The modern supply chain and the restless consumer

by Davin Wilfrid

April 13, 2011

by Davin Wilfrid, insiderRESEARCH

It's usually grating when people in nice suits quote famous bohemians for any reason, but during today's keynote address to the SAPinsider supply chain and logistics event in Paris, SAP SVP Emiel van Schaik aptly quoted Neil Young to describe the challenges facing supply chain professionals in 2011:

The restless consumer flies 
Around the world each day 
With such an appetite for taste and grace

The lyric is from the 2009 song "The Restless Consumer." van Schaik's point was that volatility is a defining characteristic of our long recovery. Thriving requires a supply chain that can manage large networks of partners and adapt quickly to natural disasters, geopolitical unrest, and other potentially disruptive changes. 

Managing large networks of suppliers, partners, and consumers is easier said than done. van Schaik cited consumer product company Conair, whose Mini line of hair dryers relies on a network of more than 500 entities spread throughout Asia and elsewhere. Ensuring a smooth ride from idea to delivery requires Conair to have real time visibility into every aspect of its supply chain. 

Because it was an SAP keynote, there was also a lot of attention paid to the new analytical opportunities provided by SAP's in-memory analytics applications. The ability to repo rt on data in minutes rather than hours will allow supply chain professionals to adjust their planning more immediately than ever, giving them a chance to cope with weather issues or other problems quickly. 

I'm sure there's a good Neil Young song to use for the rise of "Big Data," too. Maybe "After the Gold Rush"?

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