet this digital transformation challenge.

 

Additional Reading

Five reasons why the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) could be your most audacious career move yet

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More than 25,000 supply chain practitioners have studied the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) to master the essential technology, concepts, and strategies related to end-to-end supply chain operations. Here’s how it can benefit your career in 2019:

  1. Get promoted by developing unique solutions for the end-to-end supply chain like Arsalan Hussain who after studying CSCP, designed a management dashboard with end-to-end data and KPI visibility which was used by management for reporting. Arsalan was transferred to Procurement and Analytics and within two years promoted to Manager of Supply Chain. On average CSCP designees see a 12% pay increase and improve their hiring potential by 65%.
  2. Gain new ways to collaborate with partners like Maria Petrochenkova who after CSCP, developed the skills to effectively couple strategic buyers with product managers to drive innovation.
  3. Grow prospects for general management roles like Kuban Chetty whose finance background and CSCP study honed his skills to implement productivity initiatives around total supply chain, incorporating planning and operations management. He became confident in running financial scenarios around total supply chain activities and implement productivity initiatives focused on factory planning and highlighting capacity usages.
  4. Lead initiatives where supply chain is the business enabler like Nate Joliff who  after studying CSCP applied it to capture key data on extended database processes for racks and container design which helped minimise transportation and storage costs by 15%, saving US$2.3M to the bottom line.
  5. Bolster evidence for Practitioner Registration eligibility. ASCI’s newly launched Practitioner Registrations for Procurement, Logistics and Operations Management require eligibility through evidence of relevant certifications, qualifications and work experience. According to Dr Pieter Nagel, ASCI’s CEO-Professionalisation, the APICS CSCP is a favourable component for eligibility for registration and furthermore provides a significant knowledge base for examination preparation for the Professional Registration to be made available in 2019.
What’s more, you can now tap into accessible and affordable study options via self study and ASCI Guided Learning two hourly weekly sessions online either within the weekday or week evening as part of ASCI’s online pilot program with APICS! Register to 2019 classes before December 2018 and you’ll receive $100 savings. For more information, please contact us via enquiries@asci.org.au