Supply chain continuous improvement is a natural by-product of the change from a command and control practice to a collaborative, trust and review, practice.  The practice of collaboration itself is the baseline practice of continuous improvement.  Collaboration and continuous improvement are opposite sides of the same coin and people that embrace collaboration must take the next step of the continuous improvement methods and practices in order to meet the challenges and demands of modern consumer shopping.  The continuously changing demands of consumer shopping, or Commerce 2.0, require retailers embrace the practices of collaboration and continuous improvement to even remain a viable entity going forward. 

There is an old saying - you can never predict the future and now this adage is more true than ever. Ten years ago AOL was one of the most successful companies when it acquired Time and now AOL is being acquired by Verizon to support the Verizon expansion of online services.  There are an army of other such examples of the roller coaster of success stories and by the same token there are also a great array of examples of companies that found their success through collaboration and continuous improvement, such as Apple, or Macy’s in the strict retail sense. Some companies seem to be forced to re-invent themselves while others seem to grow and prosper on a continuous basis for a long period of time.  I think the difference is between the two is that the companies that grow and prosper over a long period of time have embraced a culture of continuous improvement, whether they have specifically set out to implement this or not.

The technology is driving a continuous improvement requirement and practice into all markets and retail is just a widely visible market that touches everyone.  As I have mentioned in the past, new technology improvements and changes are built on the foundation, or ashes, of the current technology in a continuous improvement method.  The standard equipment replacement cycle is not 3 years and most business software should be upgraded at an annual rate at least.  This is not however a change cycle, this is a maintenance cycle.  The change cycle must be added to the regular maintenance cycle as a separate process.

Continuous change will help you to take advantage of the capabilities that are impacting the market, or capabilities that could impact the market in the near future.  Your change cycle should be looking at the recent market and technology changes to determine if and how they should be incorporated into your practices through changing, eliminating or replacing practices.  The advantage of the continuous change method is that it allows you to implement change, review the impact and revise to improve through a thoughtful engineered approach.  

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 consumer's 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?