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Although collaboration has always been a valued business strategy, in today's marketplace, it is a requirement for those who wish to address inefficiencies and stay competitive. In this post-recession era, where innovation is crucial and doing more with less is a reality, collaboration is important in reducing redundancy, streamlining operations, helping industries evolve and reaching common goals.
A powerful illustration of supply chain collaboration lies in the development of the information standards that have made modern commerce possible. For example, the U.P.C. barcode, which began in the grocery industry, revolutionized the checkout process more than 40 years ago as trading partners universally agreed to use a common symbol or language to facilitate a specific business function. That milestone has set the foundation for additional industry alliances focused on driving supply chain efficiencies.
This pioneering spirit continues today. By facilitating the collaboration of supply chain partners through formal industry initiatives in four concentrated sectors (Foodservice, Retail Grocery, Apparel/General Merchandise and Healthcare), GS1 US helps industries move forward with best practice solutions to supply chain and business process challenges. The initiative members drive success through the industry-wide adoption of standards, as well as through the development of guidelines, readiness programs and other educational tools that foster innovation and evolution.
In leading successful collaborative initiatives, GS1 US has found there are four key elements that facilitate the best outcomes.
Trust – In order to engage in meaningful, strategic collaboration, participants must trust that the combined effort and work is for the greater good of the industry. Mutual trust is established when leadership emphasizes inclusiveness and transparency with a structure based on the common goal.
Vision – All participants contribute valuable viewpoints to make the vision realistic in order to gain results. Collaborative initiatives work best when they prioritize the long-term ability to serve the end customer in determining the group’s vision.
Structure – Initiatives are more successful when a neutral facilitator is empowered to bring multiple stakeholders together to tackle a common challenge. The structure is dictated by a thorough analysis of how willing the industry is to engage and execute, as well as what the key drivers are that industry wants to address through the collaboration.
Transparency – All parties need to be specific about their own goals and lay all potential concerns out on the table, early and candidly. Then facilitators can establish a process for addressing and resolving challenges.
With these elements in place, businesses collaborate on solutions that are intended to become an industry baseline expectation – not a value-add or competitive advantage. Taking a step back to look at the larger universe in which your business exists can be a challenge for industries, but in the end, it can lead to unimaginable growth opportunities.
In 2015, collaboration represents a tremendous opportunity to save billions of dollars. In fact, a recent Accenture study found the potential first year value of improved retailer-supplier collaboration could total up to $50bn reduced working capital, up to $125bn in reduced operating expenses and up to $90bn reduced manufacturing and distribution costs. Moreover, collaboration is an opportunity to lead innovation. Those that collaborate to compete will find themselves thriving in new ways in 2015.
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