As one of the world’s largest manufacturers of health care products, Johnson & Johnson’s complex supply chain processes are discussed in detail on their web site. Information about sourcing ingredients, creating products, distribution and consumption of products is demonstrated through info-graphics, web links to other organizations and direct links to many forms of social media. It is interesting to look at one product with essentially one main ingredient to really focus on one supply chain process and its reciprocal relationship with social media.
From quieting squeaky floor boards, applying temporary tattoos, removing oil stains to wearing patent leather, baby powder has so many uses other than the obvious. Classic Baby Powder made with talc is one of Johnson & Johnson’s oldest products. This is a product that has gone through a lot of controversy in the media and in social media since it was part of most of our daily diapering routines a generation ago. Baby powder is just one example of a Johnson & Johnson product that has seen huge modifications in product supply chain in recent years as a result of research, media exposure and changes in consumer trends. In turn, Johnson & Johnson is using social media to its advantage in three main areas of the baby powder supply chain: ingredient research/sourcing, product innovation/trends and consumer relations/consumption.
As outlined in the 2014 Citizenship Sustainability Report, Johnson & Johnson prides itself on strong collaborations and relationships with partners. They promote that one of the main benefits of this is that it allows them to conduct research, training and development on raw material suppliers right at the source. Johnson & Johnson posts Raw Material Sourcing standards and their five level safety assurance process on their web site, You Tube, Twitter and Facebook. As the main ingredient in baby powder is Talc, and this has been where the latest health concern lies, there is an information page dedicated to this ingredient. This information being posted here not only has the potential to change consumer perception of the product but also publicly holds the supplier mutually responsible for the safety and quality of the product. Allowing questions and concerns about Talc stand on their social media sites, helps their suppliers guide product development and promotion from their end. The significant piece that is missing here is the public linkages with main suppliers such as Imerys Talc America. Neither of these websites appear to acknowledge the partnership or how they are working together to ensure the safety of this raw material. Since the two companies have been extensively linked in the media by external sources anyways, the potential to use social media in partnership to gain trust is there. Being aware of what the public is saying about each company individually and together, how often and monitoring this on social media would have a direct impact on raw materials sourcing and the foundation of this supply chain.
Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is a product who’s supply chain has required significant innovation. Social media has played a big role in this. When reviewing the talc based baby powder comments on Johnson & Johnson’s numerous social media sites, it is obvious that there are more negative comments than positive ones and has been for a while. Instead of discontinuing the product, they promote alternative uses to the way it was traditionally used. Such as refreshing your hair and cosmetic powder. They have also come up with alternative products as evident in this concern response posted on the product information page: “The reason why we have reformulated our powder was to remove ingredients that moms were concerned about. You can find our newly reformulated products on shelves — they are hypoallergenic, phthalate and paraben-free.” If you go to the Walmart online store, you now have two different types of Johnson & Johnson baby powder to choose from, the original talc based product and also a corn starch based one. There are now more positive social media comments on the corn starch product than the talc product. This change in product demand and usage would have had ripple effects on the supply chain and anticipating this product consumption shift just prior and as it was happening would have been key to managing supply chain logistics. This is also a great example of how money could have been saved or not spent in the first place. Let’s say the demand for talc baby powder dropped suddenly as a result of concerns in the media and social media. The sooner Johnson & Johnson could have stopped their talc orders, the better. The talc was probably being shipped from Europe and having excess of what was needed to meet demand would mean wasted shipping, storage and labour costs. Consistently monitoring product feedback on social media would have given insight into this upcoming product trend and in turn caused modifications to the supply chain way sooner than traditional feedback methods such as surveys and sales reports.
At the consumer level of the baby powder supply chain, a wealth of data lies in retailer web sites. Trends in online sales and product feedback posted on retail sites could affect the supply chain as far back as raw materials. For example, there is a lot of feedback on the Walmart site saying people don’t like the fragrance of the powder, this could lead to a change in supplier or a different product being shipped from a different location. To look a little deeper, if Walmart were to share their web metrics with Johnson& Johnson, they would be able to see link click data for every product and also see things like how many times ingredients were reviewed, how long browsers spend on each page and browser demographics. This could be useful in upcoming product trends or even be used to predict demand in a certain areas. After reviewing social media feedback, it appears that there are still many loyal users of talc baby powder in the Southern United States, possibly due to hot humid weather and/or tradition. This data would also help target online advertising of products.
Lessons for Others
The possibilities of using social media to decrease cost and increase efficiency and virtually all aspects of the supply chain are endless. It takes some creative thinking around data collection and management, though this concept could benefit any business even if they themselves are not active on social media. Being aware of what is happening in the moment is extremely important to staying competitive. When looking at the baby powder example above, without actively involving social media in the supply chain process, I believe sales of this product would have dwindled and no alternative would have been offered.
Johnson & Johnson
Industry: Medical Products
Name of Organization Contact: Allison V, Consumer Care Center
Authored by: Orecia Reilly
If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.
2014 Citizenship Sustainability Report. (n.d.). Retrieved June 21, 2016, fromhttp://www.jnj.com/sites/default/files/pdf/cs/2014-JNJ-Citizenship-Sustainability-Report.pdf#page=35
3 ways social media is impacting the supply chain. (2013). Retrieved June 21, 2016, from http://www.inventory-and-supplychain-blog.com/3-ways-social-media-is-impacting-the-supply-chain/
Our Strategic Framework. (n.d.). Retrieved June 21, 2016, fromhttp://www.jnj.com/caring/citizenship-sustainability/strategic-framework/supply-chain-management
The Impact of Social Media on the Supply Chain: Is There One? | Supply Chain Nation. (n.d.). Retrieved June 21, 2016, from http://blog.jda.com/the-impact-of-social-media-on-the-supply-chain-is-there-one/
You Should Be Using Social Media to Improve Supply Chain Management. (n.d.). Retrieved June 21, 2016, from https://www.hcmworks.com/blog/you-should-be-using-social-media-to-improve-supply-chain-management