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Author's profile photo Richard Howells

Transform your supply chain into product and demand networks

Think for a moment about the last product you purchased and the many choices you had as a consumer that weren’t available to you just a short time ago.


Perhaps you designed a jacket online, and could tweak the sleeve length or collar style to produce an instant visual representation of the item. Maybe you took a liking to a wall painting you saw on a TV drama, and within a few minutes a copy was leaving a warehouse en route to your living room. Or perhaps before buying a new lawnmower you gathered feedback by perusing dozens of customer reviews from people you’ve never met. The expectations of today’s consumer are higher than ever. They want new products more quickly and also tailored to their individual needs.


However you, as an empowered consumer, made that purchase, you likely didn’t consider the implications your new found power created for the manufacturer or retailer — you only enjoyed the unprecedented flexibility you had as a buyer. But providing this level of flexibility to the consumer significantly affects how an enterprise develops an extended supply chain strategy.


Today businesses have to deliver individualized products to the demanding customer at precisely the right time, with outstanding quality. Speed, flexibility, and a deeply granular approach to how products are sold are paramount in creating a responsive supply chain that meets today’s business realities.

To do this, businesses must discard the traditional siloed approach to the supply chain. Design, manufacturing, logistics, planning, and service cannot operate independently; they must communicate and collaborate. The power of the consumer, who now expects access to new and varied purchasing channels as well as customization at levels never before seen, requires that companies modernize their supply chains so that data can be shared and acted on in real time.


This is the core of a new strategy that transforms the extended supply chain into product and demand networks, with customer centricity and personalized solutions at the heart and impacting everything from procurement to manufacture to distribution. This approach brings true visibility back into the supply chain so organizations can react to this new demanding consumer with speed and flexibility.


Business strategy, product strategy, and customer strategy are now one and the same. Add business networks and what is happening with the Internet of Things (IoT) to the equation and you have products, customers, and suppliers that are connected in real time.


Taken together, this provides true visibility into the supply chain that allows a business to react with the same speed and flexibility that its customers have come to expect.

In the latest issue of SAP Insider you can hear more about Demand Networks, Product Networks, and how IoT is bringing businesses and these processes closer to the customer.

Follow me @howellsrichard

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