Companies that innovate their Supply Chain and how they do it

Companies have a new buzzword and it’s been popping up everywhere. Innovation is the new word creeping into everyone’s mission statement and corporate purpose. In the same way it has directly started making significant changes in some company’s supply chain. The supply chain in a company is essential, and even if innovation is the new priority, at the end of the day it will work if and only if the client’s, internal employees and supplier’s feel their standards are being met. In the supply chain there are companies which stand out like GE Aviation, Propper International, Silver Eagle Distribution and House of Blues, just to mention a few. Additionally, there have been amazing innovations like the Toyota Production System and P&G’s Continuous Replenishment.

At GE Aviation they have decided to turn to 3D printing to innovate in the supply chain process by printing a new fuel nozzle for their new LEAP jet engine. They have been working on prototypes and alternative methods of enhancing their process to be able to respond to high demand. This year it’s finally ready to go all in and begin including 3D printers in its production line. These parts are 100% made in the 3D printer, so besides being an achievement for the supply chain management, it is excellent news for the 3D printing business. This will definitely be a game changer for both industries in the years to come.

Propper International is a manufacturer of military clothing, and since their prime customer is the government it is not hard to understand why being transparent is such a big necessity. They have innovated by implementing an enterprise-level visibility which allow them to reduce costs and avoid improper stocking strategies. This strategy helps them to determine what to purchase and manufacture, or even both at the same time to make sure to time effectively when the product will be in the customer’s hands. This process allows them to track not only their process, but their suppliers, identifying with enough time any difficulties and thus reporting them to their client with enough time that they can report back not only what the current situation is in detail, but also when to expect their product. Similarly, in Urban Outfitters by adopting a campus concept for its distribution operation, it has been able to improve retail and direct to customer channels, but in this case it can identify labor so as to shift them back and forth between buildings, based on necessity to accomplish the deadline or goal for both markets.

In companies like Gucci and House of Blues installing vertical lifts in their warehouses has improved their supply chain. At Gucci, it helps to improve storage by lifting large crates up to 1,800 feet off the ground into vertical storage spaces. These modules have allowed them to store and organize their merchandise in a much more efficient way. For House of Blues, it has helped in the loading process. Their pit-mounted hydraulic lift is located at the loading dock and keeps workers from bending to load and unload all the equipment required to put on shows every night, increasing productivity and freeing up the space at the docks which were not designed for such high traffic.


NYK line_supply chain management_david kiger
Image courtesy of Dick Sijtsma at

Technology has also made an impact on the NYK Line supply chain by using a collaborative, cloud-based platform to increase last-mile visibility throughout its container movement processes. By using this collaborative technology, ocean carriers can eliminate blind spots while moving the containers, deliveries and returning import container to and from the last mile – the final customer destination.

Overall, as you can see many companies are getting on board with making vital changes in their supply chain to be able to respond to demand and fast-paced market. Being competitive will come down to making sure your supply chain is as efficient as possible, which for many companies has come at the hands of an innovative change to their current supply chain.

In the past years, there have been extremely innovative creations, additions or modifications to today’s supply chains. Here are just a few of these that have revolutionized many different industries. The most important innovation has definitely been the Toyota Production System (TPS), which when it came out in 1990, did not only affect the dramatic success that Toyota had as a company, but to the world as it is considered to be the foundation to many other systems like the Lean manufacturing and supply chain practices. It has not only affected the manufacturing industry, but has trickled down into every other business area. Just to mention one more, there is P&G’s Continuous Replenishment strategy. They ultimately turned around who decided when to put in a new order from depending solely on a negotiation between the manufacturer salesperson and the retail buyer, to becoming a direct consequence of stock withdrawals and sales data. It accomplished this by buying a mainframe from IBM for “continuous replenishment”.  This set the bases to concepts like Efficient Consumer Response (ECR), Category Management, and Continuous Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment (CPFR), among others.

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