Tag Archives: Supply Chain Management

Sports brings people together. It moves and inspires people in ways that can sometimes be hard to explain. The sacrifice can never be put into words or understood unless you’ve personally gone through it yourself. But yet, regardless of your participation or not, sports can bring a nation together. It can bring us to our knees and can instil a sense of pride. The raw talent, incredible dedication and sheer passion of watching someone give it their all is a great indicator that sport is much more than the result at the end of a race or a game, it tells the story of the incredible team behind-the-scenes that helps a team or individual propel to greatness.

There is no better feeling than having your skin hydrated, cared for and clean while using products that support a value, cause or lifestyle you align yourself with – organic, natural, environmentally friendly, cruelty-free, ethically responsible, or all of the above.

Few condiments hold a candle to this savory-sweet, palate-pleasing treat enjoyed by adults and children alike. Ketchup, your pairings are endless: eggs, bacon, bologna, hot dogs, fries, burgers, sausages, onion rings, grilled cheese, chicken fingers, fish sticks…alright maybe not endless. That’s getting pretty close to an exhaustive list, as far as any self-respecting person can enumerate. Yes, this powerful condiment possesses an innate ability to make-or-break your summer BBQ. And it recently showed off some of its unique power to rally social media supporters in a very surprising way. Canadian Connoisseurs Speak Up In March 2016, Loblaws decided to pull French’s ketchup from its shelves without warning, inciting a viral backlash demanding Loblaws re-list the item. The sense of importance associated with this particular product most likely stems from its local origins. French’s ketchup is made with tomatoes grown here in Canada; Leamington, Ontario to be geographically precise. Thus it’s a source of national pride, of small-town Canadian jobs and, ultimately, of significance extending well beyond something squeezed from a bottle. This high level of engagement in the supply chain management process led Globe and Mail food columnist Sylvan Charlebois to declare in his Ketchup Wars opinion piece that “the politics of food distribution are alive and well in Canada”. Many speculated that unfair competitive practices among vendors may have had something to do with Loblaws’ decision to de-list the product. Finding evidence to support this theory is challenging. However, the ketchup story illustrates how the complexities of food retailing are increasingly intermingling with unexpected social media uprisings.  

Recognizing social media is so much more then Twitter, Facebook or an online forum, I took my question to Professor Peter Carr of the University of Waterloo to understand what social media really is defined as; he noted: “There isn’t a generally accepted definition and opinions probably include narrow, which would be restricted to popular public tools (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and broader, including any form of online communications (email, Yammer, SharePoint etc.). I use the broader approach, any online communication between two or more people could be included.” Understanding Carr’s definition on social media, we can really look into how might social media fit into companies – and in what realms? Specifically for the topic of this post, how does social media fit into supply chain? From course material in my Social Media for Business Performance at the University of Waterloo, it is discussed that there are a variety applications for social media in the supply chain, but there are a few I really want to focus on that I find make an interesting case study: visibility, stakeholders and purchasing.

Climate change and environmental accountability are both hot topics in the 21st century. More and more people are becoming concerned about the products they buy and what impact on the climate their production has. It has been reported that also more businesses are increasingly taking environmental performance into account when selecting suppliers. In July 2009, Wal-Mart announced its intention to create a global sustainability index system to keep track of products ratings according to the environmental and social impacts of their manufacturing and distribution. The motivation behind the index is to create environmental accountability in Wal-Mart’s supply chain and to encourage other retail companies to do the same. Wal-mart Stores, Inc., doing business as simply Walmart, is an American multinational retailing corporation that operates as a chain of hypermarkets, discount department stores, and grocery stores. As of January 31, 2017, Walmart has 11,695 stores and clubs in 28 countries. Walmart is the world’s largest company by revenue – approximately $480 bln (2016), as well as the largest private employer in the world with 2.3 million employees. Walmart Canada has stores in every province and territory, except for Yukon and Nunavut. Walmart Canada has in total 410 stores (January, 31st, 2017).

Supply chain management (SCM) relies on, at its core, people talking to people.  Working with vendors, coordinating shipments and carriers, buying stock, fulfilling orders, maintaining inventory levels, forecasting what end users may be looking to purchase in the future – every step of the way involves communication between one party and another. “Social networking is not about socializing, but about facilitating people-to-people communication and collaboration, which is at the heart of managing and executing supply chain processes.”  “What is needed [in a dynamic business environment] is a supply chain of rapid response…Many people who work in the materials business [and] talk about supply chains and the speed of supply chains [have historically] thought about systems talking to systems across enterprises and about processes. But in reality, the speed of the chain is not really related to the systems used by the various companies—it’s all about people, and people talking to people”

At FlashStock, operational efficiency is key to the growth and success of the company. Our core product is custom images and videos taken by our network of global contributors which is delivered to brands around the world through our machine learning technology. Even with this automation, we need to ensure that the customer is properly managed throughout the customer lifecycle. Having better insight into the process, through the collection and use of data, allows FlashStock to scale resources as needed for all client project sizes, effectively manage the pipeline of business, and ensure the proper management of those resources for optimal productivity. Some say having a well-oiled supply chain is a key competitive advantage. FlashStock views the supply chain as key for tracking and measuring that we are going above and beyond for our clients delivering what we promised.

Budget Marine is the Caribbean’s leading marine chandlery with retail locations throughout the Caribbean.  In the Caribbean, most people use social media to let friends and family know where their latest landfall is, and for obtaining information through cruisers’ nets. Using social media as a tool to improve business performance is a new concept.  However, for companies like Budget Marine, it opens up vast new opportunities.  People may not think of the Caribbean when they think of “multinational companies,” but that is exactly what Budget Marine is.

On-line retailers have been commanding a higher share of Canadian retail spending every year. The trend is largely driven by convenience (e.g., home delivery), wider assortment (due to absence of physical shelf space) and opportunities for consumers to use social media to share their opinions about their experiences with the product. Amazon.com and its Canadian web-site, Amazon.ca,  are  great examples of successfully capitalizing on the above trends to provide the best in class on-line shopping experience. Amazon has become the largest on-line retailer in North America, selling over 480 million products in the USA and 133 million in Canada.

Watsi is a non-profit crowdsourcing platform that enables anyone to fund life-changing medical procedures for patients in developing countries who might not otherwise have access to healthcare. At the time this case study was written, 22,102 Watsi donors had funded healthcare for 11,559 patients in 25 countries. Patients waiting to be fully funded included Vehn, a farmer from Cambodia who needs a hip replacement, Olga, a single mother from Guatemala who needs treatment for diabetes, and Dah Htoo, a 2 year old boy from Burma who needs surgery to repair burn damage. When Watsi founder Chase Adam was a Peace Corps volunteer, he was traveling through a small town in Costa Rica when a woman boarded the bus. Her son required medical treatment she could not afford; she showed his medical records and asked passengers for money to help pay for his treatment. The town was called Watsi and the idea of developing a platform to crowdsource funding for vital health care in developing countries was born. Soon after the platform launched, the idea gained traction on Hacker News, and eventually led to Watsi being the first non-profit startup funded and accelerated by Y Combinator.

In today’s highly competitive market, organizations must strategize to create avenues of innovation, efficiency, and increased productivity to hold on to their competitive advantage. An area with room for growth for many firms is more effective supply chain management. With a vast array of social media tools available, organizations can improve operations in several ways including but not limited to increased visibility, communication, coordination, and reduced costs. “Although a vast majority of people reference only the most popular social networks – Facebook,  Twitter and LinkedIn when thinking of social media, the true social media experience is much larger for companies. They can engage users through smart phone applications, RFID, IoT, Big Data, business social media (for sharing information between partner groups) in order to help information spread much more quickly.” Ranjan Sinha, Logistics and Supply Chain Management Professional

Clearwater was established in 1976 by two very ambitious Nova Scotians; John Risley and Colin MacDonald. Risley and MacDonald started Clearwater as a local Lobster Pound, named for the cove in which they operated, with only a pick up truck and a vision. Over time, their vision grew from its humble beginnings in Hubbards, NS at ‘Clearwater Cove’. Clearwater grew to become Clearwater Seafoods Inc.; one of the world’s leading seafood companies and the largest holder of shellfish licenses in Canada. Since its establishment, Clearwater has been a company committed to sustainability through science-based management. As company CEO, Ian Smith notes: “Since Clearwater’s humble beginnings, we’ve continued to invest in science and stewardship of the resource to sustain and grow the wild seafood products we harvest. Sustainable seafood harvesting has always been at the core of Clearwater’s business, and will continue to drive our success moving forward.” Clearwater now exports product to over 40 countries and has over 15 offices and processing facilities worldwide. A crucial component to this continued business growth is the way in which Clearwater manages their supply chain; from ‘ocean to plate’.

When you think of social media, popular networking websites like Facebook and Twitter may be the first applications that come to mind, however many companies are leveraging more robust social platforms to better plan and control their supply chain. Data mining, data sharing and online collaboration are just a few ways that social media can improve supply chain efficiency. The term supply chain management is relatively new and was first published in the Financial Times in 1982.  However, it wasn’t until the late 1990s when the term began to take hold. The term supply chain refers to the process involved in the production and distribution of a product or service. To explain the term further, I will use an example of an Oreo. The beginning of the supply chain starts with sourcing ingredients for the product such as sugar and cocoa. Other points of the supply chain of an Oreo include shipping, manufacturing, distributing, retail sales, consumption and finally waste disposal. Supply chain management strategies requires a total view of the system to optimize business processes. Having control over supply chains are essential for businesses as it impacts costs and risks, and because today’s customers are demanding transparency of it. For example, customers want to know where the foods they eat or the clothes they wear come from, and are asking companies to provide information about sustainability and ethical sourcing.

The supply chain plays a pivotal role in the overall success of an organization, but even more so in the fresh food sector. Restaurants and other food related operations are always looking at ways to cut costs and maximize profits in the most effective and efficient methods possible. Whether it be healthcare, restaurant chains or even small mom and pop type restaurants, GFS understands that managing all those moving parts can be an overwhelming aspect of doing business. GFS is the largest family operated distributor in North America that has been running for over 115 years and services restaurants, universities, healthcare and a variety of other foodservice operations. Logistics and supply chain challenges have been at the core of the GFS company fabric since it’s establishment in 1897, but being able to manage the supply chain and its intricacies in 2017 is a different dynamic entirely. In addressing this fundamental concern, GFS developed “GFS Connect” with the goal of providing the customer total traceability and accountability anywhere, anytime in an easy and convenient way: “GFS Connect Mobile is the companion application to GFS Connect, offering you access to the same information on a mobile device. This one-of-a-kind tool lets you run your business on the go, anytime, anywhere. It’s the first and only mobile application available to food service operators throughout Canada – and it’s easy and convenient to use.”- GFS Canada Website

On the day I read the content of this case study I had a nasty headache. As I reached for my bottle of Tylenol I wondered how does the manufacturing  industry use social media and the resulting supply chain management ?  Having close relatives in this industry and for confidentiality reasons I decided to look into the manufacturing/vendor side as opposed to discussing a large well-known pharmaceutical company.  What I learned at this level of this industry was it has various levels of complexities of graphs, processes and disconnected communications.

As one of the world’s most renowned supply chain managers most people would not question that Walmart has ‘perfected’ their product management, as they have products made in over 70 countries and manage an average inventory of $32 billion. However, during this Halloween season Walmart seems to have dropped the ball when listing a Halloween costume from supplier, Totally Costumes. This highly controversial costume is named, Razor Blade Suicide Scar Wound Latex Costume, it is a stick on latex scar that looks like a fresh wound from the blade of a razor. The wound is designed to be worn on wrists to look as though the individual has attempted to take their own life. Bloggers, Nicole Lyons & Stephanie Bennett-Henry, recently caught eye of this costume while it was posted on Walmart’s online store and responded to the item on, thelithiumchronicles.org, in a letter titled, “Dear Walmart”. In the letter the two go on to explain how if the company would like to do this costume justice they could go on to make an entire line-up of costumes “to make a buck off of one of the most devastating things that could ever befall a family”. They suggest to go along with the latex scars the individual could wear a sash that says, “I finally did something right”, and even have blood that shoots out of the veins after the razor finally cuts through the right vein. They suggest adding a straightjacket and a pail of meds for the individuals who do not “get the job right” and have to live knowing they could not succeed at that either. They also added the idea of a speaker that repeats a permanent goodbye to haunt those they are leaving behind. The idea of a Grieving Mother Costume was even brought forward to add some cash to the corporations pocket that would include, “ a lifetime of guilt, stigma, and shame … some latex wrinkles for the torment of unanswered questions about what they could have done differently, and why couldn’t they see the signs”. The letter goes on to add a Suicide Survivor Costume saying, “You’d add one of those tacky letters you carry, like an “F” for Failure or “D” for Didn’t do it right, or “W” for Walmart is a disgusting corporation who makes money off of the backs of people who battle every … day with their own… Read more »

When Lululemon was founded in 1998, it was a yoga studio. As the business grew, it became a brand committed to selling the best yoga wear that the company could manufacture. Lululemon understood that their target market valued sustainability, and they designed their supply chain with that in mind. They strive to manufacture products that are free of cruelty, whether that be human or animal, and they try to keep environmental damage to a minimum. Social media has helped the company monitor the current values of their customers. They then update their practices to stay true to the beliefs of their core consumer base. This not only helps their supply chain stay committed to the company’s values, but also provides Lululemon with a chance to market its product.

Alibaba, the largest online business company, does not manufacture or stock products on its own; Uber, the largest transportation network company globally, actually owns no vehicles; Airbnb, leading hotel and travel company, does not own any real estate. One thing they have in common is that they all create evolutionary ideas to disrupt and reform competitive landscape. Owning no inventory nor product doesn’t stop Alibaba being the supply chain management guru. In fact, in April 2016 Alibaba Group has officially surpassed Walmart and become the world’s largest retailer.  This set the milestone when the world’s largest retail market shifted from offline to online. “We used 13 years to demonstrate the power of a different business model compared with brick-and-mortar retailers,” the Alibaba Group said. A key success factor for Alibaba is to delivery comprehensive while tailored digital supply chain process to customers.  

There’s no denying that social media has become a part of our every day lives. It has evolved far beyond individual and personal use, and is now a necessity in the business world. You would be hard pressed to find a company without a Facebook page, and any one that doesn’t won’t be around for very long. Even a business like Camp Grounded, a summer camp for adults that is built on the concept of “unplugging” and leaving all of your electronics at the door 1, has their own Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts on which they do their advertising. It is used everywhere. And while the primary function of social media among businesses is to stay connected with customers and to carry an online presence, it can also be used as a way to increase efficiency and improve upon supply chain management. One major issue most companies face when managing their supply chain is communication. It’s important that all suppliers and manufacturers work together, but especially if different components are being sourced from different time zones, maintaining efficient communication can be challenging. This is where social media comes into play; it’s all about communication! If used correctly, social media should help the supply chain become more streamlined and efficient.2

DB Schenker supports industry and trade in the global exchange of goods: in land transport, worldwide air and ocean freight, contract logistics and supply chain management.1 Globally they employ over 66,000 employees at over 2000 locations.  Their Canadian operations account for over 1600 employees at over 40 locations.  Roughly 3 years ago, DB Schenker started to utilize social media as part of their marketing strategy.  

Amazon is a corporate behemoth that dominates e-commerce and e-fulfillment. What started out as an online bookstore is now a complex online ecosystem that involves thousands of moving parts, including employees, suppliers, and shippers. As Amazon expands and grows, the need to innovate and streamline their supply chain becomes paramount. One of the ways that Amazon innovates their supply chain management is via technology like mobile apps and social media. Their increasingly automated systems alleviate costs, and improve overall speed and productivity.

If you live in Ontario, have eaten in a food court, local restaurant or pub or ordered room service then chances are Flanagan Foodservice helped make your meal possible. Although they didn’t help prepare or serve the food, they did make sure that it arrived on time, fresh and ready to consume through their vast distribution network. From small operations to iconic food chains with multiple locations, Flanagan services over 6000 customers across Ontario. Let’s take a small step back for a moment to discuss this network before we get into how Flanagan is taking an innovative approach at social media and supply chain management.

“Steaming” Ahead with Product Development and Design

Catherine Mills   June 14, 2016

In Spring of 1998 after recently being fired from a brewery, three friends set out on a canoe trip.  That canoe trip would lead to a campfire conversation that would change all of their lives. Greg Taylor, Cam Heaps and Greg Cromwell “The Three Fired Guys” wanted to make a Pilsner that would compete with the best in the world. They did just that! Their brewery is named Steam Whistle, drawing from the inspirational sounds of steam rushing from factory whistles, signalling the end of a fulfilling workday and a time for personal reward.1 The Three Fired Guys built their company with a retro feel, when marketing of goods relied on the trust between manufacturer and consumers. Steam Whistle understands the importance of listening to their consumers and makes ever effort to do so by utilizing social media.

The clothing brand Zara is world renowned for its affordable yet trendy, high quality products. With over 1,770 stores, Founder and CEO Amancio Ortega has grown his small store in Spain into a well-recognized fashion brand in more than 86 different countries! Fast Fashion Trends The secret to all this success? Zara has managed to keep up with the constant change in fashion throughout the world – whether it’s in Japan, Italy, Canada or the USA. Like a chameleon, Zara has been able to quickly adapt to the fast fashion trends. As a result of keeping up with constantly changing consumer trends, Zara ends up producing approximately 450 million items a year for their stores. Just walk into a store and speak to an associate. If you ask them when they expect new product, they always respond with something along the lines of “We’re getting new shipments in every day.” Are you now looking for that dress shirt you were thinking of buying last week? Chances are your size or that style is gone! If you get to the store a week too late, nearly half the products will be completely different.

If you’re looking to get things done around your home or yard, many turn to the quintessential home improvement store – The Home Depot. The entire essence of their company is helping YOU, the customer, get things done. But they really have a knack for getting things done FOR you as well. Let’s take a step back. Supply chain management (SCM) and social media have a rather new connection. As Ranjan Sinha points out in his post on LinkedIn on the subject: “There was once a time when companies were adding policies that discouraged their employees from using social media while on the job. Over the course of the last few years, this notion has taken a turn for the opposite.” Of course, we already know this – there are jobs in all sorts of fields these days that completely revolve around social media. Managing a Twitter feed, Instagram account, or blog could be someone’s primary function in his or her employment. The marriage of SCM and social media is what has changed.