Advising on advice

Even though we’re living in the internet era, it can still be very challenging to search for – and find – suitable service providers to handle outsourced supply chain activities or to provide support in the form of advice or automation.

Last month, while on our stand at a supply chain event in Paris, I got talking to a supply chain manager from a wholesaler in the automotive industry. When I asked him what he was looking for, he replied that he wanted to find a software supplier who could help him to improve sales forecasting and inventory management. I grabbed our European SCM IT Subway Map poster and pointed out the light-blue and the yellow lines showing software suppliers for forecasting and inventory management, respectively. “I should’ve looked at this subway map first before visiting all the stands,” said the man with a hint of frustration in his voice, yet at the same time relieved that he had received some practical advice to concentrate on visiting certain software suppliers on the tradeshow floor. Some managers ask around first before embarking on their search.

Around six months ago, a logistics manager at an international manufacturing firm contacted me specifically to ask if I could recommend a good supply chain consultant. After talking to him on the phone, I suggested a suitable senior supply chain consultant with extensive experience in manufacturing. A couple of months later, the consultant called me to say that he was delighted to have been hired in by the manufacturing company. He also told me that, strangely enough, a software supplier and two systems integrators had made it onto the shortlist too, although the company’s problem lay in managing the manufacturing process and stock. It appeared that those very different – and actually incomparable – parties on the shortlist were the result of the disparate interests of the various directors and departments involved.

Luckily there are also companies that make sensible use of the available overviews in their quest for service providers. For example, I heard from two different managers from a large brewery – independently of one another – that they use the SCM subway maps for logistics service providers and software suppliers to invite a select group of similar suppliers to pitch to them. Whenever you look for service providers, it’s essential to first decide which map you’re going to consult.

Martijn Lofvers, Publishing Director & Editor-in-Chief
Supply Chain Movement