Supply Ecosystems: Leveraging Skills and Knowledge

One element behind the concept of “supply ecosystems,” a new supply chain paradigm argued by Penn State’s Christopher Craighead, Auburn University’s David Ketchum and the University of Tennessee’s Russell Crook, is very much alive today, albeit at the early adopter stage. For more background on the concept of supply ecosystems, see: Supply Ecosystems: The Next Big Thing? and Supply Ecosystems: Co-opetition – Where Cooperation and Competition Meet.

This point is that within supply ecosystems, “each organization’s knowledge and skills must be leveraged across the entire ecosystem.” Further, “because each ecosystem competes with other ecosystems, members must pool their knowledge and skills to create unique ecosystem-wide competencies that benefit all members. Therefore, each ecosystem must develop processes and platforms that allow for the thoughtful pooling of these resources.”

From a supply risk perspective, this concept has been around for a decade, going back to the early days at Open Ratings, one of the first supply chain risk vendors that attempted to take operational and third-party data within an ecosystem and predict risk based on these variables. More recently, SAP’s incredibly cool, yet only partially commercialized, Supplier InfoNet product (see past coverage here, here, here, here and here) has taken this thinking a step further through the opt-in sharing of data among potentially different tiers of supply chain participants.

Given this example, it’s not surprising the authors of this forthcoming study volunteer that big data applications are likely to be a critical part of this world. Specifically, they suggest, “Executives will also need to consider disruptive technologies, such as 3D printing and big data, that affect the ecosystem by making economies of scale less relevant and changing the nature of sourcing and other forms of resource support.” In other words, within a future supply ecosystem concept, we will substitute physical supply chains (and even inventor) for digital insight and visibility.

Let’s just hope that we see other many-to-many tools for supply chain risk management (as well as SAP’s own efforts) become more commonplace before we move to supply ecosystem models.

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