Every organization has a supply chain of some kind; we all struggle
with the logistics of delivering our products or services to customers and
clients. And in a world where someone builds a better mousetrap every five
minutes, the mantra is “innovate or die.”
At the January Preview Luncheon at City Club of Fort Worth, Dr. Laura
Meade, professor of supply chain practice, brought up the biggest innovator on
the scene right now – Amazon. Using an approach that mimicked the collaborative
atmosphere of a TCU Executive MBA classroom, she opened up the floor for
discussion about the ways Amazon has surprised us.
Here are the top eight things we heard.
1. Faster delivery - even in Afghanistan. Amazon
is unbelievably responsive – for instance, same-day diaper delivery that
arrives at your house faster than you can get to the store. And that’s global: incoming
student and US Army Chief Warrant Officer Brian Goff talked about a deployment
in the tiny town of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, where FedEx took at least 2.5 weeks to deliver a
letter, while Amazon shipped him a new computer monitor in just five days.
2. Subscribe & Save. Amazon
is competing with Sam’s and Costco by offering discounts on bulk items. The “subscribe” feature
lets you set-and-forget your orders, so you get regular deliveries of staple
items whenever you need them, without having to think about it. Not only is
this a threat to bulk retailers; it could decrease impulse buying and make it
harder for competitors to convince consumers to switch brands.
3. Amazon Fresh. Amazon is bringing
back the milkman and more after buying Whole Foods to expand their fresh grocery
delivery service. However, a new order-to-shelf inventory system implemented
before the acquisition is reportedly failing to keep shelves
stocked. Can Amazon catch up, or will customers shop somewhere else?
4. Amazon Assistant. This browser extension
instantly compares the prices of products you are looking at with prices of the
same products on Amazon. Competitors had better look at lowering prices,
increasing value and streamlining the online ordering process to stay afloat.
5. Amazon Go. Amazon isn’t abandoning the bricks and
mortar – they’re just updating the technology. Automatic scanners replace the
checkout line at the Amazon grocery store in Seattle, which opened to the
public on January 22. CEO Jeff Bezos’ net worth went up $2.8 billion
after the grand opening. Amazon holds a patent on the technology, so
competitors must either invent their own or perhaps focus on their own grocery
6. Dash Buttons. Dash
Buttons offer one-touch ordering on specific products from major brands. You
can download digital buttons to your phone, or purchase physical buttons to
place around your house – for instance, a button to reorder Tide placed in your
laundry room. That’s
a true Internet of Things advancement which, again, will make it harder for
competitors to convince consumers to switch brands.
7. Sky Warehouse. While
none have been built yet,Amazon holds a patent for a floating dirigible
warehouse that would launch drones for deliveries – which could improve
responsiveness even more, and could be especially useful for handling instant
deliveries to large events like sports and concerts.
8. Dragon Boat. Amazon’s
“Operation Dragon Boat” involves building a global shipping and logistics
operation that would allow them to control the supply chain from factories in
China all the way to doorstep delivery in the States. This could mean more
control over prices and quality, as well as opportunities to make socially
responsible decisions in the production process. It could also give Alibaba,
Amazon’s biggest competitor, a run for their money.
With the retail giant advancing on so many fronts, it’s clear
that to survive in this market, we have to continually innovate our supply
chains for efficiency and added value. Here are five questions that will help you
strengthen every link in your supply chain.
It’s going to help to have an MBA with real-world relevance and
connections to classmates across a variety of industries. So take the next