We have come a long way in the last 25 years, but fully understanding how to make our enterprise supply chains more effective, and successfully executing to plan, is still a long way off.

In many ways the explosion of ERP system installations in the lead-up to Y2K era was a false dawn. Billions was spent, but the return can now be classified as ‘limited’. In the meantime, operating environments for global and domestic enterprises have become increasingly complex and difficult to manage, and the antidotes to this condition are hard to find.

The following five themes are what I see as essential ingredients to any success formula in the immediate years ahead:

  1. We must get real and find better ways to understand customers’ true demands, and directly link these to the design of our logistics infrastructure; the guessing must stop!
  2. Likewise, at the supply-end, in source markets, we must seriously advance our knowledge about supplier expectations, and how we can better align our procurement strategies, for mutual benefit. The heavy-handed practices used to date are not sustainable going forward.
  3. In just about every enterprise on the planet, the organisation structures are now seriously mis-aligned with customers’ and suppliers’ expectations; we must seek innovative new designs that make the business of management less fraught with crises.
  4. We now live in the ‘Age of Digitisation’, so we must learn quickly how to collect and use data that connects our business to all external points that weigh on our performance.
  5. With consumer power rising inexorably, we have to find ways to allay consumer concerns about the origin of the products we sell to them, and the way they are manufactured. Traceability is now critical to all consumer-facing businesses.

This is just for starters. I think I should stop here, but there are many other things we can do!