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Supply Chain Management Design & Simulation Online

Supply Chain Case Studies

SCM Globe comes with a library of case studies that explore COMMERCIAL , HUMANITARIAN , and MILITARY supply chains. When you purchase an account you have access to all the case studies and their simulations.

The case studies range from relatively simple beginning cases like Cincinnati Seasonings , to quite challenging advanced cases such as Zara Clothing Company , or Nepal Earthquake Disaster Response .  Case studies are laboratories where you apply what you learn in lectures and readings to solve supply chain problems in highly realistic simulations. Each case has a " CASE STUDY CONCEPT " showing the supply chain principles and practices highlighted in that case.

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A map of Spain with a logistics hub circled in green and a manufacturing facility in red. There are arrows pointing at it and lines extending out. There is a data window to the sides.

Case studies presently available in the online library are shown below. You are welcome to use any or all of them. You can also create your own case studies, or we can create them for you. Cases are shown in the three categories. As you work with these cases you will gain an intuitive understanding of supply chain dynamics, and develop the analytical skills for designing and managing real supply chains.

People new to SCM Globe should start with the  Cincinnati Seasonings case study . Work individually at first, not in groups. Each person needs their own account. Do the three challenges shown in the online introduction to Cincinnati Seasonings. That's how you'll learn to use the software, and how to use simulations to analyze and design supply chains. Then you will be ready to work in groups or work on more advanced cases.  Click on the case studies below to see a description and introduction to each case.

Commercial Supply Chain Case Studies

A map of New York with supply chain routes highlighted in blue.

Collaborative Supply Chains

A satellite picture of the Luanda port in Angola showing high lighted routes between locations.

S&J Trading Company – Angola

A screenshot from SCM Globe zoomed out to a scale which shows the 'Java Furniture Company' global supply chain superimposed on a map of the world.

Java Furniture Company – Indonesia

Picture of a map from the SCM Globe app showing the suppply chain route from Cincinnati to Louisville.

Cincinnati Seasonings

Map of a supply chain of the Roman Empire that supplied olive oil to Rome

Supply Chains of the Roman Empire

Silk Road in SCM Globe Simulation

Ancient Silk Road – First Global Supply Chain

A screenshot of the Zara supply chain showing how products flow from factories to stores

Zara Clothing Company Supply Chain

screenshot of Fantastic Corporation's global supply chain

Fantastic Corporation – Global Supply Chain

Simulation on SCM Globe showing Unexpected Disruptions

Fantastic Corporation – Unexpected Disruptions

Humanitarian supply chain case studies.

A map of Dresden with blue and orange lines on it.

Disaster Response Supply Chains: Flooding Scenario

Map of Nepal Earthquake humanitarian facilities

Nepal Earthquake Disaster Response Supply Chain

A satellite image of the Hama Military Airport and the western part of Hama with a route highlighted in blue.

Humanitarian Supply Chains: Syria Evacuation Scenario (CIV and MIL)

Military supply chain case studies.

Satellite picture of the Japanese campaign in Burma.

Burma Campaign – 1944 Invasion of India

Map of Eastern Europe and Russia showing blue supply routes lines, and icons for combat units in Battle of Smolensk 1941

Battle of Smolensk – 1941 Invasion of Russia

Alexander the Great Banner

Alexander the Great Needed Great Supply Chains

New case studies.

New cases are added based on projects we do with instructors, students, and supply chain professionals. Here are the new supply chain models in the library:

  • Local and Sustainable Supply Chains – Blue Ocean Cooperative
  • Aerospace Manufacturing Cluster – Rockford IL
  • Hyderabadi Biryani – Paramount Restaurant 
  • Western Desert War – May 1941
  • Russian Logistics for the Invasion of Ukraine

Interactive Supply Chain Case Studies

Every case study has a main theme or concept that it illustrates. You will be challenged to use knowledge acquired in lectures and readings as well as your own real-world experience to expand and re-design the supply chains in these case studies.

In the commercial supply chain cases you need to improve and expand the supply chains to support new stores and still keep operating costs and inventory as low as possible. In cases that deal with humanitarian or military missions you need to create supply chains to deliver the right supplies to the right locations when they are needed, and do so at a reasonable cost.

A satellite picture of the Luanda port in Angola showing high lighted routes between locations.

We are glad to provide a  free evaluation account  to instructors, students and supply chain professionals interested in exploring SCM Globe simulations — click here to request an account —  Get Your Free Trial Demo  

See SCM Globe pricing for Academic and Business versions of the software.

The best case to start with is Cincinnati Seasonings . After working through the three challenges presented in the online introduction to this case you will be ready to handle further challenges in this case or move on to more advanced cases. Get a quick introduction to working with case studies in “ Working with Case Studies “.

Screenshots of the Cincinnati Seasonings case study in the SCM Globe application.

As problems are found in the simulations, you make decisions about how to fix them. Make changes to your supply chain model in the Edit screen. Then go to the Simulate screen and run a simulation to see the results of your changes. Depending on the changes you make, your supply chain simulation runs for additional days and other problems arise. As you address these problems you see about how supply chains work. Apply what you learn in readings and and lectures plus your work experience to solve the problems you encounter.

Keep improving your supply chain model until you get the simulation to run for 30+ days. Then download your simulation results and create a monthly Profit & Loss Report plus KPIs (as shown below). This provides an objective basis for evaluating the merits of different supply chain solutions.

spreadsheet reporting template showing monthly profit and loss for Cincinnati Seasonings

Monthly Profit & Loss Reports identify areas for improvement. They help you improve your supply chain to keep it running for 30 days and also lower operating costs and inventory levels. You can work on lowering the carbon footprint of your supply chain too. These are the challenges you address in SCM Globe, and they are the same challenges people face when managing real supply chains. What works well in the simulations will also work well with actual supply chains. Skills you develop in working with the simulations are directly transferable to the real world.

NOTE: You can run simulations for longer than 30 – 60 days, but there is usually no reason to do so. This is because most companies do not run their supply chains unchanged for longer than 30 days at a time. They use a 30 day S&OP ( sales and operations planning ) cycle and these simulations correspond to that monthly S&OP cycle. These simulations focus on the tactical realities of operating a supply chain from one month to the next, and finding what works best.

Accessing the Online Library of Case Studies

As shown in the screenshots below, logon to your account and access the case study library from your Account Management screen. Click on the “View Library” button (arrow 1) in upper right corner of the Account Management screen. In the Library screen you see a list of available supply chain case studies; click “ Import ” to load a selected case study into your account; give the imported case a Name , and click “ My Account ” to go back to your Account Management screen.

You are welcome to import any or as many of the supply chain models in the library as you wish. Once you have a copy of a supply chain model in your own account you can make any changes you want to it.

Screenshot of Account Screen and library screen

In Account Management, you “ Create a New Supply Chain ” or work with an existing supply chain by clicking the “ Edit ” button (arrow 2) next to the existing supply chain you want to work on. You can also upload copies of supply chain models sent to you by other SCM Globe users (arrow 3) , and check your account expiration date (arrow 4) .

Use the Default Values or Enter New Data

When you load any of the case study supply chain models from the SCM Globe library, they come with default numbers already plugged in. You can either accept the defaults or do some research to find more current data. This data (like data and prices everywhere) changes all the time.

Look for data on products, facilities and vehicles that are used in your supply chain and see what their specifications and costs are. Costs can vary widely in different parts of the world. Go to websites of commercial real estate brokers in cities of interest and see what you can find out about rent costs:

  • for cities in North America start with www.cityfeet.com
  • and for cities in other parts of the world start with  www.knightfrank.com

Metric System of Weights and Measures

In the case studies all weights, volumes, distances and speeds are expressed using the metric system. The metric system is used around the world in every country except three: Liberia; Myanmar; and the United States. So it is good for supply chain professionals to feel comfortable with the metric system.

Register on SCM Globe for Access to all Supply Chain Simulations

Click the blue "Register" button on the app login page, and buy an account with a credit card or PayPal (unless you already have one). Then scan the "Getting Started" section, and you are ready to start. Go to the SCM Globe library and click "Import" next to the supply chain models you want.

Future-proofing the supply chain

Supply chains matter. The plumbing of global commerce has rarely been a topic of much discussion in newsrooms or boardrooms, but the past two years have pushed the subject to the top of the agenda. The COVID-19 crisis , postpandemic economic effects , and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine  have exposed the vulnerabilities of today’s global supply chains. They have also made heroes of the teams that keep products flowing in a complex, uncertain, and fast-changing environment . Supply chain leaders now find themselves in an unfamiliar position: they have the attention of top management and a mandate to make real change.

Forward-thinking chief supply chain officers (CSCOs) now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to future-proof their supply chains. And they can do that by recognizing the three new priorities alongside the function’s traditional objectives of cost/capital, quality, and service 1 Employee safety, food safety, and employee retention are considered operational preconditions, not supply chain objectives. and redesigning their supply chains accordingly.

The first of these new priorities, resilience, addresses the challenges that have made supply chain a widespread topic of conversation. The second, agility, will equip companies with the ability to meet rapidly evolving, and increasingly volatile, customer and consumer needs. The third, sustainability, recognizes the key role that supply chains will play in the transition to a clean and socially just economy (Exhibit 1).

Boosting supply chain resilience

Supply chains have always been vulnerable to disruption . Prepandemic research by the McKinsey Global Institute found that, on average, companies experience a disruption of one to two months in duration every 3.7 years . In the consumer goods sector, for example, the financial fallout of these disruptions over a decade is likely to equal 30 percent of one year’s EBITDA.

Historical data also show that these costs are not inevitable. In 2011, Toyota suffered six months of reduced production following the devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. But the carmaker revamped its production strategy, regionalized supply chains, and addressed supplier vulnerabilities. When another major earthquake hit Japan in April 2016, Toyota was able to resume production after only two weeks.

During the pandemic’s early stages, sportswear maker Nike accelerated a supply chain technology program that used radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track products flowing through outsourced manufacturing operations. The company also used predictive-demand analytics to minimize the impact of store closures across China. By rerouting inventory from in-store to digital-sales channels and acting early to minimize excess inventory buildup across its network, the company was able to limit sales declines in the region to just 5 percent. Over the same period, major competitors suffered much more significant drops in sales.

Supply chain risk manifests at the intersection of vulnerability and exposure to unforeseen events (Exhibit 2). The first step in mitigating that risk is a clear understanding of the organization’s supply chain vulnerabilities. Which suppliers, processes, or facilities present potential single points of failure in the supply chain? Which critical inputs are at risk from shortages or price volatility?

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In 2021, for example, many companies in North America were affected by labor shortages  across their supply chain operations. Tackling those shortages has forced companies to be creative in their hiring and staffing strategy. One food distributor created regional floating labor pools of drivers, warehouse workers, and supervisors, recruiting staff in areas where they were more available and deploying them wherever they were most needed. Other companies are building their labor pipeline-management capabilities—from recruiting through retention—and sharpening their labor planning as well.

Today, most organizations lack effective systems to measure and monitor those vulnerabilities, and few have such visibility beyond their direct suppliers. In a 2021 McKinsey survey  of senior supply chain executives, just under half said they understood the location of their tier-one suppliers and the key risks those suppliers face. But only 2 percent could make the same claim about suppliers in the third tier and beyond. That matters because most disruptions originate in these deeper supply chain tiers.

Closing the industry’s current knowledge gaps will require it to increase its surveillance of supply chain participants and its understanding of the physical, financial, political, and social risks they may face (Exhibit 3). The complexity and diversity of supply chain risks require smart management tools, and leading companies are applying a range of new techniques, from digital alerting systems to track potential disruptive events to risk “heat maps” that help them focus their attention on high-risk regions and suppliers.

Companies will also need a management infrastructure to steer a proactive response to these risks. Such an infrastructure would include a dedicated team, headed by a senior leader, with the remit to identify, prioritize, and respond to vulnerabilities. Those responses might include structural changes to the supply chain, as well as the development of detailed contingency plans for disruptive events. Introducing resilience metrics into supply chain KPIs helps the whole organization to ensure supply chain design and execution decisions are made in a way that balances efficiency and vulnerability. And because supply chain risk is a continually moving target, the organization should conduct regular stress tests and reviews to ensure its resilience measures remain appropriate.

Increasing supply chain agility

Customer loyalty is no longer a given. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, 77 percent of US consumers changed stores, brands, or the way they shop . Much of that change was driven by necessity. People went online when they couldn’t access their regular stores, and two-thirds said that lack of availability was the primary reason for switching brands. The big winners of the crisis were companies, often the largest players, that could keep products flowing to their customers in a difficult operating environment.

In the postpandemic economy, established brands will face new challenges. As consumer-generated content replaces traditional brand marketing campaigns, companies have less control over the peaks or troughs of demand. Where a business might have once spent months preparing its supply chains for a carefully targeted promotional campaign, now a single viral video can bring attention from millions of consumers overnight. One consumer goods manufacturer experienced a surge in demand in 2020 after a video of a customer enjoying its product on a skateboard ride received millions of views and spawned dozens of imitators.

New players are disrupting retail channels too, widening available choices and creating space for smaller, independent manufacturers. While consumers opted for the security of big brands during the COVID-19 pandemic, a preference for smaller producers is rising, especially among younger cohorts. And the growth of comanufacturing businesses and third-party logistics (3PLs) organizations means new entrants can compete in consumer markets with fewer expensive manufacturing and supply chain assets.

For incumbents, the lesson is clear: move at the same speed as consumers. That means creating innovative products and brands that meet the changing needs of different consumer groups as those needs emerge. And it means greater skill in managing complex portfolios of brands with different market characteristics and delivering their products through multiple channels. These same pressures increasingly hold true for B2B businesses as well, as increased consumer product complexity and demand volatility trickle down the supply chain.

This fast-moving, fragmented, consumer-centric world will require a different sort of supply chain. Traditional supply chains sought to achieve stability and minimize costs. Future supply chains will need to be much more dynamic—and be able to predict, prepare, and respond to rapidly evolving demand and a continually changing product and channel mix. In short, supply chains will need to become agile .

The good news for CSCOs is that agility and resilience are highly complementary: an agile supply chain is inherently more resilient. To be truly effective, however, this agility would need to extend into R&D, procurement, planning, manufacturing, and logistics (Exhibit 4).

At the planning stage, for example, supply chain teams will need to work in a much more proactive way. As potential market opportunities are identified, the supply chain function can begin creating scenarios that are ready for implementation alongside the development of the new product or market offering. After launch, the use of advanced techniques for demand sensing and dynamic forecasting, aided by machine learning technologies, is set to become an essential part of day-to-day supply chain operations.

In supply chain execution, agility requires new capabilities and tools. Agile operations make extensive use of digital technologies in manufacturing, for example, and maximize the use of smart automation in both production and logistics settings. Unlike the rigid supply chain automation systems of the past, technologies such as collaborative robots and smart packaging machines are capable of faster changeovers and can handle a much wider range of products and shipment types.

The drive for agility may require companies to reassess make-versus-buy decisions. In manufacturing, for example, big players typically keep the production of their stable, high-volume products in-house, using comanufacturers for niche and special projects. Leading companies appear likely to invert this trend, investing in flexible core assets and skills that allow their own manufacturing to respond quickly to rapidly changing demands—and, in some cases, outsourcing stable, high-volume products to cost-advantaged external providers. In downstream logistics, meanwhile, greater use of 3PLs may become the most cost-effective way to increase asset flexibility and proximity to customers.

Agile supply chains will also need skilled, flexible people. An agile supply chain workforce is comfortable working with and alongside advanced technologies, and personnel may need a wider range of skills so they can move between tasks as business needs change. Accordingly, agile supply chains make use of agile teams and working methods, borrowing elements of the approach that have transformed flexibility, productivity, and quality in the software industry and beyond. Agile organizational principles are well-described elsewhere , but key elements of the approach include the use of tight-knit, cross-functional teams that work together to implement new concepts and solve difficult problems in short, incremental sprints. These principles are already gaining traction across a range of industries: one major consumer products manufacturer is using “flow to work” pools in its global support functions to dynamically allocate staff to projects, for example.

" "

Digital twins: The art of the possible in product development and beyond

Achieving supply chain sustainability.

Post-COVID-19 consumers have become even more likely to prefer brands that offer robust sustainability credentials and a strong purpose, but industry surveys conducted in mid-2020 suggested that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) topics slipped down companies’ list of priorities during the pandemic. Big players are now making up for lost time. In 2021, 29 percent of companies included ESG metrics in their staff incentive plans, for example, a seven percentage-point uptick over the previous year.

Companies looking to avoid the increasing reputational, regulatory, and financial risks of poor ESG performance are being pressed to act. And as companies such as Henkel have shown, strong environmental actions are also delivering real operational results: a digital twin connects and benchmarks 30 factories and prescribes real-time sustainability actions, which over ten years have reduced energy consumption by almost 40 percent and waste by 20 percent.

The supply chain has a central role to play in the enterprise sustainability transformation. Of nine ESG initiatives highlighted by senior executives in a 2020 industry survey, most either involve the supply chain directly, or have significant implications for supply chain setups (Exhibit 5).

The foundation for an ESG-focused transformation is a clear understanding of the organization’s baseline impact. That would include, for example, quantification of the resources consumed and emissions generated by the company’s direct activities (Scopes 1 and 2) and by participants in its wider supply chain (Scope 3). This baseline allows an organization to identify the largest opportunities for improvement, helping it set challenging but realistic goals and timescales that can be communicated to external stakeholders. Capturing those improvements requires rigorous sustainability KPIs and changes from the shop floor to the boardroom, including optimized operating practices, an ESG focus in procurement decisions , and the adoption of more sustainable technologies in existing and planned manufacturing or logistics projects.

These new priorities of resilience, agility, and sustainability can’t be tacked on to existing supply chain setups. Realistically, they will need to be built in from the foundation and considered in every element of supply chain design, organization, and operation. For many companies, that will likely require a change in mindset from the top, with risk, agility, and sustainability KPIs considered alongside traditional ones focused on cost, capital usage, service, and quality. To excel in these six supply chain dimensions, workforce management and digital capabilities will be essential.

Jan Henrich is a senior partner in McKinsey’s Chicago office; Jason D. Li is an associate partner in the Toronto office; and Carolina Mazuera is an associate partner in the Miami office, where Fernando Perez is a partner.

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Transforming supply chains: Do you have the skills to accelerate your capabilities?

During the last decade, a cascading series of unpredictable events—including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, catastrophic storms, disease outbreaks and armed conflicts—has exposed deep fragilities in global supply chains. These events served as initial alarm bells for much greater challenges to come.

Intricately woven supply chains were built on concepts such as just-in-time manufacturing and designed to reduce labor and operating costs. Over the years, companies relentlessly optimized their supply chains to serve markets with relatively predictable supply and demand patterns. However, recent and unprecedented events have shown how these choices have created inflexible supply chains that are brittle under stress.

Breaking a single link in a globalized supply chain can have a ripple effect, impacting customers thousands of miles away from the point of disruption. “Supply chain issues” has become a catchphrase for economic dislocation.

“In recent years, supply chain has gone from the background, something people did not think about, to a boardroom-level topic,” says Rob Cushman, Senior Partner, IBM Supply Chain Transformation. “It’s a concept that people have had very painful personal experiences with. And that’s why thinking about supply chain is pivoting from cost to being about resilience and agility, and ultimately driving growth.”

Cost savings

By deploying a cognitive supply chain, IBM reduced supply chain costs by USD 160 million   and built in more resilience and agility

100% order fulfillment 

Even during the peak of the covid-19 pandemic, IBM maintained a 100% order fulfillment rate of its products to clients

The worldwide reach, size and complexity of its supply chain organization represented a significant challenge as IBM began exploring transformation strategies for delivering a differentiated customer experience to promote customer loyalty and growth. IBM employs supply chain staff in 40 countries and makes hundreds of thousands of customer deliveries and service calls in over 170 nations. IBM also collaborates with hundreds of suppliers across its multi-tier global network to build highly configurable and customized products to customer specifications.

Previously, the IBM supply chain ran on legacy systems spread across different organizational silos, making information sharing slow and incomplete. Employees also performed much of their work on spreadsheets, which impeded collaboration and real-time data transparency.

However, at the same time the IBM supply chain was re-thinking business processes and transforming its technology platforms, IBM was making major strides in AI, cloud, data fabric, IoT, edge computing and other tools. “We saw the advances IBM was making in all these new technologies,” says Ron Castro, Vice President of IBM Supply Chain. “So, we asked, ‘Why not leverage our own technology to move our own supply chain forward?’”

“The principle behind why we embarked on this journey was to answer the question, ‘How can we best react to disruptions to manage resiliency and our client experience?’” says Castro. “We needed to identify disruptions quickly, analyze the data, get insights and decide on the best course of action.”

IBM supply chain management set out a bold vision to build its first cognitive supply chain. The aim was to have an agile supply chain that extensively uses data and AI to lower costs, exceed customer expectations, ruthlessly eliminate or automate non-value add work and exponentially improve the experience of supply chain colleagues.

IBM Consulting® was brought in at the beginning to help develop the processes required to drive the transformation. “We consider ourselves ‘Client Zero’ for IBM Consulting,” says Debbie Powell, IBM Digital Supply Chain Transformation Leader. “We have the technology to do what we need to do. It’s the culture and the processes where change was needed. We also realized that a lot of our knowledge was tribal and often depended on one person. We needed to digitize and democratize knowledge to support decision-making throughout the organization.”

IBM Consulting helped the IBM supply chain team use Design Thinking methods to plan its digital transformation and move from sequential to continuous planning. “We put a lot of effort into agility and a cultural shift to empower people and adjust workflows in a controlled way,” says Matthias Gräfe, Director of IBM Supply Chain Transformation. “We went from a top-down approach to identifying personas from the bottom up, the people that actually make the decisions.”

“Successful digital transformation required us to challenge traditional ways of working that were held sacred for decades and win the hearts and minds of supply chain colleagues for change to stick,” says Takshay Aggarwal, Partner, IBM Supply Chain Transformation.

At a high level, the IBM supply chain digital transformation revolves around building sense-and-respond capabilities. This was accomplished by democratizing data and automating and augmenting decisions achieved by combining cognitive control tower, cognitive advisor, demand-supply planning and risk-resilience solutions. “We view the cognitive control tower as the single source of truth where you have access to all the data and it helps advise the best course of action,” says Castro. “It also helps gather insights from the information quickly across the end-to-end supply chain.”

The cognitive control tower is powered by the  IBM® Cognitive Supply Chain Advisor 360  Solution, which runs on  IBM Hybrid Cloud  and on  Red Hat® OpenShift®  (link resides outside of ibm.com) software. Cognitive Advisor 360 enables real-time, intelligent supply chain visibility and transparency. It also senses and responds to changes in demand as they happen and simplifies the automation of supplier management.

The system uses IBM Watson® technology to enable natural language queries and responses, which accelerates the speed of decision-making and offers more options to correct issues. “I can ask—in natural language—about part shortages, order impacts, risks to revenues and trade-offs,” says Cushman. “There’s a button that recommends actions to solve issues — that’s what Watson does. It’s augmented intelligence so we empower people with better information to make data-driven decisions very quickly.”

“With the cognitive supply chain, we have the benefit of bringing in all these data from legacy systems and internal and external sources, as well as unstructured data, to apply advanced analytics and different elements of AI,” says Castro. “And since the system responds to natural language, think about the power of being able to extract data and get insights and recommendations without having to be an expert in a legacy system or an ERP platform.”

The IBM cognitive supply chain technology architecture also includes  IBM Edge Application Manager ,  IBM Maximo® Visual Inspection  and  IBM Track and Trace IoT —an integrated stack of solutions that connect data end-to-end across the supply chain. “Our procurement, planning, manufacturing and logistics data are connecting in close to real time,” says Cushman. “That’s how we can share inbound information from suppliers, manufacturing status updates with our external manufacturing partners and delivery information with our customers.”

“We’ve added demand sensing, so that the solution pulses the market for changes in demand, predicting the future. We’ve also embedded a cloud-based risk management tool called Resilinc into our procurement and inbound parts management process,” says Cushman. “It essentially uses AI to crawl the web and if there is a disruption, we can take action quickly to secure a second supply source.”

On a minute-by-minute basis, one of the biggest advantages of IBM’s cognitive supply chain is that it provides employees with immediate access to the information they need to read and mitigate disruptions. “There is unbelievable power that comes from taking lots of disparate data and putting it where people can see and understand it,” says Cushman.

“The real-time, single-view of the truth increases the velocity of decisions and leverages rapid response,” says Castro. “It helps us develop ‘what-if’ scenario analysis from a planning perspective all the way through to the execution team and suppliers.”

In fast-moving, real-world situations, quick, informed decisions provide a competitive advantage. “In the past, a major disruption—such as the closing of a major airport—would take days for us to understand the immediate impacts. With our current solution, we have ‘what-if’ capability that brings this analysis down to minutes,” says Powell. “In a supply constrained environment, whoever gets the information first wins.”

Since its cognitive supply chain became operational, IBM has saved USD 160 million related to reduced inventory costs, optimized shipping costs, better decision-making and time savings. “When mitigating a part shortage, it used to take four to six hours per part number,” says Powell. “We’ve brought that down to minutes and made further improvements to seconds.”

“Where’s my stuff?” is a common question in the supply chain industry. Finding an answer can entail hours of phone calls, emails and ERP queries across different geographies. “We’ve built a solution where you can log in and enter an order and you’ll have an answer in about 17 seconds,” says Cushman. “That was an enormous pivot and a powerful change in how we do business.”

By using its cognitive supply chain platform, the IBM supply chain team is also able to create new capabilities much faster. “Years ago, when we started this journey, we needed a long, looping roadmap with one or two years required for major capability upgrades,” says Castro. “With this digital enterprise, we now have teams that complete deployments in two or three weeks. We’ve moved to much more agile development.”

Despite dislocations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, IBM fulfilled 100% of its orders by using its cognitive supply chain to quickly re-source and re-route parts as necessary. “During the last two years, the IBM supply chain did not fall behind. We met our commitments. Everyone else was screaming supply chain issues and we’re shipping products,” says Daniel Thomas, IBM Business Optimization Manager and Chief of Staff. “We delivered on our promises during the height of the disruptive era we live in.”

“Guaranteed supply is important, but many of our clients are also looking for predictability of supply,” says Castro. “The tools we have now help us address both issues. They enable us to manage the demand side to meet the right client expectations.”

“We have a responsibility to inspire younger supply chain leaders who will keep the IBM supply chain at the cutting edge and beyond for years to come,” says Aggarwal. “People entering the work force today have different experiences than previous generations. They are digital natives and expect a consumer-grade experience when managing their work. As we embarked on our journey, we actively engaged them in designing workflows and digital capabilities. There were trials and tribulations and we had multiple failures in design and rollout. Architecting the cognitive supply chain, and learning from failures and successes, made our young leaders champions of the cognitive supply chain and constant innovators of new capabilities.”

“IBM is the only global services company with its own multibillion-dollar supply chain, and we’ve transformed it into a data-driven architecture to drive our business. There’s a richness of experience that we bring to client conversations because we’ve done this work for ourselves,” says Cushman. “It’s all about how a supply chain delivers a differentiated customer experience to enable stickiness and growth.”

“The collaboration between IBM Systems and IBM Consulting teams to transform our own business and demonstrate the power of exponential technologies in supply chain has been one of our finest moments as a company,” says Cushman. “We look forward to sharing our real-world experience and learnings with our worldwide community of customers, partners and clients.”

IBM logo

IBM is an information technology company based in Armonk, New York. Founded in 1911, the company offers hardware, software and services in cloud computing, AI, commerce, data and analytics, IoT, mobile and cybersecurity, as well as business resiliency, strategy and design solutions. IBM has a global workforce of more than 280,000 employees serving clients in over 175 countries through IBM Consulting, IBM Software and IBM Infrastructure.

To learn more about the IBM solutions featured in this story, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner.

Build AI-enabled, sustainable supply chains that prepare your business for the future of work, create greater transparency and improve employee and customer experiences

IBM Sterling Supply Chain Insights with Watson provides visibility across the entire supply chain.

Sourcing minerals responsibly with blockchain technology

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022. IBM Corporation, New Orchard Road, Armonk, NY 10504

Produced in the United States of America, July 2022.

IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, IBM Consulting, IBM Watson and Maximo are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at  ibm.com/legal/copyright-trademark .

Red Hat®, JBoss®, OpenShift®, Fedora®, Hibernate®, Ansible®, CloudForms®, RHCA®, RHCE®, RHCSA®, Ceph®, and Gluster® are trademarks or registered trademarks of Red Hat, Inc. or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries.

This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates.

The performance data and client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided.

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case study for supply chain

Walmart Supply Chain: Building a Successful Integrated Supply Chain for Sustainable Competitive Advantage

  • Case Studies

Introduction

The global business landscape has witnessed an increasingly fierce competition, pushing companies to seek effective strategies to maintain and enhance their competitiveness. Among these strategies, the role of supply chain capability stands out as a key factor in driving success. A well-optimized supply chain not only ensures efficient delivery and cost-effectiveness but also provides companies with a competitive advantage in the market. In this context, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has demonstrated a highly successful and integrated Walmart supply chain, propelling its growth and dominance in the retail industry.

This case study aims to delve into the significance of supply chain capability for enhancing a company’s competitiveness and how it serves as a competitive advantage for companies. Additionally, we will explore the imperative need for supply chain redesign in the global economy to adapt to the challenges of the modern era of globalization. Focusing on Walmart’s exemplary supply chain practices, the purpose of this case study is to analyze the features of its successful integrated supply chain while identifying relevant issues in the context of the current globalized market.

[Read More: Rivian: Navigating Supply Chain and Operational Challenges and Embracing Growth ]

Walmart’s Supply Chain: Integrated Supply Chain Success

Data-driven success factors.

In the realm of modern supply chain management, data-driven strategies play a pivotal role in enhancing a company’s competitiveness. Walmart’s remarkable success as the world’s largest retailer can be attributed to its astute utilization of data analysis and advanced technologies within its integrated supply chain. This section delves into the key data-driven success factors that have propelled Walmart’s supply chain to the forefront of the retail industry.

[Read More: ERP Master Data: A Guide to Improve Quality & Governance ]

Role of Data Analysis through Barcode Scanning and Point-of-Sale Systems

Data analysis is at the core of Walmart’s supply chain prowess. The company has implemented sophisticated barcode scanning and point-of-sale systems to collect real-time data from its stores. By employing these technologies, Walmart gains valuable insights into customer buying behavior, sales trends, and inventory levels. The ability to analyze this data enables the retail giant to make informed decisions on product procurement, inventory management, and demand forecasting.

Efficient Supply Chain Practices: Automated Distribution Centers and Computerized Inventory Systems

Automation is a key component of Walmart’s efficient supply chain practices. The company has strategically invested in automated distribution centers, streamlining the flow of products from manufacturers to stores. These automated facilities not only optimize the handling and movement of goods but also enable faster order fulfillment and replenishment. Additionally, computerized inventory systems provide Walmart with accurate and up-to-date information about stock levels, allowing for precise inventory control and reducing the risk of stockouts or excess inventory.

case study for supply chain

Utilizing Walmart’s Own Trucking System and Cross-Docking Logistics

Another critical factor contributing to Walmart’s supply chain success is the utilization of its private trucking system and cross-docking logistics. By maintaining its own trucking fleet, Walmart gains greater control over transportation and delivery schedules, leading to improved efficiency and timely product replenishment. Furthermore, the adoption of cross-docking logistics techniques has enabled Walmart to minimize the need for intermediate storage, leading to reduced handling costs and faster product movement through the supply chain.

[Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Contract Logistics: What You Need to Know ]

Information Technologies Driving Efficiency

In Walmart’s journey towards becoming a global leader, information technologies have played a pivotal role in driving efficiency within the integrated Walmart supply chain. The retail giant has strategically adopted various IT initiatives to optimize its operations, enhance collaboration with suppliers, and achieve real-time inventory targeting. These technologies have contributed significantly to Walmart’s supply chain success, allowing them to maintain a competitive edge in the retail industry.

Supply Chain Digitalization Assessment

Collaborative Planning, Forecasting, and Replenishment (CPFR)

One of the key information technologies that have bolstered Walmart’s supply chain efficiency is the implementation of Collaborative Planning, Forecasting, and Replenishment (CPFR). This system facilitates seamless communication and coordination between Walmart and its supply chain partners, including suppliers and distributors. By sharing real-time sales data and demand information, CPFR enables accurate forecasting and demand planning, minimizing information distortion, and promoting synchronized inventory replenishment. The CPFR program has been instrumental in enhancing overall supply chain visibility and efficiency, allowing Walmart to respond promptly to fluctuations in demand and supply, reducing stockouts, and optimizing inventory levels.

Vendor-Managed Inventory (VMI) and Its Benefits

Walmart’s adoption of Vendor-Managed Inventory (VMI) has been another critical information technology-driven initiative. Through VMI, Walmart empowers its suppliers to take on the responsibility of managing their inventory stored in Walmart’s warehouses. By granting suppliers access to real-time inventory data and sales information, Walmart facilitates efficient inventory tracking and replenishment. This hands-on approach by suppliers results in streamlined inventory management, reduced delays in replenishment, and lower stockouts. The VMI model has proved particularly advantageous for Walmart due to its vast product range and numerous suppliers, making inventory management complex and costly if managed solely by the retailer.

[Read More: Vendor Managed Inventory: A Comprehensive Guide ]

Leveraging RFID Technology for Real-Time Inventory Targeting

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology has been a game-changer in Walmart’s pursuit of real-time inventory targeting and enhanced supply chain visibility. By employing RFID tags on products, Walmart can track the movement of inventory throughout the supply chain in real-time. RFID enables accurate and automated inventory tracking, reducing the need for manual counting and minimizing errors in inventory management. The technology also provides crucial details, such as production time, location, and expiry dates of goods, allowing for efficient inventory targeting and better control over inventory turnover. RFID technology has been instrumental in Walmart’s cost reduction efforts, ensuring optimal stock levels while avoiding overstocking and unnecessary inventory holding costs.

Achieving Competitive Advantage through Strategy

Walmart’s competitive strategy: “everyday low prices” (edlp).

Walmart’s competitive advantage is deeply rooted in its strategic focus on offering “Everyday Low Prices” (EDLP) to its customers. The EDLP strategy revolves around providing high-quality products and services at the lowest possible prices, ensuring that customers can benefit from affordable prices every day. This approach sets Walmart apart from its competitors and has been instrumental in establishing the company as a dominant force in the retail industry.

Implementing the “Everyday Low Costs” (EDLC) Policy through Direct Procurement

To support its EDLP strategy, Walmart follows an “Everyday Low Costs” (EDLC) policy in its supply chain management. One of the key elements of the EDLC policy is the direct procurement of items from suppliers, eliminating intermediaries in the process. By procuring directly from manufacturers, Walmart can negotiate and understand their cost structure, enabling them to make informed purchasing decisions and obtain the best prices for their products.

Walmart’s emphasis on direct procurement is further bolstered by the use of technology and information systems. The company has implemented a central database, store-level point-of-sale systems, and a satellite network, along with barcodes and RFID technology as previously mentioned. These technologies allow Walmart to gather and analyze real-time store-level information, including sales data and external factors like weather forecasts, to enhance the accuracy of purchasing predictions. This integration of information technology helps Walmart optimize its procurement process and maintain low costs throughout the supply chain.

Utilizing Information Systems for Better Inventory Management

Effective inventory management is critical for Walmart to sustain its competitive advantage through the EDLP strategy. The company relies on information systems and information technology (IT) capabilities to control inventory levels efficiently. By capturing customers’ demand information, Walmart can identify popular products and stock them adequately, leading to an overall reduction in inventory.

One notable example of Walmart’s successful utilization of information systems is its collaboration with Procter & Gamble (P&G) through the Collaborative Planning, Forecasting, and Replenishment (CPFR) program. This program links all computers of P&G to Walmart’s stores and warehouses, allowing for efficient replenishment orders based on real-time inventory needs. Additionally, Walmart’s Retail Link , developed in the early 1990s, serves as another vital IT application for storing data, sharing it with vendors, and aiding in shipment routing assignments.

case study for supply chain

Challenges and Opportunities

Supplier cooperation and collaboration.

Walmart’s supply chain success can be attributed to its strong relationships with suppliers, but achieving and maintaining supplier cooperation and collaboration is not without challenges. Let’s explore the challenges and opportunities in this area:

Challenges in Obtaining Suppliers’ Cooperation

  • Supplier Resistance to Direct Procurement: Walmart follows an “Everyday Low Costs” (EDLC) policy by directly procuring items from suppliers, eliminating intermediaries. However, some suppliers may be reluctant to cooperate with this approach as it can disrupt existing distribution channels and potentially reduce their bargaining power.
  • Complex Supplier Networks: With thousands of suppliers across various product categories, managing diverse supplier networks can be challenging. Each supplier may have different production and delivery schedules, making coordination difficult.
  • Balancing Profit Margins: As Walmart emphasizes low prices, maintaining a balance between cost savings and ensuring suppliers’ profitability can be a delicate task. Suppliers may resist pressure to reduce prices further to maintain their margins.

Opportunities for Enhanced Supplier Cooperation and Collaboration

  • Establishing Transparent Communication Channels: Walmart can create transparent and open communication channels with its suppliers to foster better cooperation. Clear communication regarding demand forecasts, inventory levels, and potential disruptions can help suppliers plan their production and deliveries more efficiently.
  • Supplier Incentive Programs: Introducing incentive programs that reward suppliers for meeting certain performance metrics, such as on-time delivery or cost reduction, can motivate suppliers to actively collaborate and improve their supply chain capabilities.
  • Collaborative Planning, Forecasting, and Replenishment (CPFR): Walmart can leverage technology, such as CPFR, to share real-time sales data and demand forecasts with its suppliers. This collaborative approach allows suppliers to align their production and inventory management with actual market demand, reducing the bullwhip effect and optimizing the supply chain.
  • Sharing Inventory Visibility: Providing suppliers with access to inventory data, including stock levels and sales information, can help them plan production and deliveries more effectively. This visibility can prevent stockouts and overstocking issues.
  • Long-term Partnerships: Building long-term strategic partnerships with key suppliers can create a sense of mutual commitment and trust. By assuring consistent business over an extended period, Walmart can foster stronger relationships and supplier loyalty.

[Read More: 3 Types of Supplier Segmentation Matrix You Can Use to Classify Suppliers ]

Importance of Collaboration to Enhance Supply Chain Efficiency

  • Reducing Lead Times: Effective collaboration with suppliers can help shorten lead times by streamlining production and transportation processes. Faster lead times enables Walmart to respond quickly to changes in demand, reducing the risk of stockouts.
  • Efficient Inventory Management: Collaborative efforts with suppliers enable better inventory planning and management. Suppliers can adjust production based on actual demand, reducing excess inventory and associated costs.
  • Supply Chain Flexibility: Collaboration fosters agility and adaptability in the supply chain. When Walmart and its suppliers work together closely, they can quickly adjust to market changes, supply disruptions, or new opportunities.
  • Cost Reduction: Improved supplier collaboration can lead to cost-saving opportunities. By eliminating unnecessary intermediaries and optimizing production and transportation, overall supply chain costs can be minimized.

case study for supply chain

The Incentives Alignment Issue

In any supply chain, maintaining a balance of profit margins among different parties is essential for efficient collaboration and sustained success. However, achieving incentives alignment can be challenging, and this issue is particularly relevant in the case of Walmart supply chain. Addressing misalignment of interests between Walmart and its suppliers is crucial for optimizing the overall performance of the supply chain and ensuring long-term success. The following points highlight the incentives alignment issue faced by Walmart:

1. Balancing Profit Margins Among Different Supply Chain Parties:

Walmart’s success is attributed to its ability to offer high-quality products and services at the lowest affordable prices. To achieve this, Walmart employs various cost-cutting strategies, such as direct procurement from suppliers and streamlined distribution practices. While these strategies help Walmart maintain competitive prices, they can create challenges for suppliers who may face pressure to lower their own profit margins to meet Walmart’s demands. This misalignment of profit margins can lead to strained relationships and potentially impact the overall efficiency of the supply chain.

2. Misalignment of Interests Between Walmart and Suppliers:

Walmart’s size and market dominance can lead to power imbalances in supplier relationships. Suppliers may feel compelled to comply with Walmart’s demands to maintain access to its large customer base. However, this can lead to situations where suppliers may not have enough leverage to negotiate favorable terms, impacting their own profitability. As a result, suppliers may be less inclined to invest in innovations or improvements that would benefit the supply chain as a whole.

3. Conflict Between Inventory Growth and Sales Growth:

Walmart faced inventory growth issues in the past, with the inventory growth rate outpacing the sales growth rate. This can be indicative of conflicting incentives between Walmart and its suppliers. Suppliers may prioritize producing and delivering more inventory to ensure they meet Walmart’s demands, even if the sales growth does not keep up with the increased inventory. This misalignment can lead to excess inventory, increased carrying costs, and potential stockouts.

4. The Need for a New Triple-A Supply Chain:

Addressing the incentives alignment issue requires a fundamental shift in the supply chain strategy. Lee (2004) proposed the concept of a new Triple-A supply chain for Walmart and other companies in the 21st century. The Triple-A supply chain emphasizes agility, adaptability, and alignment to create a sustainable competitive advantage. Achieving alignment among all participating parties is crucial to optimize supply chain performance and ensure that risks and rewards are distributed fairly.

The Triple-A Supply Chain Approach

In today’s competitive business landscape, companies like Walmart recognize that a successful supply chain is not just about having a fast and cost-effective system. To maintain a sustainable competitive advantage and address the challenges of the global economy, it is essential to redesign supply chains that incorporate agility, adaptability, and alignment. This section explores the concept of the Triple-A Supply Chain Approach, which emphasizes these three key qualities that an ideal supply chain should possess: agility, adaptability, and alignment of interests among all participating parties.

The Three Qualities of an Ideal Supply Chain

Agility for quick and cost-effective responses:.

Agility refers to a supply chain’s ability to respond quickly and cost-effectively to sudden changes in demand, supply, and external disruptions. In the fast-paced business environment, companies must be able to adapt swiftly to fluctuations in customer preferences, market conditions, and unforeseen events. For Walmart, agility has been a critical factor in maintaining its leadership position in the retail industry. The company’s investments in technology and supply chain optimization strategies have allowed them to optimize inventory levels and respond rapidly to changing customer demands, ensuring the availability of products while minimizing inventory costs.

Adaptability to Handle Changes in Demand and Supply:

Supply chains should be adaptable and flexible enough to handle variations in demand and supply patterns. Demand forecasts can be uncertain, and unexpected supply chain disruptions may occur, making adaptability a vital quality. Walmart’s focus on omnichannel and various fulfillment options, such as in-store pickup and ship from store, demonstrates their commitment to adaptability. By utilizing multiple channels, Walmart can cater to diverse customer preferences, ensuring an uninterrupted flow of products to meet demand.

Alignment of Interests among All Participating Parties:

One of the significant challenges in supply chain management is ensuring alignment of interests among all parties involved, including suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. Walmart’s scale and dominance in the retail market have allowed them to establish strong relationships with vendors, enabling strategic partnerships with vendors who can meet their high-volume demands. Additionally, Walmart’s adoption of Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) allows suppliers to manage their own inventory stored in Walmart’s warehouses. This collaboration aligns the incentives of suppliers and Walmart, streamlining inventory management and ensuring timely replenishment.

case study for supply chain

In conclusion, Walmart’s integrated supply chain has been a crucial factor in the company’s global dominance and sustained competitive advantage. By strategically investing in technology and optimizing its supply chain, Walmart has managed to maintain its position as the world’s largest retailer with over $572 billion in revenue in 2022.

Walmart’s success serves as a compelling example of the importance of a well-integrated supply chain in achieving and sustaining competitive advantage in the global market. As businesses continue to navigate the complexities of the 21st-century economy, building and enhancing supply chain capabilities will remain a critical aspect of ensuring sustainable growth and profitability. By prioritizing agility, adaptability, and alignment, companies can follow in Walmart’s footsteps and position themselves for continued success in the dynamic and ever-evolving global marketplace.

References:

  • Lee H.L. (2004): The triple A supply chain. “Harvard Business Review”, Vol. 82, No. 10, pp. 102-112. 
  • Nguyen T.T.H. (2017): Wal-Mart’s successfully integrated supply chain and the necessity of establishing the Triple-A supply chain in the 21st century. “Journal of Economics and Management”, Vol. 29(3), pp. 102-117

About the Author –  Dr Muddassir Ahmed

Dr MuddassirAhmed  is the Founder & CEO of SCMDOJO. He is a  global speaker ,  vlogger  and  supply chain industry expert  with 17 years of experience in the Manufacturing Industry in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia in various Supply Chain leadership roles.   Dr. Muddassir   has received a PhD in Management Science from Lancaster University Management School. Muddassir is a Six Sigma black belt and founded the leading supply chain platform SCMDOJO to enable supply chain professionals and teams to thrive by providing best-in-class knowledge content, tools and access to experts.

You can follow him on  LinkedIn ,  Facebook ,  Twitter  or  Instagram .

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Case Study: When Tragedy Strikes Your Supply Chain

  • Ram Subramanian

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In the wake of a factory collapse, a clothing retailer must decide whether to relocate production.

Laura Cronenberg, the CEO of Tots & Teens, sipped her black tea in the lounge of Shahjalal International Airport and took some time to collect herself before her flight departed. The past few days had been a whirlwind, and she was still trying to make sense of how her work life had transitioned so abruptly from celebration to crisis.

  • Ram Subramanian is a professor of leadership at Stetson University.

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Hacking The Case Interview

Hacking the Case Interview

Supply chain case interview

Have an upcoming supply chain case interview and don’t know how to prepare? We have you covered!

In this article, we’ll cover what a supply chain case interview is, a step-by-step guide to solve any supply chain case, and a comprehensive review of the basics of supply chains.

If you’re looking for a step-by-step shortcut to learn case interviews quickly, enroll in our case interview course . These insider strategies from a former Bain interviewer helped 30,000+ land consulting offers while saving hundreds of hours of prep time.

What is a Supply Chain Case Interview?

A supply chain case interview is a type of consulting case interview that focuses on evaluating a candidate's ability to analyze and solve complex supply chain-related problems.

In this type of interview, candidates are presented with a hypothetical business scenario or real-world supply chain challenge and are expected to provide structured and logical solutions.

Supply chain cases typically involve various aspects of the supply chain process, such as sourcing, procurement, production, distribution, inventory management, and logistics.

Candidates are often required to assess the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and overall optimization of the supply chain operations.

To excel in a supply chain case interview, candidates need to demonstrate strong analytical skills, problem-solving abilities, attention to detail, and an understanding of supply chain concepts and principles.

They must also showcase their capability to develop actionable recommendations that address the challenges presented in the case.

Candidates should expect to use quantitative analysis, data interpretation, and logical reasoning to formulate their solutions.

Additionally, effective communication skills are crucial to explain their thought process, assumptions, and recommendations clearly to the interviewers.

How to Solve a Supply Chain Case Interview

There are eight steps to solve a supply chain case interview.

Be aware that your supply chain case interview may cover all of these steps, or it may skip some of these steps, depending on what the interviewer wants to focus their time on.

1. Understand the case

At the outset of a supply chain case interview, your priority is to thoroughly understand the context and the challenges presented by the case.

Pay close attention to any clues provided about the company's operations, suppliers, customers, distribution methods, and potential pain points in its supply chain.

Clarify any uncertainties by asking insightful questions that can help you gather relevant information.

By gaining a clear understanding of the case context and objectives, you'll be better equipped to define the problem, formulate a structured approach, and ultimately arrive at effective solutions to address the supply chain challenges presented in the case.

2. Define the problem

Once you have a solid grasp of the case details, move on to defining the core problem or objective that needs to be addressed in the supply chain case interview.

This step involves breaking down the broader supply chain challenges into specific, actionable issues that you can analyze and provide solutions for.

Look for key pain points or bottlenecks in the supply chain process that may be impacting the company's operations, costs, efficiency, or customer satisfaction.

Articulate the problem succinctly and clearly, ensuring that your definition captures the essence of the supply chain issues at hand.

A well-defined problem will serve as the foundation for the remainder of your analysis, guiding your approach and helping you structure your recommendations effectively.

3. Gather information

In the supply chain case interview, the next critical step is to gather relevant information and data that will enable you to analyze the problem thoroughly. This involves seeking clarification from the interviewer about any aspects of the case that are not fully clear and requesting essential data points that are required for your analysis.

Additionally, you may be provided with data, charts, or graphs that simulate the company's supply chain operations.

Your ability to ask insightful questions and extract pertinent information from the available data is crucial at this stage.

As you gather information, focus on understanding the different stages of the supply chain, the key players involved, the flow of materials and products, inventory management practices, distribution channels, and any existing challenges.

Your proficiency in identifying relevant data and using it to build a comprehensive understanding of the situation will set the stage for the subsequent analysis and recommendations you'll provide in the case interview.

4. Analyze the data

With a solid grasp of the information collected, the next step in a supply chain case interview is to analyze the current supply chain operations.

This involves identifying strengths, weaknesses, bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and potential areas for improvement within the supply chain.

Utilize your problem-solving skills to break down the complex supply chain into its various components and assess how each component impacts the overall process. Consider factors such as lead times, transportation costs, inventory levels, demand forecasting accuracy, and supplier relationships.

Identify any patterns or trends in the data that may indicate areas of concern or opportunities for optimization.

This analytical phase requires a structured approach and the ability to connect the dots between different aspects of the supply chain.

Your goal is to uncover insights that will inform your recommendations for enhancing the supply chain's effectiveness, efficiency, and overall performance.

5. Identify solutions

After analyzing the supply chain, the next crucial step is to develop practical solutions and recommendations for improving its efficiency and effectiveness. This is where your creativity and problem-solving skills come into play.

Based on the insights gained from the analysis, brainstorm potential solutions to address the identified challenges or bottlenecks. Consider various strategies, such as:

  • Optimizing inventory management
  • Improving demand forecasting accuracy
  • Streamlining transportation and logistics
  • Enhancing supplier collaboration
  • Implementing technology solutions like supply chain software

Your recommendations should be tailored to the specific issues you've identified and should align with the company's overall goals and objectives.

It's important to think critically about the feasibility of each solution and its potential impact on the supply chain's performance. You may need to prioritize solutions based on their potential benefits and implementation complexity.

Ultimately, your goal is to provide actionable recommendations that can lead to tangible improvements in the supply chain's efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and overall value to the organization.

6. Evaluate trade-offs

In a supply chain case interview, the ability to assess trade-offs is a vital skill. After analyzing different options and proposing potential solutions, you need to critically evaluate the trade-offs associated with each choice.

Trade-offs often involve considerations such as cost, time, risk, and impact on various stakeholders. Determine which solution offers the best balance between different factors, taking into account both short-term benefits and long-term implications.

For example, a solution that reduces costs might lead to longer lead times or increased supply chain complexity.

Effective trade-off evaluation showcases your analytical thinking, strategic acumen, and the capacity to make informed decisions that align with the broader business objectives.

Your ability to weigh pros and cons demonstrates your capacity to handle the complexities of real-world supply chain challenges.

7. Develop recommendations

In the context of a supply chain case interview, developing recommendations is a crucial step that demonstrates your problem-solving abilities.

After thoroughly analyzing the situation, identifying potential solutions, and evaluating trade-offs, you need to formulate actionable recommendations.

Your recommendations should be aligned with the goals and objectives of the company, addressing the key issues identified earlier.

These recommendations should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART), allowing the company to implement them effectively. Consider the potential risks and challenges associated with each recommendation and propose strategies to mitigate them.

Your ability to provide clear and concise recommendations showcases your strategic thinking, practicality, and capacity to drive positive change within the supply chain.

Additionally, crafting recommendations that consider both short-term gains and long-term sustainability demonstrates your understanding of the broader business implications.

8. Quantify the impact

Quantifying the impact is a critical aspect of solving a supply chain case interview.

After proposing recommendations, you need to assess the potential outcomes of implementing these changes.

This involves using relevant metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to quantify the expected improvements in the supply chain's efficiency, cost savings, customer satisfaction, and overall business performance.

Utilize data and information provided in the case to estimate the potential financial and operational benefits of your recommendations.

By attaching specific numbers to your recommendations, you demonstrate your ability to translate strategic solutions into tangible results. Employ quantitative analysis to showcase the value your proposed changes would bring to the company's bottom line.

This step highlights your analytical skills, business acumen, and capacity to drive measurable improvements within the supply chain operations.

In addition to supply chain case interviews, we also have additional step-by-step guides to: market entry case interviews , growth strategy case interviews , M&A case interviews , pricing case interviews , operations case interviews , and marketing case interviews .

Essential Supply Chain Knowledge You Need to Know

Below are five different topics in supply chain that you should be familiar with for your supply chain case interviews.

Remember, you don’t need to be an expert or get very technical with any of these, but it will be helpful to understand what each topic is so that you have an understanding and intuition for solving supply chain problems.

1. Supply chain components

The supply chain is a complex network of interconnected activities, processes, and entities that collaborate to ensure the seamless flow of products and services from raw material suppliers to end customers.

Understanding the key components of a supply chain is essential for anyone looking to grasp the fundamentals of supply chain.

Suppliers : Suppliers provide the raw materials, components, and resources necessary for production. Selecting reliable and quality-focused suppliers is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the supply chain.

Manufacturers : Manufacturers transform raw materials into finished products through various production processes. They play a pivotal role in optimizing production efficiency and ensuring product quality.

Distributors : Distributors are responsible for storing and delivering products to various points in the supply chain. They manage inventory, transportation, and often serve as intermediaries between manufacturers and retailers.

Retailers : Retailers interact directly with end customers, selling products through various channels such as brick-and-mortar stores or online platforms. They monitor consumer demand and provide feedback to other supply chain entities.

Customers : Customers are the ultimate recipients of products or services. Their demand influences the entire supply chain, driving production, distribution, and inventory decisions.

Supply chain example

2. Supply chain activities

Supply chain activities encompass a range of interconnected processes that collaborate to ensure the efficient movement of goods, information, and resources from the initial stages of production to the end consumer.

These activities play a pivotal role in optimizing operations, reducing costs, and meeting customer demands. Let's delve into the key components of supply chain activities:

Planning and Forecasting : Effective supply chain planning involves predicting customer demand, aligning production capacities, and managing inventory levels. Accurate demand forecasting helps prevent stockouts or excess inventory, ensuring optimal resource allocation.

Sourcing and Procurement : This activity involves selecting suppliers, negotiating contracts, and acquiring raw materials or components. Sourcing decisions impact cost, quality, and lead times, influencing overall supply chain efficiency.

Production : Manufacturing is where raw materials are transformed into finished goods. Efficient production processes, quality control, and lean manufacturing techniques are crucial to meet demand while minimizing waste.

Inventory Management : Proper management of inventory levels is essential to prevent shortages and overstocks. Inventory optimization tools help strike the right balance between carrying costs and meeting customer demand.

Warehousing and Distribution : Warehouses serve as hubs for storing and distributing products. Efficient warehousing operations ensure timely delivery and minimize transportation costs by consolidating shipments.

Transportation : Moving products from one point to another is a critical aspect of supply chain activities. Selecting appropriate transportation modes, optimizing routes, and tracking shipments enhance efficiency.

Demand Fulfillment : Ensuring timely order fulfillment involves coordinating production, inventory levels, and distribution. Meeting customer orders promptly enhances customer satisfaction.

Information Flow : Information is the backbone of supply chain activities. Real-time data sharing across supply chain entities enables informed decision-making, enhances coordination, and minimizes delays.

Demand Management : Managing customer demand involves understanding market trends, analyzing consumer behavior, and aligning production to meet varying demand levels.

Supplier Relationship Management : Nurturing positive relationships with suppliers fosters collaboration and enables agile responses to changing market conditions.

Quality Control : Maintaining product quality is crucial to avoid recalls and returns. Rigorous quality control processes ensure products meet customer expectations.

Reverse Logistics : Managing the flow of goods in reverse, such as returns and recycling, is an emerging aspect of supply chain activities. Efficient reverse logistics processes reduce waste and environmental impact.

Technology Integration : Modern supply chains leverage technology such as IoT devices, RFID tags, and data analytics to monitor operations, track shipments, and optimize processes.

3. Metrics and KPIs

Metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are essential tools that provide quantifiable insights into the performance of supply chain activities. They enable organizations to assess efficiency, identify areas for improvement, and make data-driven decisions. Let's explore the significance of metrics and KPIs in the supply chain context:

Operational Efficiency : Metrics such as Order Fill Rate, On-Time Delivery, and Cycle Time measure the speed and accuracy of order fulfillment. A high order fill rate indicates efficient inventory management and timely deliveries, enhancing customer satisfaction.

Inventory Management : Inventory Turnover Ratio, Days Sales of Inventory, and Holding Cost per Unit measure how effectively organizations manage their inventory. Optimizing these metrics reduces carrying costs while ensuring product availability.

Supplier Performance : Metrics like Supplier Lead Time, Supplier On-Time Delivery, and Supplier Defect Rate assess the reliability and effectiveness of suppliers. Strong supplier performance enhances production consistency and reduces supply chain disruptions.

Logistics Efficiency : Transportation Cost per Unit, Freight Cost Ratio, and Inbound Freight Cost measure transportation efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Optimizing these metrics minimizes transportation expenses while maintaining service levels.

Demand Forecast Accuracy : Forecast Accuracy, Mean Absolute Percentage Error (MAPE), and Bias measure the accuracy of demand forecasts. Accurate forecasts enable organizations to align production and inventory with actual demand.

Quality Control : Metrics such as Defect Rate, Return Rate, and Customer Complaint Rate assess product quality. Lower defect rates and return rates signify effective quality control processes.

Cash-to-Cash Cycle Time : This metric measures the time it takes for investments to turn into cash flows. A shorter cycle time indicates efficient cash flow management.

Working Capital Ratio : This ratio compares current assets to current liabilities, indicating the organization's liquidity and ability to meet short-term obligations.

Total Cost of Ownership : This metric considers all costs associated with a product's lifecycle, including acquisition, operation, maintenance, and disposal. It helps make informed procurement decisions.

Supply Chain Flexibility : Metrics like Lead Time Variability and Response Time measure the ability to adapt to changing market conditions and customer demands.

Sustainability Metrics : Environmental impact metrics, such as Carbon Footprint, Water Usage, and Energy Consumption, assess the sustainability of supply chain operations.

Customer Satisfaction Metrics : Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and Customer Complaint Resolution Time gauge customer satisfaction and loyalty.

4. Lean and six sigma

Lean and Six Sigma are two methodologies that play a crucial role in optimizing supply chain operations, eliminating waste, and enhancing overall efficiency.

Lean Methodology : Lean principles focus on identifying and eliminating non-value-added activities, known as waste, from the supply chain.

Waste can take various forms, including overproduction, excess inventory, defects, waiting time, unnecessary transportation, and underutilized talent.

By streamlining processes and reducing waste, organizations can improve lead times, reduce costs, and enhance customer satisfaction.

Six Sigma Methodology : Six Sigma aims to minimize process variations and defects by using data-driven methodologies to achieve consistent and predictable outcomes.

The methodology follows the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) framework to identify root causes of inefficiencies, optimize processes, and ensure sustained improvements.

By reducing process variations, organizations can achieve higher levels of quality and reliability.

Six Sigma projects often result in significant cost savings, improved cycle times, and enhanced customer satisfaction.

The use of statistical tools and methodologies empowers supply chain professionals to make informed decisions, drive continuous improvement, and enhance the overall effectiveness of their operations.

5. Continuous improvement

Continuous improvement is a fundamental concept in supply chain management that revolves around the idea of consistently enhancing processes, practices, and outcomes to achieve higher levels of efficiency, effectiveness, and customer satisfaction.

This philosophy emphasizes that there's always room for improvement, no matter how well a supply chain is performing.

Continuous improvement involves identifying areas for enhancement, implementing changes, monitoring the results, and making further adjustments based on feedback and data.

Supply Chain Case Interview Examples

Supply chain case interview scenario #1.

You are consulting for a retail company that operates multiple stores nationwide. The company is facing challenges with managing its inventory levels.

On one hand, excess inventory ties up capital and incurs storage costs, while on the other hand, inadequate inventory leads to stockouts and missed sales opportunities.

Your task is to help the company optimize its inventory levels to achieve a balance between meeting customer demand and minimizing costs.

How to Solve

Begin by clarifying the scope of the problem. Ask questions about the company's current inventory management practices, its supply chain network, and its primary challenges related to inventory levels.

Request historical sales data for the past year, including SKU-level information, lead times, reorder points, safety stock levels, and any available information on demand variability.

Examine the historical sales data to identify demand patterns, seasonality, and trends. Calculate key metrics like average demand and standard deviation of demand.

Determine the safety stock required to prevent stockouts during peak demand periods. Consider factors like lead time variability, desired service level, and demand variability.

Evaluate the company's current reorder points for each SKU. Assess whether they are aligned with demand variability, lead times, and safety stock requirements.

Analyze inventory turnover ratios for different SKUs. Identify products with consistently low turnover rates, as they may indicate excess inventory that ties up capital.

Based on your analysis, propose strategies to optimize inventory levels. This may involve adjusting reorder points, safety stock levels, and batch sizes.

Examine opportunities to reduce lead times in the supply chain. Faster replenishment can reduce the need for high safety stock levels.

Segment SKUs based on demand patterns, product characteristics, and other relevant factors. Tailor inventory management strategies to each segment.

Present your findings and recommendations to the client. Highlight potential cost savings, improved customer service levels, and enhanced supply chain efficiency through optimized inventory management.

Engage in a discussion with the interviewer, addressing any questions or concerns they may have about your analysis and recommendations.

Supply Chain Case Interview Scenario #2

You are consulting for a global consumer goods company that manufactures and distributes a wide range of products. The company is looking to optimize its distribution network to reduce costs and improve service levels.

Currently, the company operates multiple distribution centers (DCs) and warehouses around the world. Your task is to propose an optimal distribution network strategy.

Begin by gathering information about the company's current distribution network. Obtain data on the number and locations of DCs, transportation costs, inventory holding costs, lead times, and customer locations.

Analyze historical demand patterns across different regions and customer segments. Consider factors like seasonality, market growth, and demand variability.

Evaluate the transportation costs associated with shipping products from each DC to customer locations. Consider modes of transportation, distance, freight rates, and delivery times.

Calculate the total cost of the current distribution network, including transportation costs, inventory holding costs, warehousing costs, and any other relevant expenses.

Understand the company's desired service levels for different customer segments. This could involve factors like delivery times, order fill rates, and on-time delivery performance.

Propose alternative distribution network configurations, such as consolidating DCs, opening new DCs in strategic locations, or outsourcing distribution to third-party providers.

Quantify the trade-offs between cost reduction and service level improvement for each distribution network alternative.

Evaluate the benefits of centralizing inventory in a single location versus distributing inventory across multiple DCs. Consider factors like lead times, demand variability, and safety stock requirements.

Based on your analysis, recommend the optimal distribution network strategy that minimizes costs while meeting or exceeding service level requirements.

Discuss potential challenges and risks associated with implementing the recommended network strategy. Consider factors like operational disruptions, IT system changes, and supplier relationships.

Present your findings and recommendations to the client, highlighting the projected cost savings, improved service levels, and overall benefits of the optimized distribution network.

Recommended Consulting Interview Resources

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  • Resume Review & Editing : Transform your resume into one that will get you multiple consulting interviews

For help passing case interviews

  • Comprehensive Case Interview Course (our #1 recommendation): The only resource you need. Whether you have no business background, rusty math skills, or are short on time, this step-by-step course will transform you into a top 1% caser that lands multiple consulting offers.
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  • Hacking the Case Interview Book   (available on Amazon): Perfect for beginners that are short on time. Transform yourself from a stressed-out case interview newbie to a confident intermediate in under a week. Some readers finish this book in a day and can already tackle tough cases.
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Creating an Omnichannel Supply Chain: A Macy’s Case Study

In February 2020, Macy’s announced their Polaris plan, a three-year strategy created to stabilize profits and create growth. This plan included closing 125 underperforming stores and consolidating offices. It also included a major overhaul of their supply chain model. But, of course, Macy’s had to close their doors less than 6 weeks later due to…

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case study for supply chain

In February 2020, Macy’s announced their Polaris plan , a three-year strategy created to stabilize profits and create growth. This plan included closing 125 underperforming stores and consolidating offices. It also included a major overhaul of their supply chain model.

But, of course, Macy’s had to close their doors less than 6 weeks later due to COVID-19. As their online presence was the only presence available, their longstanding supply chain strategy, which was already starting to cause major issues within the company, needed immediate attention.

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette stated in September 2020, “Everything on the digital agenda has been accelerated. We’re optimizing inventory placement to meet customer demand wherever and however they shop in our store.”

What’s so bad about Macy’s supply chain model?

Customers expect a strong omnichannel experience — one that integrates both the online and offline world of the retailer, enabling a frictionless shopping experience.

For retailers, the goal is to take the retailer’s replenishment cycle from days to hours and reduce inventory at stores. This way, retailers expand their use of stores to fulfil online orders and hold less inventory altogether, allowing them to dedicate more room for digital fulfillment.

Omnichannel shopping is the baseline expectation for customers, as companies such as Gap, Target, and many others have upped their omnichannel game.

And Macy’s is, er, behind.

Macy’s way of viewing their supply chain in the past was traditional: Move products from point A to point B and optimize costs at each stop along the way. Each delivery channel has its own transportation plan and technology stack, siloing all distribution and fulfillment centers.

This supply chain method was acceptable 10 years ago, but to stay afloat in the in-store and online retail spaces, Macy’s needed to make a change. Silos created major cost issues, not to mention slow speed and service in today’s two-day-delivery age.

The company’s supply chain model operated two separate warehouse networks, one for stores and the other for direct customer (online) orders. This system made rebalancing inventory nearly impossible, among other issues.

Macy’s supply chain also lacked a central platform for locating inventory at the SKU level across the chain, and the cost of goods were high compared to competitors since each private brand sold at May’s was sourced independently.

Creating a better supply chain

In 2019 Macy’s hired Dennis Mullahy , the first ever Chief Supply Chain Officer, to transform the supply chain into one that supports an omnichannel strategy.

Since then, Macy’s has made leaps and bounds in optimizing their supply flow, with COVID expediting the process.

The company is transitioning to a centralized warehouse model, implementing a flow and fold design, meaning a light initial allocation to stores and flexible replenishments. Multipurpose warehouses hold inventory, which can both replenish stores and fulfill e-commerce orders.

By having a centralized inventory, the retailer is better able to strengthen its margins and fulfill orders quicker and in the ways customers want.

“Our new model will leverage all of our assets much more productively and improve customer satisfaction by increasing speed of delivery as well as generate efficiencies in our operations and inventory utilization.” Dennis Mullahy wrote.

In addition, Macy’s is getting on board with using data and analytics to not only get items to customers faster, but also improve inventory forecasting and allocation and package consolidation.

The company plans to increase drop-shipping to boost margins in e-commerce, where delivery costs have been the largest drain on profits. They’ll also renew their efforts into Macy’s Backstage operations in order to compete with other off-price companies such as Nordstrom Rack and TJMaxx.

Behind the curve

And while these improvements are giving Macy’s the help it needs, they should’ve seen the warning signs sooner. Retailers of equal size have been making moves to change their supply chain for years now, and Macy’s is just catching up.

For example, Kohls has been working to integrate e-commerce and brick and mortar stores since the beginning of 2018. The company worked to change its purchase and inventory management system by starting with the smallest stores and working their way up.

Nordstrom has been working on omnichannel fulfillment for over 3 years, and brought in tech consulting firm Opex Analytics to help.

Walmart unveiled plans this month to install a high-tech automation system across 25 Walmart regional distribution centers through their partnership with Symbotic, a robotics and automation company — something they’ve been working toward since 2017. This system will digitize and modernize Walmart’s current supply chain facilities to enrich customer experience and support evolving demand.

But even though Macy’s may be a few steps behind, true omnichannel is a journey — and a difficult one at that. It requires a lot from the supply chain, especially in terms of speed, complexity, and efficiency. The global retailer is making strides in executing their Polaris plan by focusing more on the integrated fulfillment strategy and alternative fulfillment options and listening to what their customers want.  

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Building Insights Into Supply Chains: A Case Study

A GRAPHIC SHOWING MULTIPLE TRUCKS ON ROADWAYS, WITH TRACKING SIGNS SUPER-IMPOSED OVER THEIR LOCATIONS.

Image: iStock.com/metamorworks

For time-sensitive or temperature-controlled cargo, most shippers will agree that high-quality, real-time tracking information is crucial. Though that technology can be expensive, the investment is easy to justify when it could mean the difference between an on-time delivery and spoiled cargo. But for general cargo — which does not have strict timeline requirements — it can be harder for shippers to justify that cost. Individualized tracking information simply isn’t as critical for those standard loads. And if shippers do decide to invest in tracking devices for general cargo, rarely is the technology advanced enough to make a sizable difference to their bottom line.

Some leaders in the shipping space argue that this view is shortsighted — and could cost companies far more than they realize. Without the data that tracking technology could provide, they believe, many shippers lose out on important insights into their general cargo — data that could significantly improve travel timelines and ultimately justify that initial cost.

Two of these leaders are Maersk, a provider of transportation and logistics services, and Tive, a global leader in supply chain and logistics visibility technology. Both organizations felt that the potential value of tracking insights into general cargo was too important to overlook. So when Erez Agmoni, global head of innovation at Maersk, and Krenar Komoni, founder and CEO of Tive, crossed paths at a supply chain event at MIT a few years back, it was no surprise that they found a common purpose.

Both Agmoni and Komoni knew that tracking technology was too costly to be used across every type of cargo. “Unless it’s valuable, perishable cargo,” says Agmoni, “nobody will want to just go and track every single container, every single shipment — especially considering a few years ago, when it was really expensive.” Agmoni and Komoni knew they needed to develop a more affordable solution that could provide data that was actually relevant to all types of general cargo shipments.

The Proof of Concept

In the years following the MIT event, Agmoni and Komoni explored alternatives that could offer the value they sought at a price point shippers would accept. The first step in their experiment was to design a proof of concept. The team at Maersk took on the task, beginning with outreach. “We went to customers, we brought them in, we started some discussions,” says Agmoni. “We looked into what could help them improve their supply chains.” Over the course of their research, customers commonly expressed frustration with transit times: They were unreliable, inaccurate, and did little to help them plan around the situation at hand. That’s when Agmoni had an idea. Instead of tracking each individual shipment — which, as customers were saying, wasn’t providing the information they actually needed — they could also track aggregated data.

The Maersk Innovation Center designed a proof of concept for a means of keeping tabs on thousands of shipments without having to view each one individually. In other words, they would track aggregated data from thousands of shipments, starting with a route from Los Angeles to Memphis. Tive, meanwhile, started building the hardware and the backend technology. Once the product was ready, Tive ensured that all of the trackers were properly installed at the warehouse in Los Angeles, and that each of them was linked to the appropriate shipment and order.

From there, Tive’s data science and data analytics teams, with input from Maersk, went to work analyzing the data from the trackers — looking at which algorithms they wanted to run on the dataset to figure out what insights they could gain. “Working together, we were able to find some really interesting things,” says Komoni. In the end, the higher-level view yielded surprising insights.

The Results

On the drive from Los Angeles to Memphis, there are two main routes from which truckers can choose: a southern route, which runs near the U.S.–Mexico border, and a northern route, which is a slightly more direct line from point A to point B. On all navigation systems, the northern route is estimated to be two hours faster than its counterpart. But when Maersk and Tive started looking at the aggregated data, they learned something that they couldn’t have known from individualized tracking information.

“When we started to look at the aggregated data,” says Agmoni, “we found out that the northern route is taking six days, plus or minus two — so four to eight days.” Though Google Maps will estimate the drive to be 32 hours, it’s expected that drivers will need to stop and rest along the way, stretching the trip out into several days. But when they looked at the presumably slower, southern route, the average driver was completing the trip in four to six days. Not only was this faster, but the driving estimate was more precise.

To understand why this was, they had to go back to the data. Using a collection of tools and graphs that they’d custom built for this purpose, Tive began to calculate the idle times along each route. “What we said is, ‘why don’t we figure out where the trucks are stopping for the longest time?’” says Komoni. “And then we mapped that out, and we saw these big red spots on areas where they’re stopping on the southern route and also where they’re stopping on the northern route.

”It quickly became clear from the data that drivers on the northern route were stopping much more frequently than on the southern route. “We couldn’t know why they’d do that,” says Agmoni, “so we had to call some of them. And we learned a very interesting thing.”

After speaking with some of the drivers, they learned that rest stops on the northern route are small and, more often than not, completely full. “It’s a very busy route,” says Agmoni. “They don’t trust that there will be space at the rest stop when they’ve reached the maximum hours of driving. So they start looking two or three stops beforehand. If there is one, they stop; if not, they’ll go to the next on the route.” On the southern route, however, the stops are more reliable. Drivers can trust that when they need to make a stop, there will be space for them to do so — allowing them to maximize the number of hours that they can drive, and shortening the total transit time altogether.“

That really helped us to change the way we route things. You can’t find this information if you follow one shipment at a time; you really need the aggregated data,” says Agmoni.

“It's great insight,” Komoni adds, “because now you finally have value that you can sell. You can justify the cost on all types of general cargo — and not just on time-sensitive, temperature-sensitive, high-value shipments.”

Maersk and Tive’s proof of concept was a clear success, allowing them to move forward in the development of their product.

The Solution

Using what they learned, Maersk has since developed a new product called Ocean + Transload, a solution for cargo transportation that improves transit time variability, reduces carbon emissions, and helps minimize detention and demurrage charges.

“It’s a replacement for the inland port solutions that carriers sell,” says Agmoni. Typically with intermodal travel, carriers see a lot of fluctuation in transit times. “The intermodal connection of international containers is not to the level of our customer expectation,” he says.

With Ocean + Transload, they can take containers and translate them into trailers by putting them back on the rail or on the road. “And of course we are adding visibility trackers to all those shipments at no extra cost — to provide our customers with a solution that first, gives them a much more precise time, and second, sends alerts way in advance when the shipment is about to arrive.” Armed with this increased visibility into their shipments, customers no longer need to follow up to receive updates on the status of their shipment. Updates come to them directly.

According to Komoni, the uniformity of the data made possible by the collaboration was a central component to the solution’s success. “I think that uniformity is the real value that allows Maersk to do aggregated analytics and understand insights for their customers. There is tremendous value in uniformity,” he says.

What started as a shared frustration at the lack of tracking information on general cargo shipments resulted in not only a successful collaboration between two companies — it also provided a much-needed advancement in tracking technology and shipping analytics that will help companies make smarter and more cost-efficient decisions across the supply chain.

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  • Research Guides
  • Subject Guides
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Case studies

Supply Chain Management: Case studies

  • Article Search
  • Book Search
  • Suppliers & customers

Why case studies?

Case studies from harvard, scholarly journal articles, other journals as sources for case studies.

  • Encyclopedias ...

Case studies can provide:

  • Profiles of real, individual companies, including information about their work processes, relationships
  • Profiles of industries, including information about the structure of the industry, and the relationships within the supply chain
  • Numbers and data

Please note that this is not a guarantee!  But case studies sometimes do provide all of the above ...

Harvard Business School Press vs. Harvard Business Review

  • Two sources:  published as articles in the journal Harvard Business Review ; or published as individual publications by the Harvard Business School Press

We do NOT subscribe to the Harvard Business School Press case studies.  (That would be really expensive ...)  However, please be aware that these case studies are actually quite cheap to buy individually; they go for about $7 each when you buy them directly from Harvard.  Below is a link to their site.

That said, there are some case studies within the journal Harvard Business Review (HBR).  These are not the Harvard Business School case studies (the ones used in the Harvard Business School classes); these tend to be shorter, less detailed and less in-depth, and are usually about fictitious companies.  Also below is a link to the full-text of the HBR.

  • Harvard Business School Press - Cases
  • Harvard Business Review Full-text for 1922 - present. Look for the link "Search within this publication" on the left, above Publication Details. Then search either for " company name and case studies", or " supply chain practice and case studies".

How to read case studies: 

Harvard has some recommendations for this.  Below is a short video introduction and a book about it.

About the ebook:

Read it ONLINE or download individual chapters, that is my recommendation!  Downloading the complete ebook is only necessary if you need to read it OFFLINE; be aware that there are several requirements for downloading an ebook .  

  • Video Introduction to The Case Study Handbook

Cover Art

For these databases, try the following types of searches:

  • company name and case studies
  • work process and case studies
  • supply chain issue / practice and case studies

In each of the databases, what happens after you get to a list of results will vary ... if you need help, please ask?!

Connect to the vendor's website for search tips.

  • SAGE Journals Online from Sage This link opens in a new window Searches full text articles of SAGE journals (approximately 900 titles). Emphasis on the health and social sciences. 1982 - present.
  • Journal of Business Case Studies (Online) Online coverage 2011 - 2019 (v. 7, no. 6 - v. 15, no. 2). 2009 - 2011 content also available here . Exact coverage: Nov/Dec 2009 (v. 5, no. 6) - Sep/Oct 2011 (v. 7, no. 5)
  • Journal of Business Cases and Applications 2007 - present, an open access journal. Published by the Academic and Business Research Institute.
  • Journal of Cases on Information Technology Online full-text only for 2003-2009 . But there is indexing for later time periods, making Interlibrary Loan (ILL) a possibility. Click here for more info about ILL .
  • Journal of the Operational Research Society For this journal we have three different sources for online full-text, covering different time periods. Therefore, the link above goes to the Marqcat record, which will lead you to all three sources.
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  • Next: Encyclopedias ... >>
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Pricing Optimization at Delly’s: A Case Study in Successful AI Enablement

Talking Logistics

SEPTEMBER 27, 2023

This includes implementing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Demand Planning , Inventory Management, Transportation Management, and Warehouse Management applications. Over the years, they have invested in technology to streamline and automate a variety of business processes.

case study for supply chain

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She wrote, “I have been working in the supply chain for 35 years, and we are still trying to solve the “demand” issue. Solving from a supply side seems to work for many companies I work with. Over the last two years, I actively engaged technologists and business leaders to redefine demand planning .

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JUNE 21, 2023

Many of the case studies being presented at today’s conferences were born during the pandemic and the post-pandemic turbulence. While companies talk digital, the projects follow traditional supply -centric paths. We have not achieved supply chain economies of scale. The analysis is now in its ninetieth year.

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Supply Chain Case Study: the Executive's Guide

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JUNE 1, 2014

Professionals in supply chain management use various methods to identify best practices to improve the operations. Analysis of case study is certainly one of the most popular methods for people from business management background. Supply Chain of fashion industry involves a time based competition.

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Streamlined Sales and Operations Planning: A Konica Minolta Case Study

AUGUST 13, 2014

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How a Fortune 500 Company Transformed its Supply Chain Using a Digital Twin-Enabled Control Tower

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Make Room for Leadership to Drive S&OP

MAY 13, 2024

In my recent Mea Culpa post, I mentioned my prior work on Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP), and the importance of leadership. If you have walked in the shoes of the supply chain leader, you are probably laughing by now. In assessing the health of the plan , what do you measure? Is your plan feasible?

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Case Study: NXP Semiconductors

Procurement Academy

OCTOBER 18, 2023

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Case Study: Ewellix

MARCH 2, 2023

After seeing the quality of Skill Dynamics’ solution and content, Group Director Purchasing saw an opportunity to develop the supply chain too and introduced the Group Director Demand Chain & Logistics, Magnus Pettersson , into the program. Ewellix is working hard to ensure this learning benefit is utilized and a success.

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Case Study: BNP Paribas

NOVEMBER 8, 2023

Each learner has been assigned with a learning plan based upon their selected role and has been able to continue to select further courses from Skill Dynamics’ procurement catalogue to help them improve their skills. The post Case Study : BNP Paribas appeared first on Skill Dynamics.

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CEVA Logistics Drives Agile, Multi-Leg Inbound Flows for Tech Company

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CEVA Logistics, a global leader in third-party logistics, was contracted to help a technology company manage its complex supply chain , supporting B2B, B2C, and reverse flows across multi-leg transport.

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Digital Transformation Journey in Supply Chain Planning

MARCH 4, 2021

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Case Study: Röhlig Logistics and Gravity Supply Chain Solutions

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Navigating complex supply chains and managing rising customer demands is challenging, especially for businesses in the logistics space. Optimised planning of inbound delivery. Download full case study here. The Business Problem. Enhanced insight and visibility from vessel tracking.

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Trying to Push Content Above the Noise

JANUARY 2, 2024

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Judging Supply Chain Improvement: Campbell Soup Case Study

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How Technology Makes Continous Innovation Possible: A Case Study with Unilever

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Autonomous E2E decision making isn't a distant dream; it's the reality crafted by the synergy between Unilever, a global consumer goods giant, and Solvoyo, the norm-busting partner in end-to-end supply chain planning .

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Case Study: Plan Farther Ahead with DDMRP

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MAY 25, 2021

The pandemic dealt an unprecedented blow to global supply chains , with virtually all business leaders reporting disruptions to their strategic sourcing and supplier management processes. Yet some companies found ways to mitigate the impact to their operations.

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Navigating the Climate Crisis in Apple’s Global Supply Chain

SCM Research

SEPTEMBER 30, 2023

This article, entitled Apple’s Supply Chain Is on a Collision Course With Climate Change , argues that Apple’s supply chain faces major risks from the climate crisis. I believe it would make a great case study for business school classes, using the following questions: 1.

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MARCH 28, 2024

Integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) within different segments of the Food Industry, including transportation and logistics, production planning , quality control, and others has kicked off revolutionary transformations. Supply Chain Administration Supply chains are the backbone of the food industry.

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Demand Planning Apps Top Supply Chain Planning Machine Learning

DECEMBER 11, 2018

Gartner recently polled both users and vendors on which supply chain planning (SCP) applications are employing machine learning and in three different analysis, demand planning and demand forecasting came out top of the list. Our first Gartner machine learning customer case study appeared five years ago.

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Companies Using ERP: Case Studies

SEPTEMBER 22, 2021

ERP stands for “Enterprise Resource Planning ”. This type of software is used by businesses to plan and oversee routine operations, such as supply chain management, manufacturing, services, project management, customer relationship management, risk management, compliance, accounting and procurement. Case Study #2: Veoneer.

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A Case Study in Closed-Loop Operational Management

NOVEMBER 19, 2014

As I’ve said before, the biggest challenge facing supply chain and logistics executives today is not managing change, because that’s always been the norm in supply chain management, but managing the rapid pace of change. So, what’s been the problem? A key constraint has been speed.

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Machine Learning in Supply Chain: Definition, Uses, Case Studies

APRIL 4, 2023

Machine learning is changing nearly every aspect of the supply chain and how we deliver goods to customers. In this article, we explore the potential of machine learning in supply chain management and the different types and uses of the technology. How is machine learning used in supply chain management?

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Supply Chain Leaders, Chained to Tradition, Face the Whip

JUNE 24, 2022

Life for the supply chain leader is more complex. We are living in a world of rich supply chain case studies . Each day, the Wall Street Journal features a supply chain failure as front-page news. Why Is There No Economy of Scale in Supply Chain Acquisitions? Baby formula.

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Redesign to Improve Value: A Case Study of a Supply Chain Leader

JUNE 21, 2014

This week, I will speak at Llamasoft’s conference on improving supply chain network design. One of the reports that I am writing is on the state of Supply Chain Planning (SCP). In the recent study of the Voice of the Supply Chain Leader , we find that the gaps are large, and growing.

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AI in the Retail Industry: Benefits, Case Studies & Examples

MARCH 27, 2024

The Evolution of Retail Supply Chain & Logistics: A Pre-AI Overview In the pre-AI era, the retail sector was markedly different, especially since the traditional supply chain and logistics models were largely driven by manual labor. How is AI Revolutionizing Retail Supply Chains ?

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High Performance Inventory: The Supply Chain Differentiator

It’s the typical supply chain refrain. So how can organizations face this new market landscape with confidence and a solid planning process? A successful planning process leverages inventory itself as a tool, increasing the payoff of available stock by balancing it with business goals and service targets.

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Strong Supply Chains Required For an Economic Rebound: Six Steps To Take

APRIL 15, 2020

My last post on the Supply Chain Shaman blog was forty-five days ago. Then it was the redefinition of the supply chain for the global shutdowns Sick with the virus; I spent my energies writing and moderating podcasts. As we moved into our new roles, for all supply chains , demand shifted. Time to Know.

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Supply Chain Planning Transformation

JANUARY 20, 2021

I was asked recently about what it takes to transform the supply chain planning process of a company. Supply Chain Planning Transformation was first posted on January 20, 2021 at 7:40 am. ©2017 " Supply Chain Link Blog - Arkieva " Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only.

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Heura Uses ToolsGroup for Digital Supply Chain Transformation to Support Global Expansion

NOVEMBER 9, 2023

With ToolsGroup’s AI-powered demand forecasting, the plant-based food innovator revolutionizes its supply chain , maximizing accuracy, speed, and business performance. As Heura’s business grew, so did the complexity of its supply chain .

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Watch: Berry Global and Logility: A Case Study

Supply Chain Brain

AUGUST 16, 2022

Logility's demand- planning tool has immeasurably improved the customer experience at Berry Global, says David Walsh, vice president of supply chain and customer experience at Berry Global.

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Your Must-Have Gartner EU Debrief: The TopTakeaways from Gartner Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo EU 2023

JUNE 15, 2023

Gartner Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo EU 2023 has wrapped up its 3-day event in Barcelona, Spain. Featuring over 35 Gartner experts and more than 100 research-driven sessions, this year’s conference gathered over 2,000 supply chain professionals from across Europe and beyond. Looking for a snapshot of the key highlights?

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The Critical Path: Navigating Supply Chain Efficiency in the Oil Industry

JUNE 27, 2024

In an era where efficiency equates to competitive advantage, the oil industry’s supply chain management plays a pivotal role in determining a company’s profitability and sustainability. What Are the Key Components of an Oil Company’s Supply Chain ? How Do Global Market Conditions Affect Oil Supply Chains ?

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Pandemic Lessons For Supply Chain Leaders

FEBRUARY 18, 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic tested the global supply chain . Like riding a bumpy road, the supply chain leader is riding the ups and downs of changing market conditions facing greater variability day-to-day. Here, based on interviews with supply chain leaders, I share lessons learned. It will not be over soon.

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George Jetson and the case for modern supply chain planning

FEBRUARY 27, 2019

As a supply chain planner of a certain vintage, you remember The Jetsons and likely recall George working for Mr. Spacely at Spacely Space Sprockets. Spacely was all-in on taking a modern, collaborative approach to supply chain planning . Propel yourself to a modern planning experience. by Mike McAllister.

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FMCG Foods Turnaround: A successful S&OP Case Study

APRIL 21, 2021

I know I am prone to rattle on about Sales & Operational Planning (S&OP) but seeing the benefits being delivered to previously struggling businesses is extremely motivating for a confirmed “techy” like myself. I know, I know.

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Help Supply Chain Planners Be More Successful In These Uncertain Times

MARCH 9, 2020

As I shopped at Best Buy for office supplies , I struggled to not think about the massive disruption of electronics supply chain . The Sam’s Club and Costco shortages of water, toilet paper and laundry products signals one thing for me: the spread of the virus will disrupt every supply chain . The problem?

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Adexa is Recipient of 2024 Top Supply Chain Projects Award

JUNE 17, 2024

Their partnerships cultivated resilience and placed a spotlight on projects designed to make the supply chain space safer and more efficient,” says Marina Mayer, Editor-in-Chief of Supply & Demand Chain Executive and Food Logistics. Go to [link] to view the full list of Top Supply Chain Projects winners.

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Transform Your Supply Chain: The SCMDOJO Training Track

JUNE 14, 2024

The global economy runs on efficient supply chains . The SCMDOJO Supply Chain Track offers a comprehensive supply chain training program to equip you with the knowledge and skills to excel in this dynamic field. It’s your one-stop shop for a complete supply chain management pathway.

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Can Improving Forecast Accuracy Address Our Demand Planning Woes?

AUGUST 4, 2022

If “the forecast is always wrong,” is improving forecast accuracy even the solution to our demand planning woes? For supply chains to get more use from their models, we need to “trust the box;” recognize that models are not the holy grail; and remember that a forecast is an input into making better decisions, not an end in and of itself.

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This is not me

A forward-looking supply chain using demand forecasting

Tomorrow’s demands, forecasted today.

5-MINUTE READ

case study for supply chain

Call for change

Looking out to see within

A leader in food marketing and distribution saw an opportunity to reimagine its supply chain management.

Accenture introduced the idea that by using unified view of demand, the company could develop a supply chain that anticipates and pivots around obstacles.

The goal was to combine internal data with new external data that had emerged during the pandemic to gain  greater visibility and flexibility .

From there, the company could scale the new solution across all of its operational sites to better inform inventory position and supply-side dynamics, future-proofing the company’s operations and giving it an edge over competitors.

case study for supply chain

When tech meets human ingenuity

Stepping towards the future

Accenture proposed a five-week engagement to prove the value of unified view of demand by focusing on analytics and insights.

Accenture combined internal data (like sales and inventory) and external data (like weather and restaurant reservations) into  an AI-driven solution  that could easily forecast and improve demand sensing.

From there, Accenture replicated and expanded unified view of demand to additional sites while live piloting the solution against the company’s existing supply chain process and system. Following the new solution’s success, Accenture outlined the specific steps needed to implement unified view of demand, from design flow to staffing to project timeline and beyond.

A valuable difference

Test. Analyze. Refine. Repeat.

After piloting  unified view of demand  across several sites, the company discovered that it could  improve forecast errors by roughly 6-8 points, which could lead to $100-$130M in potential benefits .

Accenture also brought operational excellence to the table by introducing AI-enabled exception-based management.

Given the tens of thousands of stock-keeping units (SKUs) the company faces in each iteration, the proposed solution enables planners to focus solely on the SKUs with critical need, saving time and making the entire process more robust.

Now, the company’s leadership is looking for other areas to innovate which has led to a culture of continuous learning.

Today, the unified view of demand forecasting model is an AI-powered solution that can inform demand forecasting and better prepare the company for the future.

Case study: How EY optimized the supply chain of a leading Indian MNC

EY helped a leading FMCG company optimize vendor costs, eliminate redundancies, and create a common sales and operations platform.

  • Link copied

Ashish Nanda

Ashish Nanda

EY India Market Segment Leader for Consumer and Health Services (CHS)

How EY optimized the supply chain of a leading Indian MNC

The better the question

How can we unlock synergies from two businesses post acquisition?

After acquiring several iconic brands, a leading FMCG company needed to capitalize on the synergistic benefits of the opportunity.

I n 2018, one of India’s leading FMCG companies acquired a consumer business which housed several reputed brands. After the acquisition, the immediate priority for the company was to identify and tap into synergistic opportunities of the acquisition. Supply chain and procurement was one of the primary focus areas for cost, operation and capacity optimization. Both sets of businesses had many overlaps across the supply chain, including suppliers, locations, and raw materials. The company had to quickly identify all existing overlaps and eliminate redundancies.

Next generation supply chain operations - EY

The better the answer

We optimized the supply chain of the complete brand portfolio

The optimization covered three critical areas ꟷ procurement synergies, logistics and network optimization, and sales and operations planning.

As the company wanted to ensure that it leveraged the benefits of synergies from the acquired entities, it employed EY to optimize the complete supply chain. The core areas of  supply chain optimization  included:

  • Realizing procurement synergies and optimizing vendor costs.
  • Lowering of warehouse and freight costs by identifying logistics overlaps.
  • Integration of sales and operations planning across the complete brand portfolio. 

EY led three critical areas of supply-chain optimization: procurement synergies, logistics and network optimization, and sales and operations planning.

Procurement levers to extract synergistic value

To realize value from various synergistic opportunities in packaging, EY investigated several cost levers and their potential impact. The team deep dived into cost sheets and identified saving opportunities for major packaging material through index-linked buying. In addition, EY also consolidated vendor bases and leveraged scale across key categories for negotiation, besides leveraging different price floors which the two organizations had.

EY also conducted market assessments and index identification for synergistic raw material categories and alternate vendor and price discovery for high priority categories. It also developed a scientific price forecasting model for better indicative price visibility.

End-to-end network optimization from analysis to implementation

EY conducted an end-to-end investigation to identify network cost optimization opportunities. It included, sales gravity analyses, cost and service lever optimization runs, and network footprint implementation. The team also conducted center of gravity analysis for CFAs and hubs and determining cost baseline values and identified a list of several CFA locations and determined their associated cost savings.

The value drivers of the network optimization exercise included warehouse and freight lanes consolidation, price discovery and alternate vendor identification, and primary freight management. EY also piloted the 3PL logistics model in key regions.

Building a common sales and operations planning strategy

Since the two entities had different sales and operations planning approaches, the company needed a common governance model and tech-enabled process to establish visibility and control across the integrated entity’s complete value chain. EY’s intervention was targeted at bringing three crucial components of the sales and operations planning processꟷ demand planning, replenishment planning, and sales and operations planning meetings. These included overhaul to the company’s forecasting processes and reporting mechanisms, improving responsiveness of the entity’s replenishment planning approach, and establishing a formalized decision-making process.

Related article

Supply chain Management of an Indian MNC – EY

The better the world works

An efficient supply chain led to lower costs and better value

The company realized lower supply chain costs, more operational efficiency, and better decision-making across the complete brand portfolio.

EY’s approach was premised on several value drivers spread across different cost or value measures across all three optimization categoriesꟷ procurement synergies, network and logistics, and sales and operations planning. It involved investigation of different pricing models, alternate vendor discovery, and rightsizing different logistics costs. As a consequence of the supply chain optimization , the company identified and started implementing synergies across the target areas.

Cost and value improvements which EY’s delivered for an Indian FMCG company

  • Procurement synergies

Identified procurement synergies of

across key packaging material categories

  • Network and logistics

Optimized network and logistics cost reduction helped in identifying opportunities of

in logistics spend

  • Sales and operations planning

inventory reduction potential

(Contributors include Nishit Bhatia, Shreyan Sarkar, Abhijeet Vaidya, Amit Kumar, Shivagurunathan Narayan, Chirag Goel.)

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EY is a global leader in assurance, consulting, strategy and transactions, and tax services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

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Logistics and Supply Chain Case Studies

Review our case studies to see how we’ve helped major corporations turn logistical ideas into a reality., leading beverage distributor, penske logistics helps beverage distributor rapidly establish new warehousing operations.

When this distributor had to expand its operation quickly to counter a competitor, they turned to Penske to deploy a customized solution.

Baby2Baby Donation Transportation

Coordination and planning lead to successful transport of $3 million clothing donation.

Penske Logistics worked with Baby2Baby, a nonprofit that provides basic essentials to impoverished children, and Old Navy to transport $3M of clothing donations.

Luxury Product Manufacturer

Penske logistics reduces inventory shrinkage, improves overall inventory management.

A leading producer of fine luxury products required a partner who could improve their warehouse and distribution operations and reduce the theft.

Poultry Supplier

Transporting food items requires extra care and expertise.

Poultry producers, navigate a complex array of supply and delivery challenges to ensure their food arrives fresh, wholesome, and on-time.

Building Products Manufacturer

Customized fleet technology solution.

A leading building products manufacturer sought to streamline its supply chain operations and expand its fleet while improving visibility through the implementation of fleet management technology.

National Wholesale Distributor

A national wholesale distributor case study.

A national wholesale distributor of heating and air conditioning supplies was struggling to manage its complex supply chain and maintain high levels of customer service, which is a top priority.

Looping Process Ensures Continuous Production

Penske collaborated with Novelis to create a closed-loop recycling network that moves finished aluminum coils and transports scrap for new production.

A Global Manufacturer

Optimizing activities in the distribution center.

Penske worked with this global manufacturer to optimize its inventory routing and mode selection and to improve visibility to its supply chain.

Quick Service Restaurant

Food and beverage in-store delivery and warehousing.

Penske helped this restaurant chain get its supply chain fundamentals in place with the right logistics tools, truck driver training and warehousing solutions.

Tier 1 Automotive Component Supplier

Managing the inbound supply chain.

Penske helped this supplier minimize supply chain disruptions by designing a network that optimized mode selection, routing and analysis.

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Revolutionize store replenishment: The power of automated mixed case picking and palletizing

Swisslog Mixed case palletizing for store replenishment

As the retail industry  evolves, the need for efficient store replenishment systems becomes more critical. Prior to joining Swisslog, ACPaQ solution  expert Jens Heitzmann gained career-defining experience working for a leading European retailer. In this post, he shares insights on how fully automated mixed case palletizing can improve store replenishment. 

Did you know that poor store replenishment practices can significantly affect a company’s financial health and inventory risk?

Mixed case palletizing, which involves strategically stacking different products onto a single pallet or cage, is essential for grocery retailers. This method maximizes space and ensures stability during transportation, streamlining distribution, reducing handling time, and accelerating store replenishment. 

Historically, this process has been manual, but automation has revolutionized it by addressing labor shortages and rising costs. By ensuring that products flow seamlessly from warehouse to stores, automation optimizes efficiency and keeps the supply chain running smoothly.

Challenges in retail store replenishment

Grocery retail store replenishment

The retail industry faces several hurdles with store replenishment today. One significant challenge is SKU proliferation. The number of stock-keeping units (SKUs) has increased considerably, with variations of similar products sourced from different regions. This diversification demands more sophisticated handling and storage solutions. Additionally, rising costs, particularly labor costs, coupled with a shortage of skilled labor, compel retailers to seek more efficient supply chain management methods.

Modern consumers frequently change their buying habits, making it difficult for retailers to predict and meet demand consistently. Retailers also need to fulfill orders in line with changing store formats and product ranges, necessitating accurate forecasting and efficient replenishment systems. Furthermore, the concept of store friendliness emphasizes the need for pallets to be easy to unload and products to be readily accessible, which, if not managed well, can increase costs at the store level.

5 benefits of automating store replenishment

  • Reduced dependency on manual labor - Automation allows operations to run continuously across shifts, minimizing reliance on human labor. 
  • Efficient SKU management - Automated systems handle diverse SKUs without compromising performance, enhancing throughput. 
  • Consistent quality and speed - Mixed case palletizing ensures reliable quality and speed, meeting modern retailer's quick turnaround demands. 
  • Seamless integration - These systems integrate seamlessly with existing warehouse operations. Storage locations in the case buffer connect to every fully automated picking station, optimizing throughput and reducing lead times. 
  • Minimal picking failures - Fully automating palletizing can eliminate picking errors, ensuring products reach shelves promptly and are always available when needed. No safety stocks needed! A more streamlined and effective replenishment process is provided and thus, customer satisfaction is enhanced. 

Future trends in grocery retail supply chain automation

Swisslog Mixed case palletizing for store replenishment

Looking ahead, several trends are shaping the future of grocery retail supply chain automation. There is a growing need to simplify automation processes to ensure easier operation and maintenance. Reducing costs while maintaining high efficiency is crucial for profitability. Systems must also be flexible enough to adapt to unforeseen changes in consumer behavior and market demands. Achieving perfect store friendliness remains challenging, but ongoing efforts aim to balance pallet stability, transport optimization, and ease of unloading.

Mixed case palletizing delivering results for grocery retailers

Swisslog has integrated several technological advancements into its automated mixed case palletizing system, ACPaQ, providing several key benefits for grocery retailers. The system efficiently handles a vast number of SKUs, meeting the high demands of grocery retail operations. While offering configurable solutions to meet specific customer needs, we ensure that these solutions are standardized enough to maintain cost efficiency and scalability. Our forward-thinking approach ensures that the systems installed today will remain relevant and adaptable to future changes in the retail landscape.

case study for supply chain

We also emphasize collaboration with clients to tailor solutions to their specific needs. Instead of extensive customization, Swisslog offers proven configurable options that adapt to various packaging types, SKUs, and operational parameters, ensuring scalability and ease of maintenance. 

Swisslog remains at the forefront of these developments by continuously refining its solutions, integrating feedback from experiences, and maintaining close collaborations with clients to ensure their systems meet evolving needs. In an ever-changing retail landscape, Swisslog’s ACPaQ solution provides grocery retailers with the tools they need to enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and meet customer demands.

To learn more about the automated mixed case palletizer ACPaQ, speak to a Swisslog expert today . 

Jens Heitzmann

Solution Expert ACPaQ EMEA

case study for supply chain

Learn about the process of upgrading from a semi- to a fully automated warehouse and the benefits of making the upgrade.

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New Guide Reviews How Case Picking and Palletizing is Changing and What It Means for Retail Distribution

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ASD

The UK's number 1 Steel Stockholder

How ASD’s Integrated Supply Chain Delivers End-to-End Solutions for Our Customers

case study for supply chain

At ASD, we offer our customers the benefits of an integrated supply chain, thanks to our mills in Western Europe owned and/or operated by our parent group, complemented by our extensive network of suppliers across Europe. This allows us to offer our customers a broader and more diverse range of products, applicable in numerous industrial applications, with a one-stop solution that simplifies procurement and ensures high quality and consistent delivery.

In this post, we’re sharing some of the unique benefits of our integrated supply chain and a case study on how we deliver customised end-to-end solutions that meet our clients’ unique needs efficiently and sustainably.

Unique Benefits That Differentiate Us:

Infographic no title

Our Group Mills

Leveraging our group resources enables us to produce material to exact and standard sizes, allowing us to provide bespoke solutions that align perfectly with customers’ needs. This unique capability helps customers eliminate waste and reduce emissions, and also enhances their environmental compliance. It also allows them to benefit from superior value, reliability, quality control and transparency throughout the supply chain.

Offering Total Metals Management

Total Metals Management (TMM) is ASD’s unique proposition designed for customers in specialist sectors. This service ensures that complex and demanding industry projects that require first-class service, quality standards and purchasing metals on a project-by-project basis are handled by a team of experts, adhering to strict timelines and safety standards. The TMM approach allows us to handpick a dedicated team based on their relevant knowledge and industry experience, ensuring smooth operation from enquiry to delivery. TMM offers an array of benefits and is an ideal solution to supply chain challenges:

  • Customers can focus on their internal efficiencies knowing their metals are already sourced and scheduled.
  • ASD can source, schedule, stock hold and manage safely all of our customers’ metal requirements.
  • Materials can be ordered to customers’ exact specifications and delivered to a location of the customer’s choice.
  • Certainty in quality, cost and lead time places the customer in control of their supply chain.
  • A dedicated point of contact is responsible for each project.

Additionally, we have extensive expertise in working with non-Europe-based procurement departments on projects that carry materials produced to European specifications. Our expertise includes:

  • Sourcing BS / BS EN / PD / BS EN ISO and BS ISO materials, specified in European metric sizes and CE marked materials
  • Offering an extensive range of products
  • Managing projects from order acceptance to delivery, through one dedicated team
  • Full support of external Freight Forwarder

Delivering End-to-End Solutions

Our integrated supply chain approach means that customers enjoy the convenience of a one-stop service. From sourcing materials and processing solutions to delivering finished components, we manage the entire process, simplifying procurement and ensuring consistency in quality and on-time delivery. This comprehensive approach ensures peace of mind for our customers and optimal performance in every transaction.

Let’s look at a case study to see this integrated supply chain in action.

Case Study: A Construction Firm in the UK

A leading UK-based construction firm required, along with a number of standard materials, specific non-standard-length box sections with a quick lead time for a high-profile project. Traditional sourcing methods would have resulted in substantial delays and significant material waste. ASD leveraged Añon Group’s mill capabilities by sourcing box sections from one of our own mills. To meet the customer’s non-standard requirements and short timescale, our partner mill was able to roll the sections to the exact size needed, and pack and ship the material to the UK within seven days of the order. During the production process, our account manager was in regular communication with the mill, ensuring that all specifications were being met accurately.

By producing the material to the exact size, we minimised scrap and avoided producing 6 tonnes of waste. This not only contributed to a more sustainable construction process but also allowed the steel fabricator to claim significant reductions in steel scrap, promoting both the economic and the environmental benefits of the project.

The material was tube laser cut at our Dudley site to the customer’s specific requirements. Throughout the process, stringent quality assurance measures were followed to ensure that the non-standard components met all of the required specifications. While we processed the non-standard components, we ensured that the other, standard materials were delivered on time, allowing the customer to continue with their project without delay.

Matt Watson, ASD Business Development Manager: ‘The client expressed high satisfaction with the rapid turnaround and the precision of the customised sections. Our ability to deliver exactly what the customer needed when they needed it was instrumental in keeping the project on track. The reduced waste also benefited the customer’s sustainability goals.’

This case study demonstrates the benefits of our integrated supply chain’s end-to-end approach. It ensures consistency, minimises disruptions and streamlines the process while also providing significant economic and environmental benefits. By partnering closely with our mills and maintaining clear communication throughout the process, we deliver customised solutions that meet our clients’ unique needs efficiently and sustainably.

For more information or to get a quote for your upcoming project, please contact the team at ASD here .

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Worried About Supply Chain Security? 3 Strategies for Increased Protection

Cyberattacks targeting supply chains not only disrupt operations, but also inflict significant financial and reputational damage. According to a 2023 report by Cybersecurity Ventures, the global cost of software supply chain attacks is projected to soar to nearly $138 billion by 2031 , highlighting the urgent need for robust cyber defense measures.

1. Colonial Pipeline Attack

The Colonial Pipeline attack of May 7, 2021, demonstrated the devastating impact of supply chain cyberattacks. This vital American oil pipeline system fell victim to a ransomware attack , causing widespread fuel shortages and economic disruption across the Southeastern United States. This incident underscored the vulnerability of supply chains to digital attacks, emphasizing the urgent need for enhanced cyber defense measures.

2. GitHub Attack

In another notable attack, malicious actors flooded GitHub with millions of code repositories containing obfuscated malware. By leveraging automation to clone legitimate repositories, they overwhelmed detection mechanisms, posing a significant challenge to the platform’s security infrastructure. These incidents highlight the sophistication of digital supply chain attacks and the critical need for proactive defense strategies.

Supply chain attacks continue to present persistent threats, exploiting tactics like typosquatting and dependency confusion to compromise security. The proliferation of malicious repositories further complicates defense efforts, making distinguishing legitimate code from malware challenging. Effective defense strategies must encompass proactive threat detection, robust authentication protocols, and collaborative partnerships across the supply chain ecosystem.

In the event of a supply chain cyberattack, swift and decisive action is crucial to minimize damage and restore operational integrity. Key response strategies include:

1. Quick response and proactive actions

Technology and business leaders must work together to promptly assess the scope of the incident and identify vulnerabilities within the supply chain. Conducting risk assessments and mapping out an incident response plan are critical to containing the threat and preventing further compromise.

2. Protection and crisis management

Prioritizing measures to safeguard data and preserve operational continuity is essential. Effective crisis management protocols, including clear communication and stakeholder engagement, help navigate the complexities of a supply chain attack.

3. Communication and relationship building

Establishing transparent communication channels between SOC and leadership teams and building strong relationships with other key stakeholders fosters collaboration and coordination during a crisis. This also helps organizations to prepare for any secondary attacks by implementing robust security measures and contingency plans.

Recovering from a supply chain cyber attack requires a strategic approach to rebuilding resilience and fortifying defenses against future threats. Key steps include:

1. Review the crisis and supply chain

Analyzing the root causes of the attack and identifying vulnerabilities within the supply chain ecosystem is crucial for developing targeted strategies to enhance resilience.

2. Strengthen Monitoring and Training Efforts

Investing in enhanced monitoring systems and continuous training initiatives empowers organizations to adapt to evolving cyber threats and strengthen their defenses.

3. Reconnection and approval processes

Establishing clear processes for the secure restoration of supply chain operations post-attack involves collaboration between IT, legal, and business stakeholders to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

As organizations navigate the complex terrain of supply chain cybersecurity, prioritizing preparation, response, and resilience is imperative. By taking proactive steps and embracing a holistic approach to cybersecurity, organizations can protect critical assets and contribute to the stability and security of the broader supply chain ecosystem.

  • Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of your supply chain ecosystem.
  • Develop and implement robust incident response protocols.
  • Invest in education and awareness programs across your workforce.
  • Strengthen monitoring capabilities.
  • Establish clear processes for reconnection and approval.
  • Collaborate with industry partners and cybersecurity experts for collective defense.

To learn more about protecting your supply chain infrastructure, check out this data sheet .

Check Out Immersive Labs in the News.

July 11, 2024

Cybersecurity , supply chain

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Digital traceability capabilities: the case of the ethiopian coffee supply chain.

case study for supply chain

1. Introduction

2. literature review, 2.1. the global coffee market, 2.2. traceability systems, 2.3. previous works, 3. methodology, 4. case: the coffee supply chain of ethiopia.

Click here to enlarge figure

5.1. Smallholder Farmers

5.2. exporters, 5.3. transportation companies, 6. discussion, 6.1. current state of traceability in ethiopia, 6.2. framework for digital ts, 6.3. challenges of implementing tss in ethiopia and other low-income countries, 6.4. implications, 6.4.1. managerial implications, 6.4.2. policy implications, 7. conclusions, author contributions, institutional review board statement, informed consent statement, data availability statement, acknowledgments, conflicts of interest.

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LevelsTechnology UsedChallengesReference
Level 1Manual recordingData input inaccuracy[ ]
Time-consuming to input data[ ]
Level 2Manual recording
Central database
Data input inaccuracy[ ]
Time-consuming to input data[ ]
Added cost for investing in hardware, software and computers[ ]
Level 3Barcodes/QR codes
GPS
Central database
Affordability[ , , , , ]
Lack of awareness[ ]
Shortage of skilled labour[ ]
Resistance from supply chain members[ ]
Level 4Barcodes/QR codes
GPS
IoT
Blockchain
Affordability[ , ]
Accessibility[ ]
Lack of awareness[ ]
Resistance from supply chain members[ , , , ]
Lack of adequate infrastructure[ ]
Shortage of skilled labour[ ]
Lack of policies[ , , ]
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Share and Cite

Tadesse, M.D.; Gebresenbet, G.; Ljungberg, D.; Tavasszy, L. Digital Traceability Capabilities: The Case of the Ethiopian Coffee Supply Chain. Future Transp. 2024 , 4 , 780-794. https://doi.org/10.3390/futuretransp4030037

Tadesse MD, Gebresenbet G, Ljungberg D, Tavasszy L. Digital Traceability Capabilities: The Case of the Ethiopian Coffee Supply Chain. Future Transportation . 2024; 4(3):780-794. https://doi.org/10.3390/futuretransp4030037

Tadesse, Mahlet Demere, Girma Gebresenbet, David Ljungberg, and Lóránt Tavasszy. 2024. "Digital Traceability Capabilities: The Case of the Ethiopian Coffee Supply Chain" Future Transportation 4, no. 3: 780-794. https://doi.org/10.3390/futuretransp4030037

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  • DOI: 10.1109/LOGISTIQUA61063.2024.10571372
  • Corpus ID: 270798464

Sustainable Practices in Moroccan Citrus Farming: A Case Study on Agri-Food Supply Chains

  • Fatima Zahra Bentaleb , Mounaïm Taki
  • Published in IEEE 15th International… 2 May 2024
  • Environmental Science, Agricultural and Food Sciences, Business
  • 2024 IEEE 15th International Colloquium on Logistics and Supply Chain Management (LOGISTIQUA)

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    Click on the "View Library" button (arrow 1) in upper right corner of the Account Management screen. In the Library screen you see a list of available supply chain case studies; click " Import " to load a selected case study into your account; give the imported case a Name, and click " My Account " to go back to your Account ...

  4. Supply Chain Management: Articles, Research, & Case Studies on Supply

    New research on supply chain management from Harvard Business School faculty on issues including what brands can do to monitor their suppliers' factory conditions, how Japan's earthquake and tsunami and caused havoc on retailers and car manufacturers, and the push to improve labor standards in global supply chains. ... A case study by William ...

  5. Future-proofing the supply chain

    The first of these new priorities, resilience, addresses the challenges that have made supply chain a widespread topic of conversation. The second, agility, will equip companies with the ability to meet rapidly evolving, and increasingly volatile, customer and consumer needs. The third, sustainability, recognizes the key role that supply chains ...

  6. IBM Supply Chain

    IBM employs supply chain staff in 40 countries and makes hundreds of thousands of customer deliveries and service calls in over 170 nations. IBM also collaborates with hundreds of suppliers across its multi-tier global network to build highly configurable and customized products to customer specifications. Previously, the IBM supply chain ran ...

  7. Walmart Supply Chain: How to Build an Integrated Supply Chain

    In this context, Walmart, the world's largest retailer, has demonstrated a highly successful and integrated Walmart supply chain, propelling its growth and dominance in the retail industry. This case study aims to delve into the significance of supply chain capability for enhancing a company's competitiveness and how it serves as a ...

  8. Case Study: When Tragedy Strikes Your Supply Chain

    Case Study: When Tragedy Strikes Your Supply Chain. Laura Cronenberg, the CEO of Tots & Teens, sipped her black tea in the lounge of Shahjalal International Airport and took some time to collect ...

  9. PDF Case Study for Supply Chain Leaders: Dell's Transformative Journey

    Publication Date: 12 November 2010. ID Number: G00208603. Supply Chain Leaders: Dell's Transformative Journey Through Supply Chain SegmentationMatthew DavisFaced with ever-changing customer needs, product commoditization, unique global requirements and new, low-cost. ompetitors, Dell embarked on a three-year journey to segment its supply chain ...

  10. H & M Supply Chain management: A case study

    case study. Abstract. By the end of the decade, there are H&M stores in several European countries including. France, where the first H&M store opens 1998 in Paris. COS is offered online in 21 ...

  11. Case study : A supply chain solution sparked an industry-leading ...

    DuPont needed a resilient aggregate supply chain solution to help them make smarter decisions. 1. I n the past two years, a series of events — starting with international trade disputes and compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic — has created a ripple effect of volatility that has Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCOs) scrambling to stay one step ...

  12. Supply Chain Case Interview: Step-By-Step Guide

    A supply chain case interview is a type of consulting case interview that focuses on evaluating a candidate's ability to analyze and solve complex supply chain-related problems. In this type of interview, candidates are presented with a hypothetical business scenario or real-world supply chain challenge and are expected to provide structured ...

  13. Creating an Omnichannel Supply Chain: A Macy's Case Study

    July 20, 2021. In February 2020, Macy's announced their Polaris plan, a three-year strategy created to stabilize profits and create growth. This plan included closing 125 underperforming stores and consolidating offices. It also included a major overhaul of their supply chain model. But, of course, Macy's had to close their doors less than ...

  14. Is Apple's Supply Chain Really the No. 1? A Case Study

    1) Apple's Supply Chain Model Information about Apple Supply Chain is a bit here, there and everywhere, it's kinda tough to find the actual case study. To the best of my knowledge, many business schools still use the case study "Apple Computer's Supplier Hubs: A Tale of Three Cities" from Stanford University (1996).

  15. Case Study, Sourcing and Supply Chain

    Supply Chain Case Study: the Executive's Guide. Supply Chain Opz. JUNE 1, 2014. Professionals in supply chain management use various methods to identify best practices to improve the operations. Analysis of case study is certainly one of the most popular methods for people from business management background.Supply Chain of fashion industry involves a time based competition.

  16. Building Insights Into Supply Chains: A Case Study

    The first step in their experiment was to design a proof of concept. The team at Maersk took on the task, beginning with outreach. "We went to customers, we brought them in, we started some discussions," says Agmoni. "We looked into what could help them improve their supply chains.". Over the course of their research, customers commonly ...

  17. Case study: How supply chain helps an electronics company's ...

    Supply chain optimization keeps customers connected around the world. The forward-thinking EY supply chain model diversifies production and minimizes risk. 3. For a leading electronics provider that serves millions of customers around the world, keeping the organization's supply chain operating smoothly is of paramount importance.

  18. Supply Chain Management: Case studies

    Case studies can provide: Profiles of real, individual companies, including information about their work processes, relationships. Profiles of industries, including information about the structure of the industry, and the relationships within the supply chain. Numbers and data.

  19. Case Study and Supply Chain Planning

    JUNE 1, 2014. Professionals in supply chain management use various methods to identify best practices to improve the operations. Analysis of case study is certainly one of the most popular methods for people from business management background. Supply Chain of fashion industry involves a time based competition.

  20. Supply Chain Demand Forecasting

    A leader in food marketing and distribution saw an opportunity to reimagine its supply chain management. Accenture introduced the idea that by using unified view of demand, the company could develop a supply chain that anticipates and pivots around obstacles. The goal was to combine internal data with new external data that had emerged during ...

  21. Case study: How EY optimized the supply chain of a leading Indian MNC

    The core areas of supply chain optimization included: Realizing procurement synergies and optimizing vendor costs. Lowering of warehouse and freight costs by identifying logistics overlaps. Integration of sales and operations planning across the complete brand portfolio. EY led three critical areas of supply-chain optimization: procurement ...

  22. Logistics and Supply Chain Case Studies

    Managing the Inbound Supply Chain. Penske helped this supplier minimize supply chain disruptions by designing a network that optimized mode selection, routing and analysis. Read supply chain case studies about our work with customers to create supply chain management solutions that support long-term growth and profitability.

  23. Supplier Engagement Case Study

    Case Studies Supplier Engagement Case Study - H&M Group H&M Group is a global fashion and design company, present in 79 markets worldwide. Read on to discover more about H&M Group's steps to decarbonize its supply chain and how the company supports its suppliers to reduce emissions.

  24. Mixed case palletizing for efficient store replenishment

    Historically, this process has been manual, but automation has revolutionized it by addressing labor shortages and rising costs. By ensuring that products flow seamlessly from warehouse to stores, automation optimizes efficiency and keeps the supply chain running smoothly. Challenges in retail store replenishment

  25. How ASD's Integrated Supply Chain Delivers End-to-End Solutions for Our

    Let's look at a case study to see this integrated supply chain in action. Case Study: A Construction Firm in the UK. A leading UK-based construction firm required, along with a number of standard materials, specific non-standard-length box sections with a quick lead time for a high-profile project. Traditional sourcing methods would have ...

  26. Worried About Supply Chain Security? 3 Strategies for Increased

    1. Colonial Pipeline Attack. The Colonial Pipeline attack of May 7, 2021, demonstrated the devastating impact of supply chain cyberattacks. This vital American oil pipeline system fell victim to a ransomware attack, causing widespread fuel shortages and economic disruption across the Southeastern United States.This incident underscored the vulnerability of supply chains to digital attacks ...

  27. Digital Traceability Capabilities: The Case of the Ethiopian Coffee

    Digital technologies are essential tools that enable traceability in supply chains. In low-income countries, traceability represents a challenge due to the complicated structure of supply chains and the involvement of multiple stakeholders. This research developed a framework for a digital traceability system (TS), using the Ethiopian coffee supply chain as a case study. A literature review ...

  28. Why you need AI in your supply chain

    Optimizing the entire supply chain: Accurate forecasting allows businesses to optimize their supply chain management by aligning production and procurement activities with predicted demand. This reduces lead times, minimizes production or procurement errors, and streamlines overall operations. ... Case Study: Ryder and Pabst. Supply Chain ...

  29. Sustainable Practices in Moroccan Citrus Farming: A Case Study on Agri

    This research provides a comprehensive analysis of Sustainable Agri-Food Supply Chain Management (A-FSCM) in the context of Moroccan citrus farming. In the framework of the country's Green Generation Strategy 2020-2030, this study adopts a case study approach to examine the factors influencing sustainable practice adoption within a prominent Moroccan citrus farm group. Through a series of 15 ...

  30. Diffusion of Irresponsible Workplace Practices in Supply Chains: The

    This study explores a potential contributing factor to the issue of workplace accidents in China, where the fatality rate is 2.5 and 3.5 times greater than in the United States and Europe. Focusing on the supply chain, it draws on institutional and diffusion literature to theorize and test conditions under which accidents at industrial buying firms in China affect the casualty rate in their ...