APICS Supply Chain Management Now

Breakthroughs for Small Business

By APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE - October 11, 2013
Breakthrough technologies and new business models may be making the current business environment quite good for small businesses. How do we train supply chain and operations management professionals for this new world?In my travels and discussions with supply chain and operations management professionals all around the world, I often am asked about the potential for small- and medium-sized businesses. Last week, the Harvard Business Review Blog Network ran “Economies of Unscale: Why Business Has Never Been Easier for the Little Guy.” In his piece, Hemant Taneja predicts that the business environment is looking good for small businesses.

“A series of breakthrough technologies and new business models are destroying the old rule that bigger is better,” Taneja writes. “The global business environment is decomposing into smaller yet more profitable markets, so businesses can no longer rely on scaling up to compete, but must instead embrace new economies of unscale.”

New platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, enable companies to market themselves. Videos can go out via YouTube, and orders can be placed and fulfilled using iPhones and Androids. Now, even payment processing is made easy through companies such as Stripe and Square. 

Taneja highlights Warby Parker, which offers $95 prescription glasses. This small company uses social media for its marketing and UPS for its logistics, but it has put a small dent in the $13 billion business of Luxottica—the world’s largest manufacturer of glasses. At APICS headquarters alone, I know at least three people who sport Warby Parker frames. 

The article also highlights Airbnb, a service that connects visitors to homeowners renting out extra bedrooms, and Khan Academy, a free, nonprofit online education platform.

“These new economies of unscale will be good for job growth, because they open up thousands of new market niches for exploitation,” Taneja writes. “We have to think in an unscaled mindset, where the emphasis is on a greater number of specialized products sold to customers who know exactly what they need.” 

Now here’s the part that especially important for the APICS Supply Chain Management Now audience: “How we train our students for this world will be critical to securing their future employment.”

Getting prepared


Consider the following definition of innovative business models from the APICS Operations Management Body of Knowledge Framework: “As market conditions continue to shift and evolve, some corporations are changing their business models to gain competitive advantage. These changes often include modification of the physical or financial flows associated with delivering products and services, often enabled by emerging technologies.”

As business around the world constantly evolves, there are some principles that stay fundamental. That’s why APICS offers the Principles of Operations Management program, which has five customizeable courses that are classroom-based and instructor-led for individuals new to materials and operations management. The five courses are Principles of Inventory Management, Principles of Operations Planning, Principles of Manufacturing Management, Principles of Distribution and Logistics, and Principles of Managing Operations. 

The APICS Principles of Operations Management program is unique because the sessions in each Principles course can also operate as stand-alone minicourses or be combined with other Principles course sessions to create a customized learning experience. That customization can give small- and medium-sized businesses exactly what they need to optimize their operations. For more information on the APICS Principles of Operations Management program or any other APICS educational offering, visit apics.org.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

Payment processing startups, delivery and logistics companies, and social media are helping new small businesses get off the ground. What are some other recent technologies and services that are a boon for the small-business entrepreneur?
What are some of the key supply chain, operations, or production and inventory management practices that are most important to small businesses today?

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1 Comment

  1. 1 Gary DeCamp 15 Oct
    I have owned small businesses since 1977 and totally disagree with the political post from Daniel Marks.   I believe that we should try to improve our health care system in this country, for all citizens.   But, my point really is, why can't we have a business discussion about APICS topics and the supply chain without extreme, ugly partisan politics rearing up?   Why emulate our dysfunction Congress?   I fear politics scaring many valid contributors away.   Keep the politics on the political forums and blogs, and let's address APICS issues and the actual topic.

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