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Supply chain management: Applications are broader than you think
Gabriel Jaskolka

Last modified: 2011-09-08



The field of supply chain management is relatively new, having arisen around the 1980s as a way to improve the manufacturing of complex products, such as cars. Since then, however, manufacturers, retailers, and the military haven’t been the only organizations adopting the supply chain idea to their operations. Supply chain thinking has been, and can be, usefully applied to a number of other areas. Recently very different kinds of organizations have looked at their operations in terms of the supply chain concept.

Hospitals.  Many hospitals see themselves as managing a supply chain for their supplies and equipment. Additionally, many hospitals are concerned about the safety of their pharmaceuticals and monitor that supply chain carefully.

Pharmaceutical firms.  Drug firms want to insure the safety of their products and monitor their supply chains very carefully. They want to assure that the products in their supply chains are free from being counterfeit, tainted, or tampered.

Food chain organizations.  There are increasing efforts to produce and sell locally grown food so as to provide food that is more delicious, more healthy, and that comes from local farms. These efforts seek to bring food buyers closer to farmers, that is, making the link of farm-to-fork much shorter. Other related efforts seek to make food safer by allowing unsafe food to be more quickly found and its source more quickly identified.

Disaster relief and recovery.  Disaster relief and recovery organizations increasingly see their job as preparing and creating supply chains to rush needed supplies, people, and information to disaster areas. Major organizations responding to the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti used the supply chain concept to organize their relief efforts.

eGovernment.  Government can create a digital supply chain to provide information to citizens about public meetings and property tax records, for example. It can also provide a means for citizens to connect with government, for example, to report potholes, hazards, and unsafe areas.

eCommerce.  Many corporations increasingly see themselves as creating and operating digital supply chains. Netflix, Amazon with Kindle, and Apple with the Apple Store operate digital supply chains which distribute intellectual content such as music, books, and videos. Many other organizations commonly have online catalogues and allow online purchases.

This paper will outline the spread of supply chain management ideas to a variety of organizations and activities and the potential of supply chain thinking for other applications.



supply chain management