I know the identities of all of the factories and suppliers involved in the production of every product I make, from final assembly and packaging to the materials suppliers 4 tiers deep.
I know what customers they are all working with. I know their capacity and exportation quantities at any given time. I know their financial health.
My customers know who all of these suppliers are as well. They know the working conditions at the factories, worker wage levels, safety compliance, environmental practices, and what the bathrooms looked like…last week.
In fact, one avid customer who loves our products, took a trip to visit one of our supplier's factories, created a video documentary about their trip, and posted it on several social networking and company/product fan websites. The video was well done, and 83,344 people viewed it in the first 4 months it was online. We project it will be viewed by 1 million consumers within 2 years, and estimate a resulting increase in annual sales of $2.7 million for the product they featured.
My 7 year old daughter viewed the video and is now doing a class Twitter project with the daughter of the production manager at the factory.
Is this the future? By when, 2015? 2020?
When supply chains began to extend globally over the last several decades, barriers to visibility up and down the supply chain were erected that had not previously existed or did not exist at the level of complexity found today. Communications took place by plane, phone, fax, wire, catalog, trade show, etc.
The advent of supply chain software technologies brought about a much greater system for supply chain management and was the first step to breaking down the walls of geographical distance and the opacity of suppliers' operations. Out of Web 2.0, emerged internet portals such as Alibaba, Global Sources, and others that allowed buyers and suppliers all over the world to make contact without leaving their office chairs. Today, we're seeing the emergence of another layer of supply chain information, from within companies, from 3rd parties, and possibly…eventually, consumers of the goods produced by the supply chain?
More to come…