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2014 Supply Chain Innovation Awards – Presented by SupplyChainBrain & CSCMP

Innovation of the Year: Disruptive technology products must get to market faster than ever, and a product innovation center at Flextronics reconfigures the supply chain to do just that. Runner-up: Sears Holdings Corp. Finalists: Intel, Fast Logistics, Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council

2014 Supply Chain Innovation Awards – Presented by SupplyChainBrain & CSCMP

Sometimes fast just isn't quick enough. That's becoming more and more the case with disruptive technologies that power products that need to get to market faster than ever before. No one knows that better than Flextronics, this year's winner of the Supply Chain Award, sponsored by SupplyChainBrain and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals.

The 100-plus locations operated by Flextronics around the globe have always been keen to do what they needed to enable their clients' products to get to retailers or end users as quickly as possible. Today's environment, however, demands even more pep in the supply chain.

That's why Flextronics created the Silicon Valley Product Innovation Center at its Milpitas, Calif., campus. There, disparate functions, ranging from concept design to manufacturing prototype to finished product come together to collapse time as much as possible in the soup-to-nuts process.

Management at the electronics manufacturing services provider knew that the traditional way of doing business – sending engineers to far-flung assembly plants, for instance – added days, weeks or more to the process. When time is money, and product delivery is critical to success, reeling in disparate elements of its design and manufacturing teams would set Flextronics apart from its own competition.

For that, Flextronics takes home this year's Supply Chain Innovation Award.

Sears Holdings Corp., the parent of Sears, Roebuck and Kmart, and this year's innovation award runner-up, found it could combat online retail giants by fulfilling orders from the back rooms of its brick-and-mortar stores. However, only some stores would figure in the plan. The company selected them based on geographical coverage and how each one lined up with the UPS delivery network. 

Getting finished goods to customers quickly is one thing; having them arrive damage-free is key because it eliminates customer returns, wasted effort and lost time. And it doesn't hurt if delivery can be made cost-effectively and in an environmentally friendly manner. Intel accomplished all of that by changing how its product packaging.

After finding an unacceptably high number of bent connector pins on some products – which prohibited them from socketing properly in motherboards -- Intel realized that its packaging was the culprit.

The problem? The plastic injection-molded trays that Intel used for product shipping needed replacing. Tests found that a precision thermoformed shipping tray could be used across the supply chain, including during certain manufacturing processes.

The innovation of Fast Logistics, based in The Philippines, was to take a concept born in manufacturing – sales and operations planning – and apply it to the services sector. The result: the 3PL realized a significant bump in service quality and customer satisfaction.

The company's new president began a weekly tactical meeting for the deployment of resources, coupled with a more strategic, long-range approach – in essence, an S&OP process tailored to a provider of services. Henceforth, each piece of equipment, square foot of warehouse space or distribution service would be treated as a physical part, for purposes of forecasting and fulfilling demand.

Health, even life itself, depends on medicine and healthcare products being available when they are needed. That is a challenge in the developing world, especially when efforts are plagued by economic constraints and a poor transportation network. That was the situation faced by the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council, which was charged with a number of tasks, including delivering condoms and contraceptives to health clinics in the country's rural areas. Unwanted pregnancies, transmission of diseases and other health ailments resulted.

Then the Family Planning Council, with the help of the U.S. Agency for International Aid and other national and international groups, developed the Delivery Team Topping Up system. In no small measure patterned after vendor-managed inventory systems in the soft-drinks business, DTTU now operates a truck-based “rolling warehouse” that helps the council reduce maternal and child morbidity and mortality in the country.

In some ways, “fast” is the byword for all of this year's Supply Chain Innovation Award finalists. Flextronics customers wanted to compress time to market, Sears Holdings couldn't wait to match the online competition, Intel stood to lose millions in freight costs and damages if it didn't quickly find a better packaging solution, Fast Logistics's name was inadvertently comical since sometimes it couldn't provide needed assets, and healthy lives in Zimbabwe depended on getting supplies to public health centers as quickly as possible.

Our congratulations to each of these organizations.

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