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We don’t hold the key to the next great supply chain innovation. Everybody does.

By Contributing Author | 08/13/2018 | 7:56 AM

By Kevin Heath, Senior Vice President and Chief Procurement Officer at Georgia-Pacific


Technology has had more impact on supply chain-related operations during the last 10 years than it has in nearly a century. The supply chain is evolving, spurred by data collected in our warehouses and factories through the Internet of Things, giving us deeper insights into the most detailed processes.

With technology, we can drive maximum efficiency in nearly all elements of manufacturing and fulfillment.  But to fully realize its potential – to find solutions to tomorrow’s problems today – we need to collaborate. 

The world’s supply chain requires radical reinvention, but we have a tendency to only look for solutions within our own teams. This approach worked when robotics and automated guided vehicles were still on the drawing board – a change to warehouse operations years down the road. That doesn’t work anymore.

Now, the supply chain is expected to organize, track and deliver goods faster than ever and with more accuracy, but often with fewer resources. The Fourth Industrial Revolution hums along, and if we don’t adapt to it, we’ll be left behind. We can’t do it alone. The tools to create our next great supply chain innovations are already here, they’re just dispersed throughout our industries.

Consider these three benefits of working together to address supply chain challenges:

1. Gaining a point of view outside your sector

The similarities between the behind-the-scenes operations of an airline and a restaurant might not be apparent at first. However, logistics play a key role in putting a plane on the runway and a chicken sandwich on your table.

Georgia-Pacific manages one of the nation’s largest supply chains, moving paper, pulp and building materials through an extensive network of manufacturing operations, warehouses and re-load facilities before they reach the store shelves.

An airline, a restaurant and a pulp and paper company have the same goal – deliver a better customer experience faster and cheaper – which lends itself to a collaborative effort. When companies across industries partner to address a supply chain challenge, they can get insights they wouldn’t typically get from internal work teams. One company might have mastered augmented reality in inventory picking, while another has successfully employed robotics for packing. When we share these ideas without fear of losing a competitive advantage, we drive a more efficient supply chain.

2. Condensing time-to-market

Using the ‘silo’ approach – assigning our own work teams to solve our individual supply chain challenges – could eventually result in ideas that positively impact our supply chain operations. However, market demands are forcing us to step up the pace. Warehouses and factories need answers now, not five years from now. We need innovations that can move past the conceptual phase and become publicly accessible quicker.

By taking a collaborative approach, we can prove that two heads are better than one. If one partner has already figured out how to address a development roadblock, we can move through the ideation process faster, effectively determine what’s not feasible and focus our efforts on solutions that could be deployed in a much shorter time frame. 

3. Getting everyone involved

Teamwork has always been a crucial ingredient at successful companies. As workplace structures become less rigid – and as a new generation of supply chain professionals who are accustomed to working collaboratively rises through the ranks – encouraging team problem-solving can better prepare your organization for addressing tomorrow’s challenges.

When we come together across industries to develop new innovations, we set an example for teamwork. Such projects also give team members a chance to collaborate and network with their peers – from established companies and start-ups –as well as an opportunity to see how their contributions power the solution. It’s an opportunity to change company culture for the better.

The future of supply chain is now

Supply chain management is increasingly important in today’s businesses, but it’s also increasingly complicated. It’s time to lay to rest the idea we’re best served by going it alone. Collaboration on supply chain products across industries can lead to solutions we never would have considered, and it can bring those products to life faster.

So, leave your silos and start looking for the people and places that can help you think differently about your supply chain challenges.  You might find solutions where you’d least expect them. 


Kevin HeathKevin Heath joined the Georgia-Pacific leadership team in 2017 with his promotion to SVP, Chief Procurement Officer. Before that, he spent 12 years as Vice President of Strategic Sourcing & Procurement, Capital and MRO for the company. Prior to that, Kevin worked in several GP operations and held various roles including Engineering & Maintenance Business Leader. Kevin received his bachelor’s degree in Power Engineering Technology from Maine Maritime Academy, and his Master in Business Administration from the University of Washington.



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About One-Off Sound-Off

Welcome to "One-Off Sound-Off," a blog page devoted to guest commentary on all things supply chain. This is a space where industry leaders can share their opinions and expertise with the logistics and supply chain community. If you have an article or commentary you'd like to share, please consider sending a guest blog proposal to feedback@dcvelocity.com.


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