When is a supply chain not a supply chain?

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The man’s gone mad, I can hear you saying. Surely we are well past the moment when that is an appropriate question?

Well, I thought so too, until I came across this comment from Daniel Weber: “We thought we had a supply chain before…but in reality we had a couple of factories and warehouses – not a supply chain.”

Weber, who is vice president global supply chain management at Beiersdorf, the company that makes Nivea, was explaining to delegates at the Extended Supply Chain conference in Brussels, how, over the past few years, it has gone through a major transformation of its supply chain.

At one level, supply chains have always existed – even before the term came into common usage.

So what distinguishes “a couple of factories and warehouses” from a fully fledged supply chain?

Clearly, it’s the strategic use of those assets and the processes that facilitate that use, that is the defining factor. At Beiersdorf, that process started in 2005, as the company established a global and process orientated supply chain organisation. And Weber can testify to some big wins in the process.

Nice to get that cleared up – but it also begs a further question.

How many other organisations think they have got a supply chain, when in reality what they have is just a couple of factories and warehouses?

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