“When you get down to basics, supply chain management is about communication and relationships among people – buyers and sellers. And that’s what social media does. It makes communication and collaboration between professionals better, stronger and more effective.”
It has been shown that there is a definite impact on business performance for organizations that engage consumers and employees through social media. But what about b2b interaction and supply chain management?
The supply chain management aspect of business has been slower to jump on to the social media bandwagon. However, the tides are slowly turning and organizations are starting to seriously consider the benefits of engaging the supply chain aspect of the business using social media.
A McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) research report on “The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity Through Social Technologies” shows that social media really does create value in supply chain management, finding that “twice as much potential value lies in using social tools to enhance communications, knowledge sharing and collaboration within and across enterprises.”
There are many advantages to using social media tools in supply chain management. Nightingale suggests a number of ways that using social media can benefit the supply chain:
- Demand: Finding out what customers want in real time can provide a competitive edge.
- Operations: Empowering employees to share experiences, ideas and problems has the potential to improve operational efficiency and the bottom line.
- Lead generation and brand development: “Social media is an amplifier.” Used the right way, it allows you to get your brand out in the social world. However, it can just as easily be associated with negative messages/images as positive.
- Real-time data: Social media tools can allow for even quicker diagnoses of problems in the supply chain through real-time data, faster analysis, and better (and quicker) implementation of solutions.
- “Social media technologies can help companies identify and resolve exceptions faster and more effectively,” as they allow easy, quick collaboration and communication among large numbers of people.
- Social media tools can help organizations manage risks by providing real-time and insightful information, allowing them to implement the most appropriate solution and preventing or minimizing the impact of the risk on the supply chain process.
- Social media can help organizations generate ideas for improving supply chain processes and solving problems by leveraging the collective insights, knowledge and expertise of employees across the business.
A case study: Industrial Mold and Machine (IMM)
One of the greatest success stories of adopting social media into supply chain management in the manufacturing industry is Industrial Mold and Machine (IMM), the producer of custom molds for plastic bottle manufacturers.
The organization implemented the use of iPads with Socialtext software for all mold makers on the production floor, creating a mobile workforce. Socialtext makes it easier for employees to find resources and information; to share ideas, expertise, and information; remove knowledge barriers; and openly collaborate in a safe environment.
IMM was looking for a solution to deal with their communication issues and to improve their manufacturing processes. Socialtext allowed them to do just this, with IMM using the software primarily to:
- share information from the time the order is placed right through to production
- flag and resolve production-line quality issues
- give access to the design and problem-solving process
IMM is now almost 100% mobile. In addition to its other advantages, combining iPad mobility with the information and collaboration advantages of Socialtext has also set them apart as an employer in a difficult labour market.
Lawrence Housel, Head of IT at IMM (and the person who made the case for and implemented Socialtext), feels the way that social software supports and expands teamwork is one of its biggest assets in the manufacturing industry: “Manufacturing is done by a group of people working together, passing information and material back and forth. When manufacturing organizations are focused properly and executing in unison they are capable of unprecedented production. This type of “in the zone” manufacturing can occur in any successful company, but social software helps make it a more consistent and repeatable circumstance.”
The results? By creating a mobile workforce and engaging them using Socialtext, IMM achieved significant results:
- 20% increase in “cut time”
- 40% decrease in labour hours
- workforce is almost 100% mobile
- Social media offers great value to the supply chain management aspect of businesses.
- Leader buy-in is essential.
- Know what you want to change or improve, then find the best tool to help you do it. Don’t discount social media as an option in your research.
Submitted by: Candace Berner-Rubie – SMBP Student, University of Waterloo.
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