In the world of business it’s imperative to reflect on past experiences in order to make more educated decisions for the future. It’s been my experience, that this lesson is severely applicable in the world of supply chain. A realm where getting a product or service to the customer as efficiently as humanly (now robotically!) possible can translate to an insurmountable number of work streams. That said, you can constantly be making comparisons between different projects, clients, departments, jobs, and industries to widen your perspective on how to effectively complete tasks and ask where you can attempt to take a more progressive approach.

From my time as an Inventory Manager at Ace Hardware Corporate, I continuously heard several renditions of the same question: “How are we going to compete with Amazon?” CEO John Venhuizen took a simple but profound approach in noting that brick and mortar retail as we know it isn’t just going away; it is however, changing drastically and pointing to omni-channel supply chain. That didn’t mean Ace was going to drastically change its business model to try and go up against Amazon in the ecommerce space. Instead, Ace was going to identify categories where they knew they could compete online but not lose sight of their core strategy: being the locally-owned, neighborhood-friendly store. In the world of Telecommunications, I can’t help but notice a similar trend. Telecom as we know it is not going away, it’s revolutionizing. The world of legacy POTS (plain old telephone) lines and DS1, 2, & 3 circuits over the PSTN (public switch telephone network) is a thing of the past. Communication is moving towards VoIP, Video conferencing, and instant messaging software. No longer are MPLS (multi-protocol label switching), Broadband, and Ethernet your company’s only option for WAN connectivity. Managed services for SD-WAN and cloud applications/storage are moving to the forefront. If you’re not careful you can fall out of contract where you’ll be paying month-to-month “rack rates” that can more than triple your cost. Suppliers are adjusting their service offerings and establishing their global footprint for network connectivity. That does not mean they’ll make you aware of new offerings, efficiencies or cost savings. It’s your responsibility to not only manage your contract dates but to stay apprised of what’s going on in the market. Connectivity solutions can always be negotiated and optimized!

The world is changing and so is the way we are all doing business. Customers want their product/service as close to immediately as the provider can get it to them. Companies like Amazon are leading the way with their enormous, strategically placed warehouses and new Amazon Go stores which save the customer time and the company money. For people outside of retail it’s easy to say that it is “dying”; for telecom that probably holds true as well. The fact of the matter is they’re both going through periods of incredible innovation. Just as enterprises are exiting traditional retail, they are exiting Telecom legacy services.  Industry4.0 is here to stay and the changes in the market have only just begun. Are you identifying trends and planning for the future?

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Mike Ebbing

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