When you hear the word collaboration what do you think of? A harmonious kumbaya-like environment where manufacturers, retailers and everyone else along the way all hold hands and share information to deliver a better and more timely product to the customer? Likely, not. But it’s nice to dream, especially as the dream is slowly moving towards a new reality.
Collaboration is gaining ground in terms of importance, desire (by supply chain officers to have it) and quite frankly, organically. The concept of collaboration still means many things to different people depending on where you are in the supply chain. To manufacturers, specifically, it may mean internal collaboration with employees to ensure sales, product design and the warehouse are all on the same page. Collaboration could be externally focused with the emphasis on better communication with global suppliers, or manufacturers may even be working on direct collaboration with its customers. You may not have a harmonious end to end discussion with all three of these scenarios all of the time, but if the end goal is to share information along the supply chain to bring a better product to the customer – that is the right path to pursue.
A recent report put out by SCM World, entitled The Chief Supply Chain Officer Report 2011, showed that 2 out of the top 5 important factors to creating value throughout the supply chain were customer collaboration and supplier collaboration. Further, a report by IDC Manufacturing Insights, Business Strategy: The State of Collaboration Between Consumer Goods Manufacturers and Retailers in 2011 (#MI226141, December 2010) shows an increasing effort to collaborate for the good of the customer and additional investments in technology being made by manufacturers and retailers that support collaborative processes. The continued emergence of cloud computing allows manufacturers to keep costs down while working on standardizing collaboration processes, including:
- Collaborative product development processes
- Logistics and trade management capabilities
- Direct 1:1 customer marketing
We will be working on an upcoming report focusing on collaboration in manufacturing and, what we call the SHOMI vendors (SAP, HP, Oracle, Microsoft and IBM), are doing to change the landscape. Most of these vendors have existing collaboration tools that are being used by manufacturers in new ways. As social computing and cloud technologies take hold does collaboration simply become something “you do?” – as in organic collaboration.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback. Are you using one of the SHOMI vendor’s applications for collaboration currently, have plans to do so, or think collaboration improvements don’t work because the supply chain is too complex? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment below.