CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
October 22, 2018
Forward Thinking

How do you get the greatest benefits from innovation?

The latest issue of CSCMP Explores... uncovers lessons from past winners of its Supply Chain Innovation Award.

Increasingly dynamic marketplaces are making innovation an important new focus for supply chain managers. As product lifecycles have shortened and the pace of technological change has increased, companies face a growing need to continually redesign and transform their supply chains. Even in industries that operate with relatively stable technologies, economic swings and global competition are forcing managers to continually deliver new solutions that more effectively and efficiently manage resources, processes, and relationships within their supply chains.

But just what is a supply chain innovation? How can supply chain managers get better at finding and developing them? And how can they make their innovation efforts more successful? The newest issue of CSCMP Explores... reveals the initial findings of a research project that seeks to answer these questions.

Since 2005, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) has evaluated nominations for its annual Supply Chain Innovation Award. The purpose of the award is to highlight and recognize the best in supply chain management when it comes to innovative programs, projects, and collaborations.

To enhance the understanding of supply chain innovations among its members, CSCMP's Research Strategies Committee commissioned a study to examine the success factors and long-term implications of supply chain innovations. The study largely draws upon the stories of past award finalists.

The purpose of the project is to understand supply chain innovation, examine how to implement and sustain it, and measure its impact on a company's performance. As part of this effort, the research team set out to identify circumstances, incentives, organizational structures, relationships, and other factors that foster supply chain innovations, as well as factors that contribute to success and failure in bringing innovative ideas to life.

According to the report, titled CSCMP Explores... Delivering Successful Supply Chain Innovations: Lessons from CSCMP's Supply Chain Innovation Award Winners, some organizations are better than others at identifying and/or developing opportunities for innovation. Researchers have found that this capability is an important, differentiating factor in innovation success. Many of the innovations submitted for the Supply Chain Innovation Award were stimulated by recognized needs—a problem was identified and a solution was found. The best innovators cast wide nets in searching for solutions by including both internal and external sources in their scans.

Larger companies tended to use formal processes to guide their internal efforts to develop solutions, while smaller ones typically focused more on finding partners that could help them. In either case, a somewhat linear, problem-solving orientation tended to drive "ideation," which the researchers found to be a fairly common way of thinking among supply chain professionals.

The report is free to CSCMP members and can be found here.

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