The social network tools and capabilities have dramatically impacted the supply chain, for the better, to provide increased information to your extended supply chain network from the manufacture to the delivery process.  These improvements support not only more accurate delivery and flow of data updates providing progress tracking but also allow for more accurate planning and forecasting to manage inventory to both reduce overstock conditions and also higher than anticipated sales volume.  This additional information supports more accurate forecasting and planning along each step of the way.  This accuracy in forecasting and planning supports a wide array of options in meeting the consumer demands.

One of the key factors to improving the forecasting and planning capabilities is the incorporation of Big Data capabilities and principles.  The accuracy of forecasting and planning is directly related to the data that is used to produce the forecasts and plans.  Big Data provides the framework and capabilities to collect and analyze massive amounts of data to support improved forecast and plan accuracy. Don’t get me wrong, I realize that just collecting data does not improve accuracy, you must understand the data and then develop and analyses and algorithms to produce the forecasts.  The improved forecasts are a journey that will benefit from a continuous improvement process.  It is critical though for you to take that first step.

This is just one factor though in your supply network planning and execution practices.  The value of your network will be delivered through the balanced coordination and delivery of product to its destination, on time, at the right cost with high quality.  The additional capabilities and tools provide your supply network with the capability to adjust to changes in demand in a more timely manner.  In order to do this though you must develop your network with the partners that can produce the products more efficiently and quickly.  Off shore manufacturing for example has thrown a monkey wrench into the concept of just in time production due to the length of the supply chain.  Your supply network must take the manufacture and delivery time into account in the forecasting and planning. 

You can take this into account by adding near shore and on shore manufacturing partners to your supply network.  These partners can be used to fill the immediate needs of your network to reduce the length of your supply chain.  There are obviously some markets and products that are currently more conducive to this type of strategy however I see this as a growth opportunity area for the product lines that do not currently fit into this model.  The point is that the social network tools and more importantly capabilities must be embraced to support the increasing demands of your supply network. 


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?