How consumer priorities impact your supply chain

Customer centric supply chainsHappy customers are the key to success. It’s the first and more persistent rule of business. In the world of supply chains that used to mean making sure you had supplies to make and deliver a product, in full and on time. But that’s not enough anymore.

Customer expectations have changed. They’ve been helped along by major missteps and enabled by technology. The 21st century has seen more than its fair share of supply chain related scandals. Tainted milk in China, Nike child labor, worker abuse and suicides at Foxconn Technology (assembling Apple products), and BP’s Gulf oil spill – each of these incidents shed light on a major company’s supply chain failures. And the result was that an overwhelming number of buyers stop buying.

Even if products don’t make headlines, the public can easily find out a great deal about what they buy. Consumers can interact on social channels, read reviews, and conduct their own research. Vani Hari, an American blogger, has brought about changes with petitions about ingredients in everything from chicken sandwiches to bread, demonstrating that even a single voice can make a huge difference. Everyone has this opportunity today – to research, write a petition about, or review a product.

This amount of exposure creates both a tremendous risk and an opportunity. Anyone can research and find out where and how your products are made, where you get your material, and the reputations and practices of all your subsidiaries and partners. If one of your suppliers is using an ingredient or labor practices that don’t match the values of your customers, it can taint your business. You need to look at what is happening in your supply chain because you can bet someone else is already doing it.

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Conversely, a spotlight presents a great opportunity. If your methods, ingredients and practices match the values of your customers, tell them. People want to know. Being open and transparent is a great opportunity to put yourself above your competitors. This initiative can start with you – today.

Visibility and control over your entire supply chain delivers new customer value. In logistics that means same-day delivery. In manufacturing it means allowing for quick and easy customization. In workforce planning it means having the right person, with the right skills, in front of the right customer every time. Achieving these aspirational value propositions, in an economical way, means you need great planning capabilities. I know who can help you with that!

Today, on my 6,605th day in the business working world the customer is still all that matters. But what matters to the customer has evolved over time, and it’s time to evolve with it. Supply chain executives are thrust squarely into light though this evolution. This is your opportunity to be a hero – take it.

What are your thoughts on customer centric supply chains? Let us know in your comment below or view the ‘Customer centric supply chain’ presentation at the SCM Logistics & Manufacturing World in Singapore.'

Jeffrey Vail'

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