Brand, Values, and Supply Chain Strategy

Join the supply chain conversation at Think Supply ChainDan Castle is a true APICS success story. A longtime member, instructor, and leader, he made a very bold professional transition in 2009 and became the chief quality officer for Tata Communications in India. Dan recently transferred to Tata Quality Management Services, a division of Tata Sons, and he is charged with helping to set standards of excellence to achieve improvement goals across Tata enterprises. Because of his new role, Dan was excited to learn that APICS was holding the 2013 Asia Supply Chain & Operations conference April 4–5 in Mumbai. In preparation for the conference, I recently visited Mumbai, and Dan invited me to spend some time with Tata leaders and staff.

It was an incredibly valuable trip. Most impressive to me was how Tata employees I met were ambassadors for Tata Group corporate values. We heard stories about how Tata values, developed over the past 145 years, are sometimes at odds with the business culture in Indiaand the global business culture. The effort Tata leaders have taken to empower every employee to act upon the corporate values of integrity, understanding, unity, excellence, and responsibility has made Tata a recognized economic, social contributor on a global level. That Tata customers appreciate the connection is evident in the fact that the Tata brand is among the top 50 global brands based on net present value.

Brand impact is based on many intangibles, but there is no question it is significant to increasing shareholder value. Therefore, it is an important consideration in supply chain strategy development. Regardless of size, enterprises with values that are closely connected to their brands must take up the challenge of creating supply chain strategy and tactical plans that are consistent with those values. Sourcing, production, and distribution strategy should all be expressions of corporate values, and the decisions that supply chain professionals make day-in and day-out need also to align to these values.

The Tata Group is not the only Indian-based multinational enterprise making this connection. Infosys is leading a newly formed United National Global Compact (UNGC) sustainable supply chain taskforce on traceability. According to the UNGC, the purpose of this taskforce is to develop, “practical guidance for companies on how they seek improved transparency and traceability in their supply chains.” Transparency ultimately reveals whether corporate strategy is true to corporate values.

So what is the best way to ensure that corporate values influence supply chain strategy and execution across an enterprise? Are there compelling success stories? Which companies are best at walking their talk?

6 thoughts on “Brand, Values, and Supply Chain Strategy

  1. Any corporation that has embraced the core message of Covey’s book The Speed of Trust, and is also continuously implementing the Lean Management System, a system that stresses teamwork and collaboration (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts) will be working with, or looking for supply-chain partners who share their value system.

    I think it is difficult to identify these corporations because they are more interested in “doing the right things” (the 3P’s) then promoting themselves. A great example of a company “doing the right things” that is local to me is DJO –

    Best regards,


  2. The best way to ensure your values influence your supply chain is to have the integrity and transparency for your company in terms of how you behave and what you report. A couple of years ago at the Apics International Conference I mentioned those in one particular industry, Brewers.

    They are still producing the reports and working with their supply chains to ensure the tenants of the UNGC are followed and many report these against various standards like the GRI. While it is true that many of these firms the only thing we get to see is their public face and cannot tell for sure how well this extends through their supply chains we know that some do: New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, and Great Lakes are a few of the small guys. While I was finishing my talk one of the guys from Guinness (part of Diageo), was in charge of one of their water give a ways, so the public face matched the very private one.

    The way to see if these folks are for real is to see who reads and audits and comments on their sustainability reports. Those that invite outsiders to take part in the report are those who are very successful at spreading their values. There are many other industries as well who are successful at living their values and passing all along their extended supply chain. Especially in the food and beverage business, some small and some big: Nature’s Path Foods, Unilever are just two examples. I bet there are lots of others out there as well.

  3. We recently talked a lot in France and Europe about tire industrie, due to the “rude but telling the truth” letter of Titan’s CEO.

    The world leader Michelin is a very good example of brand and value cascading, inside the company and outside towards partners and suppliers. The family business origin of this company is the root reason for that. Since more than one century, this company has kept its headquarters in one of the least accessible area of the country, in order to commit to the community it relied on.

    Now, this company is very large and having offices and plants all over the world, and still spreads values of respect, sustainability, human skills development and true partnership with suppliers that agree with these values. As a consequence, the whole supply chain is driven by this DNA

    Visit and look at the small counters down the page :)

  4. What an opportunity it is for APICS to go to Mumbai for the 2013 APICS Asia Supply Chain & Operations Conference! As Sharon outlines, we at APICS are learning–and will continue to learn–about what makes India special.

    The other day, I felt so lucky to talk to Behram R. Sabawala, who will address the conference during a general session. This dynamic problem-solver is the CFO of Drive India Enterprise Solutions Limited (DIESL), which is a part of TATA. Sabawala will lay out opportunities and challenges related to logistics in India. After talking to him, I know APICS professionals from all over the world can learn from what he has to say.

  5. So much of the corporate culture and values being discussed is driven top-down. Top management really sets the tone and drives it through the organization. From personal experience, the culture described for TATA was coming directly from Ratan Tata. Integrity was specifically mentioned and I recall a $100M deal done with him on a handshake. He clearly set the tone for the company. Mr. Tata has stepped down now after more than 20 years in the top spot and the position has moved outside someone having the same name as the company name, but through a well planned transition process. Wishing Tata & Sons well on their next 145 years.

  6. As I am typing this comment I am thinking about the founder of Tata Group Jamshetji Nusserwanji Tata. I don’t know if the timing of this blog was coincidence or planned. Jamshetji was born on 3rd march 174 years ago in 1839. I am not good at history. I know his because I was born and raised Jamshedpur. It was the first planned industrial city of India. The city was named after Jamshetji. He had the vision to set up Asia’s India’s first steel plant in a remote village with no electricity, no major transportation no infrastructure but it had the right ingredients –coal, water and iron ore.

    A lot of the Tata Organizations Values are directly influenced by the leadership of its founder. I was fortunate enough to be born and raised in the city of Jamshedpur. I went to a school that was almost totally funded by the Tata organization. The school wasn’t fancy with a lot of luxury. It did not have air conditioner, school bus, tennis courts etc. It had a strong foundation of values and strong character building. I experience the Tata values first hand through my formative years, from kindergarten through high school. Most of my classmates / friends parents or neighbors were employees of one Tata organization or the other. It didn’t matter whether you were the CEO’s progeny, or an hourly employee. You had to perform to get admitted and remain in the school every year. The results were shared publicly for debate and scrutiny. What got recognized was excellence and sharing. I was encouraged and awarded to teach every Saturday to other kids of my age, younger or elder who did not have the opportunity or privilege to be in school all day. I was discouraged from writing and scribbling in my book so that I could pass on these books to others. The idea of responsibility, conservation and recycle was deeply ingrained from a very young age.

    I cannot think of any other organization, except the Tata’s who in many ways have done nation building and influenced people’s lives positively, in such a huge way, while growing its conglomerate. Hundreds of thousands of families including mine have been able to accomplish dreams because of the support and inspiration. I thought of sharing my personal story because a lot of who I am is shaped by this brands view. This reflects in lot of things I do – supply chain, teaching, and volunteer at APICs etc.

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