For years, there's been a lot of talk about how supply chain managers need to switch their focus from cutting costs to generating revenue. But it can be hard to do that when supply chain isn't even "in the room where it happens"—in other words, when supply chain managers are not engaged in designing new products or meeting with customers.
During their presentation on "Supply Chain as Market Enabler" at the 2016 CSCMP Annual Conference, Ninette Vaz and Greg Skrovan of the technology giant Intel discussed two ways that their company is using supply chain expertise to drive sales and generate revenue. They include:
1. As subject-matter experts. Intel has been recognized for its expertise in supply chain management. Earlier this year, for example, the company placed fourth on Gartner's list of "Top 25 Supply Chains." Furthermore, with a complex supply chain that stretches around the globe, supply chain experts at Intel are well positioned to provide insights and advice to customers.
To facilitate such an exchange of information, the company has set up a program called SC@Intel. Volunteers from across Intel's supply chain organization have signed up to be subject-matter experts (SMEs) who are willing to share their expertise externally. Through an internal website, sales personnel can request help from supply chain experts. An SME and a sales representative then meet with the customer to share use cases or best practices. The subject-matter experts are not there to sell or close the deal, they are only there to share their knowledge, Skrovan said.
In the first year of the program, supply chain SMEs have participated in 50 customer engagements, including six deals accounting for $30 million in new revenue, according to Skrovan.
2. As a "test lab" for new products. Intel is making a big push into the Internet of Things (IoT) space, and, as Vaz said, "supply chain is a perfect landing zone for IoT." In 2015, Vaz joined a working group tasked with finding ways to increase Intel's revenue from IoT-related business. She and her group first worked to understand Intel's IoT products and its IoT Group's strategy and goals. Then, working with sales and engineering, they visited locations such as warehouses and seaports to spark ideas for how these products could be adapted for uses in the supply chain. The group's efforts resulted in one new product design in 2015 and five in 2016.
Additionally, as Intel develops products for the supply chain market, it uses its own operations to test these new concepts in the real world. For example, Intel has recently adapted its Real Sense camera technology—originally developed to allow people to interact with computers through gestures—to provide three-dimensional scanning of freight in order to calculate dimensional weight. The product was tested in Intel's own warehouses, where engineers discovered that the ambient light in the warehouse was affecting the measurements. The company was then able to refine the product to overcome this issue.