Tapping the Power of Social Supply Chain Management

Remember John Smith and Roy Green from my previous post, “The Power of the Cloud”? They run a small, up-and-coming, entirely fictional manufacturer called XYZ Corporation (I think they’re working on a new name, but their branding agency hasn’t gotten back to them).

Well, XYZ has been live on Demand Solutions for a while, and things are going well. Orders keep rolling in. They just bought a competitor and integrated their data with no problem.

But there’s a snag. XYZ is now outsourcing a lot of its manufacturing to Vietnam. Which means there’s little overlap between the XYZ workday and that of its manufacturing partner. That makes communication difficult.

Social Supply Chain Management“Our whole staff is complaining about working with Vietnam,” Green tells Smith, XYZ’s founder, at one of their Friday lunches. “The quality and prices have been great, so I know it makes sense for our balance sheet.

“But every little issue takes multiple emails back and forth to solve,” Green continues. “With the time zone differences, our people feel like they have to be chained to the computer just in case something important comes in over email. And with all the little nuances of language, we’re never sure we’re on the same page with them.”

“I hear you,” Smith says. “But, as you say, outsourcing just makes too much sense financially. You solved the last problem I threw at you, so I know you can solve this one, too. Any ideas?”

“Well, there is one possibility. Ever heard of social SCM?”

SocialTM Supply Chain Management in Action
“Is this another buzzword?” Smith asks.

“Nope. Got a call from our Demand Solutions account rep today. They’ve added social technology to the platform. This lets our people build networks, send messages more easily, and a whole lot more, by the sounds of it.”

“What do we have to do to get it? Download something?”

“Nothing,” Green says. “It’s all in the cloud, remember? All we have to do is start using it when we go back to the office on Monday.”

When XYZ’s employees log on the following Monday, they do indeed see the new social functionality is woven into their familiar SCM platform. They begin building networks by inviting suppliers, manufacturers and other stakeholders to the platform. They post their first messages without even thinking about it, because the interface looks so much like the social media platforms they use every day to post pictures of their kids or to complain about the baristas at the local coffee shop.

Green begins to hear feedback from employees who love how they can keep in touch with supply chain partners without logging onto a laptop. One employee even tells him he requested a price quote from his iPad while he was waiting in line at the movie theater on Sunday afternoon.

Since XYZ’s employees are used to accessing social media on their smartphones during their off hours, it’s only natural for them to check in on business matters as well as personal. They appreciate being able to get or provide quick answers this way. They also love how they can see an entire exchange in one thread — even if that exchange involves several people — rather than rooting through old emails to find information.

Green is impressed — but then he decides to put these social features to the test. Late one night, he posts a friendly message to his counterpart at XYZ’s Vietnam-based manufacturing partner — a man who speaks little English.

Because the social functionality is based on Yammer, it automatically translates the message into Vietnamese. Moments later, it translates the man’s reply into English.

Green tries the same test with a shipping manager at one of XYZ’s new suppliers in Brazil. Same deal — the platform automatically translates the message into Portuguese, and the reply into English.

“Well, this is something,” Green says to himself. “Social SCM could really remove some barriers for us.”

Leap Ahead of Your Competition with Social SCM
What I’ve described above is the true power of social SCM. It’s already available in the Demand Solutions platform — and if you go live now, there is a chance to enjoy a significant head start over your competitors that are wanting to see how this whole “social thing” is going to shake out. Find out more about Demand Solutions social SCM.