How often have you heard the phrase â€œmy business is different?â€ Perhaps you have used it...I know that I have. It is easy to get wrapped up in the details of the challenges that we face on a daily basisâ€”the customer challenges, the compliance requirements, the competitive landscapeâ€”and to see the world only from your own company's perspective.
You find yourself solving unique challenges for that business that require your operations to be configured in a particular manner, that justify the extra non-standard system or that invalidates the comparisons to other companies or other industries. You take comfort in the fact that you are breaking new ground and that your innovative approach is yielding better results. You define a competitive set that is narrow enough to give you comfort that you are making progress against your personal and business objectives.
When I first I joined ModusLink (a short 17 years ago), we served clients predominantly in the software and computing verticals. Not only were our client challenges different, but they even differed from region to region. This fostered an approach of reinvention of different solutions in different locations around the world to what I now can see were many of the same problems. It was certainly seen as more exciting to create a new solution to a â€œnewâ€ problem than to copy exact a proven solution. At the time, clients loved our responsiveness but not surprisingly were sometimes frustrated by our challenges in executing in a consistent manner globally. Not surprisingly, customization and consistency can present conflict. When we entered the consumer electronics vertical, that too was seen as differentâ€”by us and by those clientsâ€”and we needed to earn our reputation and gain experience in that space. Subsequently, hard disk drives were different, mobile phones were different, and now as we start to serve clients in the healthcare supply chain , that too is seen as different.
Over the years however, and as we became a more mature supply chain organization, it became clear that despite the industry specifics, many of the fundamental supply chain processes are the same. With that learning it also became clear that a robust process focus could be applied to meet challenges across many industries.
I do not intend to trivialize genuine business differencesâ€”because they certainly do exist and must be accommodated in the supply chainâ€”but we often overlook the learnings that are available to us if we broaden our perspective. When I meet people at conferences I find that I can learn as much from executives from industrial, pharma, automotive or process industries as I can from those in high tech.
Even now I look with envy to the retail integration and sophistication of some FMCG companies, to the relentless search for efficiencies of leading high tech supply chains and the disciplines in protecting the value of the brand in luxury goods supply chains. Should we not all be looking across industries for similar benchmarks?
Do you find yourself defending your supply chain performance in the context of your closest industry peers and using the phrase â€œbut my supply chain is differentâ€? Maybe it is time to step back and look to a different peer group. What do you think?
Originally posted by Lorcan Sheehan at http://blog.moduslink.com/bid/80162/Don-t-be-a-prisoner-to-a-narrow-definition-of-supply-chain