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.
For many companies, especially those with a global supply chain, management can be incredibly complex due to the inter-dependent conditions and risks. For example the supply chain of an Oreo can be affected by a number of situations such as weather, political unrest, disasters, changing regulations or recalls—the list could go on and on. Recently social technologies such as TraQtion have allowed organizations to have a better handle on the supply chain management.
TraQtion is a cloud-based supply chain management software developed by NSF International, a global organization with over 70 years of experience delivering public health standards and certification programs. TraQtion helps quality assurance managers at all levels of the supply chain manage processes and procedures by integrating data from both internal and external systems for smooth flow. The real-time analytics, and predictive algorithms visualize potential threats to take proactive measures. The software features:
- Real-time communication with suppliers
- Visual tracking of shipping and receiving products
- Cloud-based storage to house documentation in one place making compliance can easily be demonstrated to health inspectors
With over 4,000 global suppliers and operations in eight countries, Costco turned to TraQtion for a comprehensive, customized software solution to manage its global food supply chain. Using a social media such as TraQtion, information is easily shared among teams across the world, non-compliances and risks are easily identified and there is one central database for suppliers worldwide.
“We had thousands of suppliers undergoing food safety audits and we had no control over the data. Using a software solution like TraQtion gives us much more control over the flow of our supply chain.” – Christine Summers, Director, Food Safety and Quality Assurance, Costco Wholesale.
In addition to managing big data and identifying risks, TraQtion also improved Costco’s overall communications with vendors, reduced labour costs in managing supplier information, and they are now able to be proactive when it comes to managing risks. Since Costco started using TraQtion, they have decreased the amounts of recalls and customer complaints.
Lessons for Others
Social media use for supply chain management is an area that is lagging behind in comparison to functions like marketing or human resources. Nonetheless here are a number of ways that social media can be used to streamline and simplify an organization’s supply chain management:
- Monitor customer concerns and opinions
- Communicate details of inventory levels, shipping or any delays in transportation (e.g. weather, disasters, holidays)
- Work more efficiently with internal staff and suppliers
- Visually track products (e.g. from farm-to-fork)
- Identify and manage risks through data sharing and data mining
- Research new vendors, business partners, suppliers
- Communicate sustainability and ethical sourcing
- Reduce labour costs by managing day-to-day supply chain activities more easily
Name of Organization Contact: Christine Summers, Director, Food Safety and Quality Assurance
Authored by: Kristy Smith
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.
Case Study: Costco Wholesale (n.d.). Retrieved March 4, 2017, from TraQtion website http://www.traqtion.com/food-beverage-industry.php
MacEvoy, K. (2016, Feb. 15). Ethical Sourcing: Do Customers Really Care? Retrieved March 4, 2017, from Spend Matters website http://spendmatters.com/2016/02/15/ethical-sourcing-do-consumers-and-companies-really-care/
Product Features (n.d.). Retrieved March 4, 2017, from TraQtion website http://www.traqtion.com/product-features.php
Rusch, E. (2014, August 6). Using Social Media in Supply Chain Management . Retrieved March 3, 2017, from Manufacturing Business Technology website https://www.mbtmag.com/article/2014/08/using-social-media-supply-chain