The Supply Chain Entrepreneurial Spirit is Alive and Well

When analyzing my connections on Twitter, one of the biggest words in my tag cloud describing my followers, next to business, marketing and supply chain, is “entrepreneur.” I can understand the desire to associate oneself with this word as it is often linked to success-oriented character traits such as tenacity, optimism, passion and creativity. Luckily for supply chain processes, the boom in creative thinkers and doers has flooded into the industry, and new ways to achieve supply chain excellence are sprouting up all around us.

I partly credit the hit reality series Shark Tank (or Dragons Den for those in the UK) for the explosion of entrepreneurs out there today. During the show, businesspeople pitch their unique ideas to “shark” investors in hopes of receiving funds to help bring their new product or service ideas to the market. The majority of questions asked by the investors come back to supply chain processes (Where are you producing? What does your distribution network look like? How much stock do you have on hand?). In more recent episodes, people have been pitching their supply chain as a competitive advantage, including messages of transparency and promises of speedy delivery.

In recent weeks I have personally noticed the impact of the entrepreneurial spirit on the supply chain industry and want to share a few examples:

Procurious – Sharing is Caring

The final encouragement to write this article came after being asked by Procurious to contribute to the platform’s blog. This platform, designed exclusively for procurement and supply chain professionals, embodies the entrepreneurial spirit of next generation managers and encourages the sharing of information to increase collaboration and learning opportunities. Founding Chairman, Tania Seary, recognized a need (a fragmented industry in need of a makeover), gathered a small team of professionals, and created a platform that has now grown to over 6000 users worldwide in just over one year. The role of social media in supply chain processes will continue to grow, and Procurious has established itself as an early-mover.

Logistics: Who can deliver faster, and cheaper?

As consumer expectations grow, especially in the field of E-commerce, so too does the stress on logistics processes. Today’s “I want it now (and cheap)” culture has led to an influx of crowdsourced delivery service start-ups in the logistics industry. Basically, people bring items to other people while en route to a particular destination. This concept follows in the footsteps of car sharing, apartment sharing and other aspects of today’s sharing economy. The first company name that comes to mind when discussing this topic is Uber, which started as a ride-sharing service and has since expanded into a multi-faceted transportation company, with tests such as Uber Fresh (food order delivery) and Uber Rush (courier package delivery) under its belt.

Creative delivery solutions are however not just limited to startups. Back in April, Amazon and Audi announced their plans to develop a service that would allow for the delivery of a package directly to a car’s trunk.

This is definitely a sector to keep an eye on in the coming months.

BlueBlox & Coke Life

Back in June, I had the privilege of meeting two supply chain entrepreneurs at the European Supply Chain and Logistics Summit in Barcelona. It was great participating in an event that encouraged innovative thinking and included industry entrepreneurs.

The first encounter was with Dorothy Diedericks, founder and CEO of BlueBlox. Dorothy recognized a need in the supply chain industry, namely the closure of the gap between the potential in emerging markets in Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe – and multinationals that want to conduct business there, but can’t due to numerous challenges. BlueBlox takes a modular approach to addressing these cross-border challenges, creating more visibility and increasing compliance.

Secondly, I sat-in on a presentation by Simon Berry from ColaLife. Back in 2008, Simon Berry and his wife Jane started an online “movement” which turned into an official charity in the UK in 2011. Essentially, Simon found it hard to believe that Coca-Cola was available in the majority of developing countries, but access to basic medicines was scarce. He had the idea of tapping into private sector supply chains to distribute anti-diarrhoea kits in Zambia, where 1 in 9 children die before their 5th birthday due to preventable causes such as dehydration from diarrhoea. After years of progress and innovation, it is safe to say that the entrepreneurial spirit of Simon and his small team has saved many lives.

WalMart Buyers meet “made in the USA” suppliers

In an attempt to improve its image and product assortment, Wal-Mart recently set-up a “shark-tank-like” pitch process that connected entrepreneurs with company buyers. Obtaining shelf-space at retail is not easy, let alone getting face-to-face time to pitch a product, so many businesses took advantage of this opportunity.

The pursuit of U.S. suppliers helps Wal-Mart gain some transparency in its supply chain and gives consumers more options both online and in U.S. retail locations. After all, according to Matt Kistler, Wal-Mart’s head of global customer insights, where a product is manufactured serves as a major deciding factor in purchasing decisions, second only to price. This forward thinking buyer-supplier set-up truly embraced the entrepreneurial spirit.

Closing Words

It is great to see the entrepreneurial spirit take over an industry that can use some more excitement and positive press coverage. It is safe to say that the supply chain industry has come a long way thanks to the tenacity, optimism, passion and creativity of industry professionals. The emergence and proliferation of connected devices, smart factories, and the sharing economy are sure to set the stage for more exciting times in supply chain and logistics.

Have you recently come across some exciting new projects? What are some examples of entrepreneurship you have seen in the industry?