Where’s the Innovation?

Jennifer Baljko’s latest blog got me thinking about supply chain innovation. (See: Fending Off the Budget-Planning Monster.)

Her question, “How can they lower supply and materials costs while keeping supplier and customer relationships intact?” is about supply chain. Her comment, “The approaches, however, don’t strike me as particularly novel,” is about innovation. She can’t see it, and, for the most part, neither can I.

I think back ten or twenty years when Dell Inc. gained fame for its revolutionary cash-to-cash cycle supply chain, when Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) was innovating with supplier relationship models and when Wal-Mart revolutionized retail with its methods and systems.

Maybe I missed it, but where are the new concepts like those of Charles H. Fine at MIT in his book Clockspeed or Clayton M. Christensen, Harvard Business School, in his bookInnovator’s Dilemma?

I remember reading about human generations where one generation is innovative, disrupting the status quo, while the next generation is pragmatic, taking the innovations of the previous generation and making them work. Is that what’s going on? I don’t know!

So where is the true innovation in the supply chain? Which companies are the Dells and Wal-Marts? What are the breakthrough ideas that underlie progress? Which companies? Which people? What ideas?

I am tired of hearing about relationships using the term “strategic” because we can’t articulate what we are really trying to say. Can anyone lead me out of darkness and show me today’s true supply chain innovation?

By Ken Bradley – Lytica Inc. Founder/Chairman/CTO

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