Opinion: Supply Chain Centres of Excellence
There are a number of factors that can make or break a company’s success when embarking on a supply chain Centre of Excellence (CoE) initiative.
Committing to establishing a CoE and selecting the right people to run it simply isn’t enough. Supply chain transformation requires change management across people, process, and technology. In fact, though often overlooked as a catalyst for the changes introduced by a supply chain CoE, technology is very much the key component of a supply chain transformation’s success.
Communicating and collaborating with accurate information are critical, as this drives innovation and cross-functional alignment. Technology that channels decision-making from plans backed up by facts creates trust within the supply chain, often named the ‘single version of the truth.’
As such, the more that collaborative technology solutions can be incorporated into the supply chain to simplify processes, cleanse and organise data, and create an environment of trust for all parties involved, the better.
Having the right technology in place ultimately ensures that the integrity and relevance of data aren’t compromised as information is automatically collected and passed on from one entity to the next throughout the supply chain.
It is often said that “substituting information for inventory” is what makes a supply chain lean and responsive, and this type of thinking also becomes a driving factor behind operational excellence. But the single most overlooked success factor for supply chain performance is the level of data quality needed to effectively run complex supply chains.
We often engage with customers who, after investing millions on high-powered hardware and software and spending years trying to harvest a return on their investment, discovered that the data they were putting into their systems was neither timely nor accurate. They were relying on bad information, and suffering for it.
Sometimes technology is wrapped around bad processes, and sometimes the wrong technology is applied to help “improve” good processes. Knowing how one affects the other is paramount to CoE success.
Four must-have technology capabilities tied to effective transformation programs for successful supply chain CoEs include: Partnering connectivity that accounts for smaller players using less sophisticated technology in particular; Focusing on the most relevant data, validating it for accuracy by enforcing business rules, and then properly tying it to the appropriate business process; Ensuring process-level visibility into actions as they happen in the supply chain by alerting stakeholders of exceptions before customers are affected; Enabling changes to be made on either side of a transaction in the supply chain to address disruptions and improve responsiveness without affecting the system’s overall data quality
Successful CoE initiatives are built on a cross-functional alignment around real problems using real-time information that is visible for all and that can be acted upon.
The underlying technology is what brings all of this together, whether it’s finally getting all of a company’s internal and external partners on the same page or serving as the much sought-after ‘single version of the truth’ that helps everyone orchestrate their end-to-end supply chain processes.
When done properly, a supply chain Centre of Excellence initiative will let business (and its supply chains) focus on what matters most; its customers.
The author Patrick Lemoine is Vice President of Customer Solutions at E2open, a provider of cloud-based, on-demand software.
Pandora and IBM digitise jewellery supply chain
Pandora has overhauled its global supply chain in partnership with IBM amid an ecommerce sales boom for its hand-finished jewellery.
The company found international success offering customisable charm bracelets and other personalised jewellery though its chain of bricks and mortar retail destinations. But in 2020, as the COVID-19 outbreak forced physical stores to close, Pandora strengthened its omnichannel operations and doubled online sales.
A focus on customer experience included deploying IBM’s Sterling Order Management, increasing supply chain resiliency and safeguarding against disruption across the global value chain.
Pandora leverages IBM Sterling Order Management as the backbone it its omnichannel fulfilment, with Salesforce Commerce Cloud powering its ecommerce. Greater automation across its channels has boosted the jeweller’s sustainability credentials, IBM said, streamlining processes for more efficient delivery. It has also given in-store staff and virtual customer service representatives superior end-to-end visibility to better meet consumer needs.
Jim Cruickshank, VP of Digital Development & Retail Technology, Pandora, said the digital transformation journey has brought “digital and store technology closer together and closer to the customer”, highlighting how important the customer journey remains, even during unprecedented disruption.
"Our mission is about creating a personal experience and we've instituted massive platform changes with IBM Sterling and Salesforce to enable new digital-first capabilities that are much more individualised, localised and connected across channels and markets,” he added.
Pandora’s pivot to digital
The pandemic forced the doors closed at most of Pandora’s 2,700 retail locations. To remain competitive, it pivoted to online retail. Virtual queuing for stores and virtual product trials via augmented reality (AR) technology went someway to emulating the in-store experience and retail theatre that is the brand’s hallmark. Meanwhile digital investments in supply chain efficiency was central to delivering on consumer demand.
“Consumer behaviour has significantly shifted and will continue to evolve with businesses needing to quickly adapt to new preferences and needs,” said Kareem Yusuf, General Manager, AI Applications and Blockchain, IBM. “To address this shift, leading retailers like Pandora rely on innovation to increase their business agility by enabling and scaling sustainable supply chain operations using AI and cloud.”
Yusuf said Pandora’s success was indicative of how to remain competitive by “finding new ways to create differentiated customer experiences that protect their enterprises from disruptions to help mitigate risk and accelerate growth”.