GE embraces social media for supply chain management and business process improvement

Helene Montpetit    October 27, 2014

To optimize your supply chain management, no doubt you have invested heavily in information technologies over the past decades. By now, you probably have an exact picture of your inventory, can track components, can follow your product through each stage of production and are aware of incoming orders.

Since in all likelihood your competitors are also running similar programs, what can you do to get back in the lead?

Social media can give you an edge that will set you apart. Take a few minutes to listen to Jeff Ashcroft, supply chain and social media industry thought leader, as he discusses how social media has improved his supply chain management.


People working together to harmonize processes
Musicians have long known that first rate results are likely if they perform from the same score and play their part to the best of their ability, while carefully listening to each other.

Similarly, new media communication technologies can promote goal congruence, align incentives, allow everyone to share knowledge and synchronize decisions to improve final results. In other words, by keeping everyone informed of the flow at all times, a well connected supply chain can help you and your suppliers make beautiful music together.

Among those who have adopted social media to enhance business processes, GE stands out for the sheer scope of integration it has achieved. Here is a quick look at some of the initiatives the company has carried out over the past few years.

Organization name: GE (General Electric)

Industries: Several (details available here)

Description: GE is such a large and diversified company that it defies succinct portrayals. On its main website, it describes itself as:

“…working on things that matter. The best people and the best technologies taking on the toughest challenges. Finding solutions in energy, health and home, transportation and finance. Building, powering, moving and curing the world. Not just imagining. Doing. GE works.”

Mexico: integrating systems to improve output
General Electric owns and operates 256 plants in 26 different countries around the world. Their Transportation Division in Mexico repairs and modernizes diesel-electric railroad locomotives, which are then put back into service across Canada and the Americas.

When increased demand for rail transportation required the Division to increase its output without raising costs, its control group worked with Macrolynk, a next-generation supply chain management solution, to develop a system that could be used across the procurement, manufacturing, and repair processes, and that would satisfy the need for improved import/export controls and reporting.

The integration of this social information technology reduced clerical effort by 30% and saved the company $150,000 per year. Fines and penalties were reduced by a whopping $2,000,000 in the first year at the first two sites installed. The system also gave greater visibility to management in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Connecting to solutions and ideas while reducing greenhouse gas emissions
How useful does GE think social media can be? Enough to develop its own applications. RailConnect 360, is a connected suite of customizable software solutions created by the company to help solve the industry’s most pressing problems. (To view the video featuring representatives linked throughout the supply chain, click here.) GE intends to introduce no less than 14 new Industrial Internet Predictivity technologies, which it says

“will enable global industries to achieve outcomes such as minimal unplanned downtime, increased productivity, preventive maintenance, lower fuel costs, and reduced emissions.”

Company-wide internal social network
GE has also piloted an internal social media media project, an initiative brought about by Ron Utterbeck, CIO for GE Corporate and the Advanced Manufacturing Software Technology Center in Michigan. The network, which is called GE Colab, links together 115,000 GE employees across the world and is said to attract about 1,000 new users every few days.

GE Colab began with an introduction to “power users” as a way to speed word of mouth around the enterprise and encourage early high levels of activity. As use spread throughout the organization, the network helped people of all job levels, countries and generations connect and communicate.

“We’re harnessing the power of about 115,000 brains right now,” says Utterbeck.

Harnessing brains, yes, but also fostering good relationships, two good reasons for GE and most any other business to turn to social media for supply chain management.

More information
These initiatives are only the tip of the iceberg, GE produces videos and podcasts and engages in several other social media activities. To find out more, click here.

For more on social media in supply chain management, see articles listed here.

Please feel free to submit your comments on this post or on the use of social media to manage the supply chain in your industry.

Lessons learned:

  • Social media can provide information not available through traditional channels, such as early awareness of potential problems, which allows businesses to intervene.
  • A well-connected supply chain increases efficiency and effectiveness through keeping all interested parties aware of progress, changes and problems.
  • Integrated systems and connectivity across the supply chain can save significant time and money.
  • The use of social media connects people more closely, which increases trust, a key factor in developing collaborative communities and good business relationships.

Submitted by: Hélène Montpetit, University of Waterloo Student.

Author Contact:

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Programme Director.


Social Media and Supply Chain Strategy, Tawfik Ali, Ali Law Practice (1 hr. 20 mins)

Social Media Supply Chain : Top 5 tips you need to know, Visbl blogpost

From risk to resilience: Using analytics and visualization to reduce supply chain vulnerability, Deloitte Review, issue 14

Collaborating for optimum supply chain management, Inbound Logistics

Saving lives through effective supply chain management, Karolina Maziliauskaite

Supply Chain Compliance and the Supply Chain of the 21st Century, October 2014 ebiz radio conference podcasts

Eight Ways Cloud is Making Supply Chains Very Smart, Joe McKendrick, Forbes

Macrolynk review of GE Business Case

GE’s Colab Brings Good Things to the Company