Before the pandemic, talk of supply chains remained relegated to corporate boardrooms and home improvement stores. More than two years later, the term “supply chain” – coined in the 1920s – has elbowed its way into the mainstream. It even managed to make it into the dictionary earlier this year. It’s a moment that supply chain pioneers like Art Mesher have been waiting for.
Mesher, chancellor at CleanSL8 Development Network and Advisors, stands as one of the founding fathers of the SaaS business model. He also helped give birth to cloud computing, and erecting networks for modern supply chain management. Mesher started assembling SaaS-based tech to automate freight processes in the 1980s.
He must have done something right. The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) gave Mesher their Distinguished Service Award in 2008. And then elected him to their “Supply Chain Hall of Fame” in 2016.
More than 20 years ago, Mesher erected the framework for next-generation supply chain management with his “Three Vs.” It’s a framework that still stands, with some “just in time” updates for today’s dramatically different environment.
Art Mesher defines visibility as the ability to see capabilities, capacities, processes, and their associated activities, in the past, present, and future.
“In the surveillance economy, visibility means being capable of shaping demand rather than just fulfilling it,” Mesher says. “This takes place within an always-on, always-connected environment. Visibility into preferences and incentives to create demand, linked with a transparent lens to see capabilities, capacities, and activities, create a new world order in which you can see around corners to what’s next, creating strategic advantage. Knowing what has already happened no longer offers advantage and is merely table stakes in this environment.”
Building on that, Mesher explains that velocity is the speed at which companies create and recombine supply chain ecosystems along with the associated pace at which their resources in motion and data move through the supply chain.
“Enterprise systems and their associated processes weren’t designed for today’s environment,” Mesher adds. “In the always-on, always-connected surveillance economy, data is ubiquitous, but our systems can’t react to this information and aren’t built for communal process enablement. These will require new business models and architectures. Tactically, we’re witnessing a quest for the frictionless transaction, where things simply happen, and everyone magically gets paid. Herein lies the dream of the smart contract.”
Strategically, Mesher insists that successful brands “will harness velocity and design themselves in a way that allows them to assemble and disassemble ecosystems and compete through this dynamic reconfiguration. Achieving this velocity requires a clear understanding of data, data sharing policy, standards, and how to extend and connect the enterprise through microservices and federating networks.”
Finally, Mesher defines variability as the ability to manage the unique combinations of customers, products, channels, and supply chain management processes.
“Managing variability involves intentional planning around what needs to be standardized versus what needs to be unique,” Mesher explains. “Managing variability tactically means ensuring resilience to volatility. Tension endures between those who wish to standardize everything and those who want to compete on differentiation. Historically, enterprises have been on a quest to minimize integration liability and reduce complexity, therefore promoting single platform and vendor strategies. But in the meantime, business kept asking for capabilities that enable diversification.”
As today’s “always-on, always-connected” evolved, so did the number of demand-discovery channels, Mesher points out.
“Today, those who learn to maximize their integration ability are the ones who can spin on a dime, rapidly sharing demand creation, inventory planning, and executions details. This ‘big data’ environment is creating a factorial increase in transparency, redefining the permanence of business relationships, and supporting system requirements.”
Join us as at Together 2022 when we’ll sit down for a fireside chat with Art Mesher to find out how his ideas apply to today’s supply chain. And what it means for tomorrow.