Today’s blog is a guest post by Nick Moores on social networking for supply chains. Although this is a topic that is bandied about a great deal, Nick shares some interesting insights into how managers need to think about social networking as a vehicle for creating business relationship networks.
Effective supply chain management through social networking
The irrepressible force of social media has in recent years collided with the corporate world. These days, the image of a company on social media is crucial to its success, and businesses around the globe are having to learn quickly how to use this tool to their advantage.
One key benefit of today’s immediate and ubiquitous media industry is the way in which a company can reinforce its brand and raise its profile. Twitter promotes itself as the “largest real time conversation ever created”, and shows you how in 140 characters you can grow your business profile, monitor trends in your industry and attract customers. Similarly Facebook allows for a dialogue between company and customer. The customer is able to speak directly with the company, and the company in turn is able to publicly exercise their great customer service for all to see, and to advertise promotions to attract new business.
For the individual, platforms such as Linkedin, the professional networking site, allows you to interact with colleagues and business links remotely, whilst promoting yourself to customers or potential employers. And what a way to network – with more than 225 million members, it’s certainly the place to pinpoint exactly the skills you’re looking for.
However, social media in industry is not just outward facing, but is being used increasingly within business to help manage supply chains, creating what Adrian Gonzales, founder and president of Adelante SCM refers to as “social business networks”. These networks are more about facilitating “people-to-people communication and collaboration”, allowing real time transparent conversation between peers groups. This function, in a wide spread, even global supply chain, is proving to be a golden ticket.
Firstly, one is able to monitor the here and now of their supply chain production and needs. Logistical updates can be tracked, data can be shared, and progress can be monitored. All this means that in turn should any problems arise, they can be dealt with quickly and effectively, pooling resource and ideas from across the entire network of suppliers.
Take for example the social media platform Socialtext, a company which improves business performance by “making it easier for employees to find the colleagues and information they need to solve challenges new and old”. When manufacturing company Industrial Mold and Machine (IMM) used this platform to revolutionise their processes, it resulted in the consistent achievement of “unprecedented production”. On the shop floor, iPads were used by all, increasing the mobilisation of their communication means, and meaning that employees could contact and be contacted at all times. The result of this interaction was increased productivity; a 20% increase in ‘cut time’ with a 40% decrease in labour hours. Coordinating via Socialtext from across the warehouse was a quick and easy innovation, that allowed IMM to use its workforce effectively.
Across these platforms, this ongoing conversation enables companies to share with one another best practice, build and improve relationships and share knowledge and data effortlessly. Linkedin means that colleagues across the world can introduce themselves to one another, advertise their skill set and background and network without having met. Document and process building can now avoid the black hole of email systems, as shared platforms allow for collaboration throughout a business, such as cloud, where multiple users can input into a document and feed back to one another simultaneously.
The high profile leaders of the social media industry are not the only competitors in this environment, as more and more industry specific social media emerges. Take Sourcemap for example, a company which allows both clients and colleagues access to supply chain information. This ‘social business network’ consists of maps on which you can pinpoint the origins of a specific part of a product. This tool shows a transparent supply chain, and allows people to contact any supplier involved in the production.
These social networks can therefore provide a wider view of the supply chain – a large kinetic entity, rather than static and separated cogs. Seeing how the chain functions as a whole can help businesses make decisions to increase efficiency, and cultivate innovation.
The interaction from the customer is also vital – it allows the consumer to speak directly with the business about its product, what it needs, what could be improved, and where they are falling down. If approached in the right way, social media can turn on the tap for all the information you could need, without stepping away from your desk.
But here is the one pitfall. We’ve all seen the damage social media can do to a company if it is used incorrectly, therefore it’s essential to have a dedicated manager or team that handles this interaction and adheres to agreed process.
What’s evident in today’s climate is that social media won’t be going away. It is now an integral and powerful tool available to all, and businesses must get on board, or get left behind.
About the author: Nicholas Moores is a professional technology writer for Waer Systems – Supply Chain Management Software