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supply-chain-strategy-2017.jpgAs technology changes the way that businesses operate in both the B2B and B2C realms, businesses have to quickly adjust their strategies in order to update their systems, reduce costs, increase productivity and innovation, and effectively reach their clients. Implementing an effective supply chain strategy involves thinking of the supply chain as a whole: manufacturing, logistics, purchasing, marketing, research and development, sales, and customer engagement must all be considered in order to meet evolving business needs. 

Here are the five supply chains that exemplified these qualities and shined brightly in 2017.

Cisco Systems

Over the past few years, Cisco has effectively transformed their supply chain strategy. They have improved their ERP system and supply chain processes through consolidation and automation. By embracing an agile system, they have been able to reduce the time it takes for new products to reach the market, cut costs, and improve customer and client relationships. Further, by encouraging employees to seek more challenging roles, they’ve been able to improve employee engagement, which has thus improved the efficiency of their supply chain, specifically within logistics and energy.

For Cisco, the future is in the cloud. In 2016, they invested in VeloCloud, and in February of this year, they introduced Cisco Umbrella, a cloud-based Internet gateway designed to provide businesses with a more secure Internet, in response to growing ransomware and malware attacks. By providing the right product at the right time, Cisco has been able to effectively respond to customer needs, thus improving the entire supply chain process.

Schneider Electric

Over the past year, Schneider Electric has seen continuous growth. They were able to reduce costs and inefficiency in their supply chain through digital customer logistics, planning, purchasing analytics, and strong industrial productivity. By analyzing the data they collected through various smart technologies, they were able to introduce new, desired products and services to their clients, improve customer engagement, and increase web traffic by 16%.

Improving their supply chain strategy, in turn, helped to improve the strategies of their clients, largely through green technologies that helped to increase operational efficiency by 10% to 50%. Because of their efforts, they have not only seen stable revenue growth, but they are also on target to meet their goals for energy savings, waste reduction, and employee health and engagement.


In 2017, UPS exceeded analysts expectations, reporting steady revenue growth thanks to changes to their supply chain process, specifically related to logistics services, improved transit time, increased capacity, better client relations, and embracing new technology. In response to the growing e-commerce industry and customer demand, they recently introduced Saturday delivery. Despite the initial investment, this new service has helped them to (so far) beat their competition.

Additionally, UPS is using technology to improve its holiday strategy this season, by ensuring that productivity is controlled despite the 95,000 workers they’ve hired short-term. To do this, UPS is taking advantage of predictive distribution technology to reduce errors and delivery delays in real-time.


IBM has further diversified its offerings in response to competition and customer demand, now focusing on cloud computing software, virtual and artificial reality, IoT devices and data analytics, and security technology. Over the years, IBM’s business needs have changed in reflection of their clients’ changing needs, and their effort to meet these needs has been paying off with an increase in revenue.

Despite their focus on technology, IBM moved remote employees back into the workplace earlier this year, in an effort to improve employee engagement and collaboration. This is a crucial aspect of an effective supply chain strategy, since employee relationships, nonverbal feedback, and effective communication help to improve all areas of the supply chain, from increased innovation and productivity to customer satisfaction.


It’s been a good year for 3M. They’ve made several efforts to improve their supply chain, and in response, they’ve seen steady profits and increased productivity. They have focused their efforts on coordinating global tools and processes, using 3D printing and robotics to speed up innovation, reducing lead times by regionalizing their supply chains, embracing sustainable sourcing, and encouraging employee collaboration and creativity.

As far as their digitization efforts go, 3M shows that reliance on a statistical track record helps to improve communication not only from business-to-business but from within their supply chain, as well. Better system communication has helped to reduce unexpected errors because systems are able to stay in constant communication with one another.

Cheers to 2017

Overall, these supply chains were successful in their efforts because they focused on making changes to their supply chain as a whole. They were able to improve their supply chain strategy through an increasingly digitized and agile supply chain, using smart devices to collect and analyze data, encouraging employee teamwork, improving morale, and moving towards sustainable sourcing. But the real question is, what will next year bring?

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About Michael Wilson

Michael Wilson is AFFLINK'S Vice President of Marketing and Communications. He has been with the organization since 2005 and provides strategic leadership for the entire supply chain team. In his free time, Michael enjoys working with the Wounded Warrior Project, fishing, and improving his cooking skills.

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