Supply Chain Article

Amitava Chattopadhyay’s picture

By: Amitava Chattopadhyay

For conventional, profit-seeking companies, moving into social impact carries huge contradictions. An ad hoc, small-scale initiative is an inexpensive way to do a bit of good and receive a nice warm glow in the process. But any attempt to achieve more serious impact through scaling the initiative will likely trigger awkward discussions about how much that warm glow is worth to the firm.

Thus, the ceiling remains low on social impact unless it can be justified in “win-win” terms. Needless to say, this is no easy feat.

Victor Piedrafita’s picture

By: Victor Piedrafita

During the last decade, we’ve witnessed the emergence of sustainability issues among the most important business concerns in a firm’s supply chain. An increasing number of firms have reexamined their relations with suppliers and moved forward to build a more sustainable supply network, by not only monitoring their suppliers’ compliance, but also fostering their capabilities to properly address various environmental and social challenges.

FIBS, a Finnish organization that fosters sustainability, states as one of the key results of its Corporate Responsibility Survey 2017 Summary that sustainable and responsible supply chains have become strategic goals for Finnish companies. However, implementing this remains a challenging issue, as does the need for resources, systematic training, and learning from the best practices developed by others.

What is ‘sustainability?’

The most extended and accepted definition of sustainability was put forward in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development. According to the commission, sustainability is ‘‘a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’’

Multiple Authors
By: Erik Fogelman, Jeff Orszak

With the increasing power of digital technology, the idea of a connected manufacturing system that can sense, analyze, and respond will soon be a reality. This idea—called “intelligent edge”—combines computing power, data analytics, and advanced connectivity to allow responses to be made much closer to where the data are captured. It takes emerging internet of things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 capabilities to the next level.

Cybersecurity plays a complex role in this vision. On one hand, technological advances can lead to improved cybersecurity capabilities. On the other hand, when built without a consideration for privacy, data integrity, or network resilience, such technological advances can instead increase cyber risks dramatically.

The capabilities that enable the intelligent edge include artificial intelligence (AI), computing hardware, networking capabilities, and standard protocols. Advances in these capabilities have converged to help tie together components that accelerate the realization of Industry 4.0. Here are the key components that enable new ways of working, new products and services, and new value creation.

John Keogh’s picture

By: John Keogh

Almost all businesses involved in the food supply chain have experienced effects ranging from a mild shock to severe disruptions during the Covid-19 pandemic, and further disruptions may be ahead this winter.

Yet not all organizations have learned critical lessons, and history shows us some companies are destined to remain unprepared for the next wave.

Many companies have taken decisive action to survive the pandemic and enhance their supply chain resilience. In doing so, they are protecting their interests and those of their business customers or consumers. We believe that successful firms are taking what’s known as a systems thinking approach to enhance food supply-chain resilience.

In the systems engineering world, systems represent the interconnected complexity of ecosystems that are connected both internally and externally.

For example, a food production business is connected to numerous ecosystems internally and to those of its suppliers, business partners, and customers.

Zach Winn’s picture

By: Zach Winn

Millions of cocoa farmers live in poverty across western Africa. Over the years, these farmers have been forced to contend with geopolitical instability, predatory loan practices, and a general lack of information that hampers their ability to maximize yields and sell crops at fair prices. Other problems, such as deforestation and child labor, also plague the cocoa industry.

For the last five years, however, cocoa supply chains in villages around the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and Ghana have been transformed. A suite of digital solutions have improved profitability for more than 200,000 farmers, encouraged sustainable and ethical production practices, and made cocoa supply chains more traceable and efficient.

The progress was enabled by SourceTrace, a company that helps improve agricultural supply chains around the world. SourceTrace offers tools to help manage and sell crops, buy and track goods, and trace products back to the farms where they were made.

Multiple Authors
By: Tinglong Dai, Guihua Wang, Ronghuo Zheng

The Covid-19 pandemic has crippled the airline industry. Passenger numbers are down more than two-thirds from last year, and airlines have been canceling flights and shutting down routes.

It’s frustrating for travelers, but for patients on organ transplant waiting lists, the loss of flights can put a life-saving kidney or heart out of reach.

Our research shows just how valuable each flight route can be for connecting donor organs with people in need of transplants. It also suggests that the industry’s great rebooting in the coming years can be an opportunity to help make the U.S. organ transplantation system more equitable.

As business scholars specializing in the fields of healthcare operations management, business analytics, and economics of information, we believe policymakers need to understand the potential impacts of the airline network on organ transplantation as they guide the post-pandemic recovery of the airline industry.

Ayman Jawhar’s picture

By: Ayman Jawhar

As a business leader, you probably think similarly to McKinsey about what makes a great product manager (PM): a perfect combination of skills like business acumen, market orientation, and technical skill as well as soft ones... the usual suspects.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your position), just as our management thinking is becoming outdated and requires reform, we also need to update our view of this ultimate management role.

Celia Paulsen’s picture

By: Celia Paulsen

A survey from 2014 found that small and medium-sized manufacturers do not like to compromise on quality when it comes to communications devices, vehicles, or tea (yes, tea—the survey respondents were probably British) but were more likely to skimp when it came to things like manufacturing equipment. Whether it is a new computer for the office or a welding station for the shop floor, purchasing new equipment is a decision about risk. A poor purchasing decision can result in a waste of resources and possibly a safety or cybersecurity incident.

Before you purchase or otherwise acquire a piece of equipment, whether it be a CNC machine or a cell phone, there are a lot of things to consider: How will it be financed? What special safety or cybersecurity concerns come with it? What will maintenance look like? How long is it expected to last?

It can be easy to overlook some aspect of risk involved in a purchase decision when overwhelmed with options. It can be especially difficult to know what to buy when comparing three different products that seem very similar.

NIST MEP has created a pre-purchase guide that might help.

Amitrajeet Batabyal’s picture

By: Amitrajeet Batabyal

Arguing against globalization is like arguing against the laws of gravity, said former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. Globalization, the international trade in goods and services with minimal barriers between countries, may seem inevitable as the world’s economies become more interdependent.

Properly regulated, globalization can be a powerful force for social good. For wealthy nations, globalization can mean less expensive goods, additional spending, and a higher standard of living. For those who live and work in poorer nations, globalization can lead to greater prosperity with the power to reduce child labor, increase literacy, and enhance the economic and social standing of women.

Multiple Authors
By: Sridhar Kota, Glenn Daehn

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed glaring deficiencies in the U.S. manufacturing sector’s ability to provide necessary products—especially amidst a crisis. It’s been five months since the nation declared a national emergency, yet shortages of test kit components, pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, and other critical medical supplies persist.

Globalization is at the heart of the problem. With heavy reliance on global supply chains and foreign producers, the pandemic has interrupted shipping of parts and materials to nearly 75 percent of U.S. companies.

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