Hard to believe it’s been 15 years since SupplyChainBrain, in partnership with the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, launched the Supply Chain Innovation Award. The idea was to honor companies and service providers that took a truly new approach to the way in which they moved product to market. It might be a dramatic productivity gain in the warehouse or factory. Or a fresh way of working with suppliers. Or a ground-breaking advance in packaging. But each winner of the competition has had one thing in common: they all embraced the idea of innovation.
But what is “innovation,” really? In one sense, a numbingly overused word. Just about every new product or service to hit the market today brags about being “innovative” — or even better, “disruptive.” We’re obsessed with the notion of disturbing the status quo, or least claiming to in marketing materials. Yet true innovation, spurred by original thinkers, designers, planners and engineers, remains a relatively rare animal. And that’s the creature our judges have been relentlessly searching for, in their decade and a half of reviewing submissions to the contest.
This year’s crop of candidates was especially strong, both in number and content. Perhaps more companies are waking up to the need for change, in this current environment of terrifying unpredictability. Whatever the reason, when it came to examples of true innovation, it was a very good year.
This year’s winner — and something of a frequent presence in these awards over the years — was Intel, demonstrating how it employed digitization and analytics to eliminate paper audits of thousands of contracts for indirect materials spend, and enable real-time scoring of those documents. Unable to secure a solution outside its own walls, Intel’s Indirect Materials and Advanced Analytics teams turned inward to develop their own system, resulting in a 99% improvement in process velocity, and more than $19 million in annual savings.
Other finalists in this year’s competition:
Runners-up DLT Labs and Walmart Canada showcased their use of blockchain — still a technology that by its very nature is innovative — to help tame a burdensome freight-payment and reconciliation progress. DLT Lab’s configurable blockchain platform freed the big retailer from having to build one from the ground up. And it made possible a live deployment of the model in less than 90 days.
FourKites and Land O’Lakes collaborated on an initiative to reduce the amount of empty miles logged by. In one case, Land O’Lakes was able to share capacity with a regional wholesale grocer, resulting in cost savings of 25% and a reduction of more than 1,000 empty miles a week for the grocer.
Intel (again!) submitted a case study about how it came up with new packaging for delicate silicon wafers, its number-one product, and realized 10-times savings in transportation costs and environmental impact.
The Raymond Corp. worked with Broome-Tioga Workforce New York to develop a virtual education program for training in forklift operation. The Raymond Virtual Reality Simulator taught job-seekers the skills they need to qualify for distribution-center positions.
Cisco Systems Inc. automated its factory quality process with the help of digitization and analytics, in an effort that purged defective materials from the tech leader’s supply chain. Cisco reduced purge decision time by 70% and execution time by 60%, and expects to see an 80% reduction in recall costs.
SupplyChainBrain congratulates all of the finalists in this year’s SCIA competition. And we look forward to another batch of true innovators when judging commences for the award in 2021 — a better year, we hope, for everyone.
Read SupplyChainBrain Magazine's 2020 Supply Chain Innovator of the Year issue here.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.