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Social Media in Supply Chain....the new trend!

Guest Post by
Neha Barnawal, Senior Associate Consultant

"Stop Marketing, Start Engaging"... This line from Scott Stratten very well captures the essence of social media as applicable in business scenarios (Marketing here). One of the major advantage social media offers is engaging people and enabling them to communicate and collaborate. Apart from Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, LinkedIn; various Enterprise social software (as a part of Enterprise 2.0) are invariably providing platform to the enterprise stakeholders to connect, collaborate and communicate.  
Social media is definitely on the top priority for a marketer; however, its usage in Supply Chain landscape is picking up the momentum slowly. The value which social media can bring for the business is to tie together distinct facets of the supply chain, addressing the biggest challenge of any multi-national organization. The social networking tools for enterprises can help connect the information dots presenting the manufacturers, distributors and retailers the entire picture of the product and data flow, facilitating decision making. The real time data access enables greater control over the processes and activities. 

Some examples of social media in supply chain are:
  • The social media site, 'The Warehouse' of Home Depot is extensively used for communication between different stakeholders. People involved at various points of the supply chain link (Store and DC associates, store support center etc), use it for internal communication and to share ideas and best practices for any business issues. 
  • TEVA Pharmaceuticals uses Moxie Software's social networking solution as its internal social networking site. This site brings all the internal skill sets on the same platform and any business problem is quickly addressed by the relevant individual without waiting or being referred to. TEVA is able to reduce manufacturing cycle time and improve lead time from upstream suppliers in less than 6 months.
  • Lockheed Martin has recently introduced a social networking website "Supplier Wire" for its supplier community. Supplier Wire provides variety of educational content for the suppliers. Ranging from Video tips, free webinars and supplier testimonials. A live chat function is also available for the suppliers to get their queries resolved by interacting with subject matter experts. 
  • DHL has initiated the pilot phase of its "Crowdsourcing Express" project in Sep'13 by launching 'MyWays' mobile app in Sweden wherein while riding/walking on the street, any individual with the app can become a volunteer to deliver a DHL package and earn money
  • Manufacturing company Industrial Mold and Machine (IMM) is using social media platform Socialtext enabling the employees to be connected and access the information easily; resulting in improved production efficiency. Socialtext is making coordination between warehouses smooth, effective and fast. 
Some enterprise social softwares trending in market are:
  • Tweet-Load by Con-way Multimode enabling carriers to find freight loads. Following @ConwayTweetLoad, carriers can check the available shipments. The hyperlink for Con-way Multimodal link board is also present in the tweet, following up which, further information on the load can be checked.
  • Sourcemap provides social media platform and internal dashboard for SCM planning, strategy and crowdsourcing. It connects the players along the entire supply chain (management with suppliers, distributors and customers) and get them interact real time
  • 'Freight Friend' by MercuryGate is a network website for shippers, brokers and carriers enabling them to publish and share available loads and capacity with trusted partners termed as 'Friends'
The facebook equivalent of Supply Chain industry, the Supply Chain Operating Networks--Ariba (Ariba Exchange: SaaS solution- Integrated online user community), Descartes (Descartes Community: on Demand SaaS solution- Business Partners network), GT Nexus (Cloud based solutions), Elemica (Integrated messaging and analytics), E2open (on demand cloud based solution: Partner Network) and One Network (Multi Enterprise PaaS solution) - are being chosen by many organizations. Oracle iSupplier is another product that provides an online platform to collaborate and streamline all supplier communication and hence improves the supplier efficiency. Another solution iProcurement by Oracle enables the employees to manage their own order while the central control remains with the Purchasing department. Both these solutions integrate seamlessly with Oracle E-Business Suite applications providing the customers a holistic solution to their supply chain requirements.

However there is inertia also causing SCM executives to hold back on investing in and using social media. One of the basic reasons relates to perception of the term 'social'; social media is perceived to be a tool to 'socialize' and not to 'do business'. Also, there is a lot of importance attached with the reputation in this industry. Social media creates the risk of hampering the reputation since bad words also travel very fast on networking platforms. Data protection is also one of the concerns; however there are solutions in market addressing the issue. 

The extent to which cloud and social media is transforming the way business is done; supply chain management is no exception. Social networking can be used to find out what the customers want and how the competitor is perceived; where the suppliers are lagging and from where to retrieve the information. Social media is definitely set to benefit the demand management, lead generation and supplier/retailer management processes; warehouse management will be improved with the real time update of the inventory, shipping and dock information. 

So what is in store for future? Let me go check on some Supply Chain networking forum!

References:  (Tricia Mims, Home Depot, CSCMP Annual Global Conference, Oct '11)


Thank you for sharing such an important information. Very useful advice within this post!

Thanks Aleksandra, Social media trends are widely gaining momentum. With the more and more usage of cloud based solutions, organizations are using social media at various levels. We have to observe the trend in Supply Chain though.

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