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Supply Chain 3.0 is Real, and Here Now Part 2

This is the second part of Vivek Sood's column explaining Supply Chain 3.0, ensuing the first part it continues to give you an insight on what the top 35 companies are excelling in, globally.

In my previous article, I have shared the rankings of the Supply Chain 3.0, this article will now explain in detail the five key areas looked at when doing this ranking.

The first is termed Fire-Aim-Ready (FAR) Innovation. Clearly, it is about creating new (better) products and services, as well as new (better) ways of configuring and delivering existing products and services. Many in supply chain - especially those from logistics or procurement - wonder what do they have to do with this.

But let me ask them this – How did Apple create and launch products in nearly half the time it took its rivals while keeping utmost secrecy about the product features? The answer will give a clue to how important it is to choose the right suppliers and create the right supply chain arrangements that elevate the supply chain to lofty heights. Apple is only the most visible example, there are many more in the book.

Looking at the entire dataset, here is how the companies stack up on Fire-Aim-Ready Innovation.


Figure 3: Fire-Aim-Ready (FAR) Innovation Rankings – Supply Chain 3.0


You might ask where there are only 650 companies in the dataset when we started with 1200 companies. The reason is that over the period of the study (six-years) many of the top 1200 companies were acquired, or merged with other companies to change names. Also, many others dropped out of the top 1200 companies and were no longer of interest to us. In the end only 932 companies survived (we have ignored banks, insurance and utility companies) over 5 years in their original form to be useful for a longitudinal external study of this nature. Some companies (mainly in Banking, Finance, Insurance, Utilities and other such sectors) were not of interest to us because of their opaque supply chains and highly regulated operations.

At this point it is useful to all state that every company in the dataset was given a ranking based on the quintile it fell into on each of the five measures. That is why maximum possible points were 25. Full methodology is available in the source document, but the reason was that external data is rarely reliable enough to rank more accurately than that.

The second measure of interest to us is the $eed-to-$tore Efficiency. This, is of course, the darling of the supply chain crowd especially those coming out of logistics background. Right product, in right place, in right quantity, at right time (there are many other Rs which people add on, but we will stay simple here) – are the catch phrase. The aim is to churn the cash faster so that more of it sticks around for longer.

Consider the figure 4 below which shows profits margins on sales for 2012 for 932 companies ranked in a descending order. The names of the companies are not shown on the figure, and all we are interested in is to divide this universe of companies into five sub-universes ranked by profit margins. The highest ranked 20% of the companies get a score of 5 on $eed-to-$tore efficiency because indeed profit margins are derived from efficiencies.


Figure 4 - Profit Margin 2012 for 932 companies


Even if in some cases, such as Amazon's margin of 1%, where the profit margins are very low placing them lower on $eed-to-$tore efficiency measure than would be warranted from other internal variables, this deficiency will be made up in other measures such as Market Value to Profits ratio (for example in Amazon's case it is 125 compared to the market average of 14.9).

Let us see how that happens.

Consider the figure 5 which shows similar detail for Market Value to Profits Ratio for the same 932 companies in a descending order. Obviously the order has changes this time and Amazon is not middle of the pack in this figure; rather it is one of the top performers. We use this measure as a proxy for Fire-Aim-Ready innovation - a variable which is notoriously very hard to define and measure. However, as a proxy, market price has built into it the expectations of future earnings coming from investment into useful and profitable innovation.


 Figure 5 - Ratio of Market Value to Profit in 2012 for 932 companies


Again the proxy may not be perfect. For example Amazon is ranked one of the highest on this measure though there are other companies which might be far more innovative. However, when measured over a database of more than 1000 companies, and using rankings, rather than absolute numbers for these variables, it is possible to discernable spread of data on each of the variables of interest. Top 20% of the companies for each variable were given a score of 5, next 20% were given a score of 4 and so on, with the bottom 20% of the spread given a score of 1. 

So, what are the other three key cornerstones?

Transaction Optimisation Profitability (TOP) measures the ability to simultaneously minimize the costs, and maximize the revenues on each transaction that a company enters into. Consider this – there are companies today that change their pricing dynamically more than 10 million times a month. Why? To able to maximize their revenue based on pricing power they gain out of big data analytics. On the other hand these, and other, companies are constantly looking at ways to shave off fractions of pennies from each of their cost creators. There is a full discussion (chapter 10) of this in the book “The 5-STAR Business Network” and I might even write a whole book on this topic alone at some time in future. This is after all the hallmark of supply chain 3.0.

Advanced Product Phasing (APP) measures the ability of a company to create a pipeline of products that lead it to sustain its market leadership. How many one-hit wonders such as blackberry have you seen? Is Apple, after Steve Jobs, losing its Advanced Product Phasing capability? How can a company balance its drive to milk the current products with its drive to create new products? There are some of the interesting questions that you can explore in more detail once you start thinking in the realms of Advanced Product Phasing (APP). Suffice it to say here that it is one of the key cornerstones of supply chain 3.0.

Finally, Results-focused, Modularised Outsourcing (ROM) is so important to supply chain 3.0 that I have already written a follow-up book to talk about this concept. If you read nothing else on this topic, just the foreword by an illustrious strategist and CEO (Philippe Etienne, Managing Director & CEO, Innovia Security Pty Ltd) is worth reading. Here is an excerpt:

Today, when I mentor C-Level executives on how to make the jump to the role of CEO, many struggle to move their thinking from functional excellence to cross-functional leadership. In many people’s minds, even the characterization of a corporate leader seems to be shrouded in mystery– ranging from a motivational speaker to a whip wielding slave-driver.

One thing I have noticed all good corporate leaders have in common is their ability to pick and extract the power from uncommon teams - teams of internal experts and external service providers who can aggregate, work well together under pressure, and create the magic called success.

That is where it becomes critical to outsource well. No doubt, today every company outsources at least some part of its activities. With outsourcing being so ubiquitous now, and of such strategic importance that some of the best known businessmen on earth spend a significant amount of their time getting it right – it is a wonder why many people are not taking it just as seriously as these business stalwarts are.

So, what does the data say about how real is supply chain 3.0. We already noted that 62 companies meet the cut-off of 20 points out of 25. Let us now look at the rest of the database and answer the question that is on everyone’s mind.


Figure 6 - Ratio of Market Value to Profit in 2012 for 932 companies


As shown in the figure 6, only 5% of the companies in our dataset of 1200 global leaders meet the criteria for supply chain 3.0 and another 30% meet the criteria for supply chain 2.0. Rest of the companies (nearly 65% or 780 companies out of 1200) are somewhere between supply chain 0.0 and supply chain 1.0.

No company is uniformly excellent, or sub-par in all its divisions and geographical areas, although the results above show them as such. From our work in various divisions of the same corporation we know that pockets of excellence do exist in many sub-par companies and vice-versa. In fact, one of the biggest sources of supply chain friction is exactly this – the variability (sigma) of supply chain performance between various parts of the same business network. But, that is a topic for another blog.

While we have seen from the data above that supply chain 3.0 is real, here and now. In future blog posts we will establish the internal workings of supply chain 3.0 and show the transition points from supply chain 2.0 to supply chain 3.0, from supply chain 1.0 to supply chain 2.0, and further on from supply chain 0.0 to supply chain 1.0. Why was it necessary to ‘invent’ supply chain management in the first place. There already existed the discipline of logistics, materials management, inventory management etc.

A company’s position on this spectrum will ultimately dictate its performance. Just as is the case in professional golf or tennis – winners in the game of supply chains or business networks take away bulk of the prize pool.