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Thinking about human supply chain intelligence

The value of supply chain intelligence coming from street level knowledge is a recurring theme that people are struggling to understand. The military is a good case study of how one can start to think about this phenomenon. I recently interviewed a former Marine who served in Iraq, who described some of the activities regarding logistics intelligence and demand planning.

“We do a good job of reporting what we have on hand every day. As a company commander we developed a logistics status report This was in a military standardized nine line format where each unit has a logistics report that includes bandages, batteries, and all different classes of material. Your war fighter on the ground at the company level sends up a report with water, chow, ammunition on hand and that goes up to the battalion and up to a depot level. There is also a report that is produced that shows how many bullets during combat operations per marine are required and the standard amount for each piece of equipment, and this is compared against the actual onhand inventory. This goes up to regimental brigade and briefed to the commander at every level. And every commander knows at any point when any company is within 2 days of being out of supplies. In a counter insurgency environment this allows a pipeline to be established in theater when supplies are hitting these units at major points in time and when disruptions occur, the battalion has plans to convoy it at all times.

Although not as dramatic, how can organizations develop the same level of visibility and insight at the supply and customer level? Any responses or ideas from readers would be welcome. I believe this ability to communicate and coordinate using other forms of media besides planning systems, but also exploiting social media and other forums will become more important in the future.