Keywords: business processes, supply chains, strategic advantage, re-engineering, decision support systems, system simulation, cost metrics
The seamless supply chain - the predator's strategic advantage
It is no longer sufficient for a winning organisation to operate in isolation, however effective it may be in performing its core business. To survive, let alone win, it must be part of one or more supply chains producing world class performance. Each company in the chain must be internally "lean" but additionally must operate in a "seamless" environment in which all information relevant to the efficient operation of the total system is available on time and in an undistorted form. The term "predator" has been coined in the literature to describe the supply chain leader with the vision, drive, and determination to re-engineer the entire supply chain so as to satisfy end-customer needs. The paper reviews the techniques available to "predators" seeking to gain competitive advantage for their supply chains, including industrial engineering, operations engineering, production engineering, and information technology. Not all conceivable improvements can be implemented overnight, however desirable they might appear, hence the advocacy of simulation models within a decision support system so that top management can prioritise proposed Improvement Programmes against the relevant performance metric. In the example used to indicate the approach, the technological, organisational, and attitudinal problems to be solved by top management in achieving the seamless supply chain are all highlighted.