The Future of Supply Chain Management: Network-centric Operations and the Supply Chain


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How are outsourcing and supply chain tasks such as purchasing and inventory management tied to "network-centric operations?" What is a network-centric operation? Read this article to find out.



  • No one department/site/organization is a "stand alone."

  • Connectivity may be linear, but impact and planning are holistic.

  • All the internal departments' weaknesses are overcome by the combined strengths of all the departments within that network.

  • Collective synchronization and strength are now "business multipliers."

  • Networks are vulnerable when disconnected in any way.

  • Networks are vulnerable when rules of engagement and intent are not defined.

  • Networks are vulnerable when elements operate independently outside the network or intent.

  • Networks, by nature require an exponential amount of connectivity, planning, communication, implementation, follow-up and sustainment.

  • Networks by nature require an exponential increase in collaboration, skill sets and team work.

  • Networks assume, imply and explicitly require centralized collaborative planning and decentralization of execution within the parameters set by the planning/governance committee.

Networks exponentially increase awareness, but that awareness does not necessarily mean execution or action by an element or a networked action unless the leadership intangibles and skill sets are in place and functional.

Information awareness or superiority does not necessarily translate to automatic, timely and accurate decision making.

Networks assume and require a self discipline that operates within both the strict and broad parameters established as the intent and rules of engagement.

In closing, the real effort and spade work continues well beyond the initial planning and acceptance phase of a company's intent to conduct a strategic sourcing or outsourcing initiative. True cost savings, to be effective, must consider more than short-term gains. Effective supply chains consider the specified, implied and essential sub-tasks and sub-sets that make up the broad categories of agility, adaptability and alignment. For instance, if a company spends six months analyzing and evaluating several vendors and commodities for an outsourcing initiative, then the effort will have been wasted unless there is also effective and ongoing management of those agreements. The priority of selecting the right solution partner that can enable technology and information, and equally manage the intangibles of the project, should be given the heaviest weight in any evaluation and selection process as a company moves toward a more network-centric operation.

About the Author: Terry Tucker is the director of Materials, Logistics and Planning at Prosero Inc.

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