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If It Don't Snap Your Neck, It Ain't Disruptive

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/04/2017 | 3:06 PM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.


So happy to have another birthday to observe; each year becomes less of a sure bet …

The air is fllled with chatter about disruption — technology, processes, design, risks in the supply chain, mostly by people who think that interrupting Big Bang Theory with a storm warning qualifies. A couple of wake-up calls interrupted (disrupted?) my naps recently.

First, a highly-respected industry practitioner and observer (and a friend of some decades) has continued to view Walmart, technology, and globalization as disruptive forces in our SCM space. He has, with some vehemence, eschewed developments by Amazon as turn-you-upside-down-and-shake-until-the-coins-fall-out-of-your-pockets disruptions. His logic? Blimps and warehouses in the sky are (quasi-religious) hype.

I have news. Jeff Bezos does not blindly invest gazillions in smoke and mirrors. His visions might be tweaked in order to get off the ground, but he is chasing competitive advantage in both the PR wars and in SCM planning and execution. Making the kinds of incremental (kaizen) improvements that Walmart and others are shaving and shaping are refinements, not radical game-changers.

Moving on to another arena, let's consider automotive performance for a momnent. What if I told you that one high-end marque had perfected a vehicle that could do 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds, and hit 100 mph in less than 9 seconds? Meanwhile, it was chock-full of technology, including an all-wheel-drive system that supported near-perfect handling under a variety of (changing) road and environmental conditions.

Not impressed? How about if this all happened thirty years ago? It did, in the legendary and rare Porsche 959, which eclipsed the competing capability of others at the time. It remains rare enough still today.

So, with a few years in development, an overnight introduction turned an industry on its ear. Now, that's disruptive.

My point is that if the sudden onset and radical movement brought on by disruption doesn't snap you head back — or cause your air bags to spontaneously inflate — it's not sufficient to be called a disruption.

Accordingly, using new or adapted tools to analyze the Big Data that's always been sulking in the basement, or getting steadily better at pick acuracy, or mastering cross-docking challenges in a transient enviropnment, may all be good things.

But it is blimps, drones, and virtual warehouses using predictive analytics to stock and prepare for shipment that are truly disruptive.

One note of warning: What is disruptive today might become commonplace tomorrow. The advantage of being a disruption creator lies in the value to being the first to a practical market, gaining the edge, and knowing that the laggards will catch up sooner or later.

The disruption train is always running; once on, you have to hold on tight and reach farther out.



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About Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven (1939 - 2017) was Managing Principal of the van Bodegraven Associates consultancy and Founding Principal of Discovery Executive Services, which develops and delivers supply chain educational programs. He was formerly Chair of the Supply Chain Group AG, Partner at The Progress Group LLC, Development Executive at CSCMP, Practice Leader with S4 Consulting, and a Managing Director in Coopers & Lybrand's consulting practice. Concentrating in supply chain management and logistics for over 20 years in his 50+ year business career, he has led ground-breaking strategic, operational, and educational projects for leading US and global clients. Art was principal co-author of DC Velocity's Basic Training monthly column for a decade, and was the principal co-author, with Ken Ackerman, of Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management, the definitive primer in the field. His popular blog, The Art of Art, has been a staple of DC Velocity's web site since its inception.


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