Archives for July 2016

The bimodal imperative

By Toby Gooley | July 19, 2016 | 2:41 PM | Categories: Supply Chain

In May I attended Gartner’s Supply Chain Executive Conference in Phoenix, Ariz. The conference sessions covered everything from software to sales and operations planning to supply chain strategy and much, much more. (I suspect I wasn’t the only one who wanted to clone myself in order to attend more sessions.) There were numerous opportunities to learn from Gartner analysts, technology providers, and supply chain leaders from a wide range of industries. And, of course, the event featured announcements of Gartner’s Top 25 Supply Chains list as well as their annual “Magic Quadrant” assessments of software and logistics service providers.

There were so many sessions, topics, demonstrations, and discussions packed into each day of the conference that it would be hard to identify a single, overarching message. But if I had to focus on just one, it would be this: to succeed in business now and in the future, you need to follow two distinct supply chain paths.

Gartner calls this principle the “bimodal supply chain.” Here—in very simplified terms—is how Chief of Research David A. Willis described it in his opening keynote. You can think of Mode 1 as analog and designed for stability, efficiency, and operational excellence. Mode 2 is digital and designed for agility and innovation—an approach supported by advanced analytics, automation, and connectivity. A company that follows both paths will be “industrialized and innovative, lean and effective but agile,” he said.

The digital side of the supply chain will encompass e-commerce, the Internet of Things, predictive analytics, “big data,” machine-to-machine communication, and demand sensing, among other things. Algorithms will rule the day, and data scientists, analysts, and information technologists will become an integral part of supply chain organizations, Willis predicted.

Does this mean the end of “old school” supply chain management? Definitely not. Willis emphasized that the digital and analog sides of supply chain operations are not in competition; rather, they are complementary and should work together. He cited the example of the home goods retailer Williams-Sonoma, which now derives half of its revenue from online business. The company had to devote considerable resources to adapting its supply chain and its information technology resources to serve that channel, but it did not sacrifice growth in its brick-and-mortar retail channel or disrupt its traditional operations.

The “bimodal supply chain” is catching on as a management strategy, becoming a guiding principle for companies like HP, Schneider Electric, and Discount Tire. Gartner, of course, has a vested interest in pushing the concept; the more companies buy into it, the more opportunities to sell its advisory services and research papers on the topic. But the bimodal supply chain is neither a gimmick nor an empty promise. In fact, it makes perfect sense for companies in almost every industry. Who could argue with a strategy that encourages supply chain organizations to prepare for the data-driven business of the future while reinforcing the value of good, old-fashioned operational excellence?

Truck drivers will be replaced by autonomous vehicles within 10 years, former Facebook executive warns

By Ben Ames | July 13, 2016 | 8:05 PM

The relentless drive of Silicon Valley startup companies is on track to make the truck driving profession obsolete within a decade, according to a former Facebook executive who recently published a tell-all memoir about his years at the huge social media firm.

Speaking in a radio interview with Boston’s WBUR on July 13, author Antonio García Martinez discussed his business book "Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley."

Named for a software application used by the online movie-rental company Netflix to model the impact of unpredictable events on its ability to stream movies and TV shows to its customers, the term “chaos monkeys” also describes the futility of predicting which tech startups will succeed and what impact they will have on society, he said.

“Just imagine a wild monkey rampaging through a large computer center, kicking over boxes and pulling on cables. Silicon Valley right now is sort of like the zoo where the chaos monkeys are kept,” Martinez said on WBUR’s On Point program.

“They run around society and they pull the plug on things like taxis, and they ship an app called Uber, where anyone can become a taxi driver. Or they pull the plug on hotels and anyone with a spare bedroom or a weekend cottage can suddenly become an innkeeper [with Airbnb],” he said.

Driven by that creative instinct, waves of technology startups are sweeping through American society, “pulling the plug” on many traditional industries in a frantic search for the next great business success. However, no firm has the motivation—or even the capability—to forecast how its invention will affect the personal lives of fellow citizens, he said.

“Consider what will happen to truck drivers when autonomous vehicles are standard; and that’s going to happen in 10 years,” Martinez said. “If you look at a map of the most popular job in every U.S. state, for a large number of states, truck driving is the most popular profession—it’s the one way that non-college educated people can make a good living--and that’s going to go away in 10 years. That’s not going to exist as a job in 10 years. And nobody is thinking about that. I think that’s going to be a real problem down the line.”

Quoting the venture capitalist and former Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, Martinez predicted that the future will soon hold only two types of jobs—you’ll either tell the computer what to do, or you’ll be told by the computer what to do.

“I think that will be the reality for a large swath of the economy, and what happens in that world is a real question. There are not going to be jobs for a lot of people in this economy within 10 to 20 years,” Martinez said. “When the chaos monkeys visit, it’s a question of is your life going to be the same before and after?”

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

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