The emergence of meta networks


There are various signs that a new era of collaboration is dawning for companies: not only with partners in their own supply chain, but also with industry outsiders.

In a recent conversation, a supply chain director of a Dutch retail chain told me that the contract with his current logistics provider will expire in 18 months’ time, and that he will not be renewing it due to his dissatisfaction with the warehouse operations and fulfilment. I suggested that he could ask other retailers with large warehouses of their own whether they had any space and capacity for him. He found the idea of collaborating with non-competitors to create synergy a refreshing thought.

Overlaps supply chain networks

Similarly, it became apparent during a recent gathering of our SCM Directors Club that the members are busy analysing and optimizing their supply chain networks. They have varying aims, including to improve delivery times, cut costs and reduce carbon emissions. One member is already working on precisely visualizing clusters of suppliers so that they can consolidate their deliveries. This spawned the idea of asking a university to visualize the supply chain networks and subsequently identify the overlaps. The result: a visual ‘meta network’ of companies, suppliers and customers with clear goods flows that can be combined to improve transport efficiency and sustainability.

Local energy hubs

A final clear signal of the emergence of meta networks comes from a recent study by engineering firm Royal HaskoningDHV. It found that only 20% of the Netherlands’ 3,400 business parks currently have some form of collaborative partnership with local energy hubs to share the solar energy they generate. If they all did this, the country’s total Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions could be reduced by 3 to 4%. Supply chain directors should seize the opportunity to find out which companies at their business park are connected to the local energy hub. Map the inbound and outbound goods flows of these companies (Scope 3 emissions) and incorporate them into a meta network of supply chains. This offers huge potential for synergy, cost savings and CO2 reductions.

Martijn Lofvers, Chief Trendwatcher Supply Chain Media