On October 30th, the Data2Move community will meet again to explore Supply Network Collaboration. In this two-part article, Arjan van Weele, professor of Purchasing and Supply Chain Management, shines some light on this thought-provoking topic: “Companies can no longer ignore the fact that good collaboration is vital.”

Many of us are not aware of this, but we are all completely dependent on others. For our survival, for peace, for prosperity. Especially now that the world is becoming more and more interconnected. We have to learn how to collaborate in networks,” says Professor Van Weele.

Companies often don’t realize how dependent they are. Until there’s a flood in Thailand, leaving three factories under water that produce semiconductors, required by companies here to make Printed Circuit Boards – who then send people home, because the process grinds to a halt.”

Competition is becoming a myth

Based on our research, we can now see that competition is becoming a myth,” he states. “One supermarket competing with another… That’s not really what’s going on. It’s these companies’ supply chains that are competing. Look at the automotive world: it’s the suppliers of Volkswagen that define the quality of their cars.”

By now, we have realized that companies are so dependent on their supply chain partners, for the quality of their products and services, as well as their reputation, that they can’t ignore the fact that good collaboration is vital. It is ASML’s network that enables the company to realize the innovations they need in order to survive. They have to innovate every 18 months. Moore’s Law. You can’t make that happen with a loosely coupled system. Supply Network Collaboration is about companies, their suppliers, their customers and knowledge partners, all joining forces in a network.”

Different approaches to Supply Network Collaboration

The interesting thing is that you can approach it from different angles. From the innovation side, or from the operations side. From the logistics side, of course: how do we optimize the flow of goods? From the procurement side – how do the various parties deal with each other in terms of contracts? Or what about the IT side: how do we exchange data, how do we make sure all partners are connected?”

And, last but certainly not least, there is the human side of enterprise: how can we get people from different companies in different sectors, all with different company cultures, to work together without any obstacles?”

It’s far from easy,” says Professor Van Weele, and he smiles: “Well, that’s the theme of the day!”

Next week: part 2, on companies who are doing this well, and the first steps you can take on the way to Supply Network Collaboration. Data2Move members: be sure join us on October 30th!