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Symbiotic Relationships in the ecosystem of Supply Chain Management

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Nature has never seized to inspire us mortals; the closer you observe, the more the number of lessons it has to offer in every field of life. Symbiosis is a concept that Supply chain professionals can heavily derive from in order to develop and maintain effective relationships.

The romance between a flower "kali" and a honey bee "Bhanwara" has inspired the lyrics of innumerable Bollywood songs. But, ask an ecologist and he will kill the romance out of the relationship and give you a lecture on Symbiosis.

Nature has never seized to inspire us mortals; the closer you observe, the more the number of lessons it has to offer in every field of life. Having been a microbiology student myself and now a Sourcing & Procurement professional, I cannot help but compare the relationships that exist in a Supply chain system with those that exist within any other ecosystem.

Symbiosis (unlike organisms living together) is a concept that Supply chain professionals can heavily derive from in order to develop and maintain effective relationships. Let's compare and understand these better,

  1. The Flower and the Honey bee (Mutualism): In this type of relationship both the parties involved, benefit from each other just like a honey bee gets its food from a flower while helping the flower reproduce.  Supply chain financing which is an upcoming trend in the world of Supply chain management is a classic example of this theory. A larger organization with better credit rating and brand equity helps a smaller supplier get a loan for working capital and benefits by getting better payment terms and rebates in return. Both the organizations also benefit from a healthy professional relationship built on trust.
  2. The Egret and the Buffalo (Commensalism): In this type of relationship only one of the parties involved benefits from the relationship while the other neither benefits nor loses anything. Just like an Egret feeds on the insects that come to the surface due to cattle's grazing, but the cattle do not get anything in return. A befitting example would be an automotive company manufacturing cars while and there are several mechanic shops that find occupation in offering maintenance services. 
  3. Mosquitoes and humans (Parasitism): In this kind of a relationship one party benefits at the expense of the other just like a mosquito bites a human being to feed on the blood while infecting the human being with Malaria. The traditional way in which buyers worked whose sole agenda used to be to suck the even the last penny out of a supplier is a classic example of this type of a relationship.

Being a firm believer in equality, mutualism is the symbiosis I favor the most. Most contemporary business evolutions and path breaking ideas in the corporate world are designed to benefit from the synergy that mutualism brings to the table. For Example, collaboration between a bank and an affinity organization which benefits all parties involved including the bank, the affinity organization and the card holder. Other examples of such collaboration are Search engines and online marketing and Dell's collaboration with Microsoft.
 

Comments

Well written post Jyoti. While Mutualism seems to be the best collaboration approach amongst buyer and suppliers, in reality it is non-existent except in Aerospace and Automotive supplier-buyers-dealers.The extent of investments, long term forecasting abilities needed from all partners are the major root causes reduce relationships to tactical levels - last 2 which you mentioned. Good refreshing analogies. I am impressed on the way you have written.

Very good analogy. Good to read.

Wonderful, Inspired, like to understand more

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