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Four Things Every Supply Chain Needs


Wednesday November 7, 2018

Bloomberg reported last month that Chinese spies had infiltrated at least 30 U.S. companies -- including Amazon, Apple and others -- using a tiny microchip hidden on server motherboards. While Apple and Amazon have both issued detailed statements firmly disputing the account, people are stunned by the scope of the hack described.

Whether this happened once or 100 times, whether it happened three years ago or will happen next year -- supply chain professionals need to be on it, and business leaders need to give them the resources they need to succeed.

Maybe it would help to understand what supply chain is. According to the APICS Dictionary, supply chain is “the global network used to deliver products and services from raw materials to end customers through an engineered flow of information, physical distribution and cash.”

Here are four key supply chain aspects that will help you protect your business.

  • Supply chain risk management is the process of identification and assessment of potential disruptions (risks) in the supply chain and developing a plan to mitigate these threats.
  • Supply chain security is the process of adding and enhancing the security of the supply chain. It combines traditional practices of supply chain management with the security requirements of the system, which are driven by threats such as terrorism, piracy and theft.
  • Visibility is the ability to view important information throughout a facility or supply chain no matter where in the facility or supply chain the information is located.
  • Innovation: Hackers never stop innovating, so supply chains shouldn’t stop either. Professionals in this field must be ready to incorporate new technologies, such as blockchain or augmented reality.

As you can see, supply chain is more than managing costs and efficiency. Over the past decade, we’ve seen the profession emerge to drive value for corporations and become a differentiator for companies’ strategic initiatives. Supply chain professionals not only are working in back rooms, but they are working across the enterprise -- evaluating risk, security, visibility, innovation and much more.

Cyber security, for example, has been on supply chain’s radar since the early 2000s, when the Defense Science Board and others warned that placing “some type of chip” would be an effective way for intelligence services to gain useful information. During the last decade, APICS has drawn the link between cybersecurity and supply chains throughout our resources.

But the world of business never stops changing. Technological advances, such as automated cars and trucks, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, make staying ahead of the curve a challenge for even the most forward-thinking companies. That’s why it’s important to continue investing in your supply chains. This includes encouraging employee professional development, such as the certification and education programs APICS offers. True supply chain leaders can build responsive supply chains that respond to risks, meet customer needs and contribute to bottom lines.

Further, investment also includes supply chain alignment across the organization – combining the latest supply chain thinking with the resources necessary to transform and sustain the business. It’s one of the big reasons we launched an entirely new organization, the Association for Supply Chain Management. As ASCM, we will drive innovation in the industry with new products, services and partnerships that enable companies to further optimize their supply chains, secure their competitive advantage and positively impact their bottom lines.

Remember, supply chains can protect your business and your bottom line. Make sure you are giving them what they need to succeed.