Can Supply Chain Innovations Create Customer Happiness?

Join the supply chain conversation at Think Supply ChainJeremy Gutsche will be one of the general session speakers at APICS 2013. In anticipation of meeting him in Orlando, I have been spending some time “getting to know him” through his hugely popular website Trendhunter.com. As the site states: “With 40 million monthly views, TrendHunter.com is the world’s largest, most popular trend community.” At its core, Trendhunter.com is a crowdsourcing community of more than 117,000 individuals who spot and share trends. Trendhunter.com staff post microtrends every day to help site members and readers “generate ideas, stimulate creativity, and ultimately unlock cool.”

To me, Trendhunter.com embodies this year’s conference theme, “Leveraging the Power of the Customer.” Gutsche’s success is directly related to his opinion that companies seeking to innovate make a mistake when they “microcompare” themselves to their competition, resulting in a market full of similar products. “Cool” is not a synonym for popular. Cool represents a “pocket of opportunity” that companies can potentially seize to lead—not follow—in the marketplace. Companies, including Nestlé, Kellogg’s, P&G, Samsung, and Intel, contract with Trendhunter to provide special dashboard reports that help them seize their opportunities.

Supply Chain and Opportunities for Innovation

Searching “supply chain” on Trendhunter.com, I found an interesting story about Coke2Home. Coke2Home is the brainchild of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages. The company believes strengthening its supply chain will support its development as a world-class company; and, therefore, it puts an emphasis on supply chain innovation.

Coke2Home does what the name suggests. It delivers Coca-Cola products to the doors of customers in Ahmedabad, India. Consumers placing an order online before noon will receive delivery the same day. In a recent interview with the Times of India, T. Krishnakumar, CEO of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, explained, “our entire suite of products become available to the consumer to choose from, and a significant drop size provides us with a viable model for door-to-door delivery.”

The milk truck has been around for decades, so why does this Coca-Cola service count as cool? The answer is simple: Home delivery in India ultimately is responsive to the end consumer. With retail shelf space at a premium and personal transportation difficult, home delivery of groceries ordered online is bound to be popular with India’s rising middle class, saving them time and money. Of course, from a supply chain perspective, there will be challenges to overcome. But if Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages can develop a model that balances consumer value and company profit, this supply chain solution likely will create a competitive advantage for Coke in the Indian marketplace.

So can supply chains deliver happiness to the customer? What other trends illustrate how companies are leveraging the power of their customers to innovate and create competitive success?

Is Innovation Your Next Game-Changer?

Join the supply chain conversation at Think Supply ChainThe bold headline on the P&G site reads “Connect+Develop.” If you haven’t been there, you need to go. The site is designed to attract partners with whom P&G can collaborate to deliver innovative solutions to the marketplace. It is an interesting approach to attracting partners: “Got a great idea to help better meet people’s needs? Come to us first!” According to the site, the thought process is simple: “Times have changed, and the world is more connected. In the areas in which we do business, there are millions of scientists, engineers, and other companies globally. Why not collaborate with them?”

P&G recognizes that the way we do business today is vastly different than it used to be. Innovation used to happen within a company. Now, firms are working together to innovate across supply chains. A particularly interesting story on the site explains how the Tide Pods were developed.

Tide Pods are individually packaged units of laundry detergent. They are genius, if you, like me, have a tendency to put too much soap in your high efficiency washer (resulting in epic overflow). You just toss the Tide Pod into the washer, the coating dissolves, and the detergent is dispensed. Others must agree because, according to P&G “Tide Pods is on track to becoming a $500 million dollar brand in its first year … while still only available in one market.”

P&G collaborated with a long-term supplier, MonSol in Indiana, to design and develop the pods. While they had worked on similar projects in the past, producing this product was more challenging because, “three different cleaning solutions are encased in separate chambers in each pac, all of which need to remain separate until fully immersed in water. Additionally, the film surrounding the cleaning solutions had to be designed to dissolve in a range of water temperatures, from hot to cold.”

P&G and MonSol each have special competencies that they bring to the table when working together. Each organization trusts the other based on its unique competencies and the relationship they have built over the years. Taking the attitude that they were one team, P&G and MonSol professionals worked together until they got it right. So right, in fact, that P&G recognized MonSol with its 2012 C+D Partner of the Year award.

Trust and collaboration are important not only to fostering innovation, but to creating high-performing supply chains. Yet many firms continue to struggle with the creation of trust-based relationships. So I wonder, what gets in the way?