In recent times, a number of technological developments have helped give way to new innovations such as the internet of things and advanced robotics. While there is no questioning the opportunities that such advancements present, we also face a range pressing international problems which require immediate attention today. In order to overcome these challenges as well as capitalise on the future opportunities that lie ahead, businesses must re-assess the strategic focus of their supply chain.

Today’s supply chains are failing to respond adequately to global issues such as the scarcity of raw materials, growing concerns over our food supply, the widening gulf between the rich and the poor as well as our own general well-being. As a consequence of this, the principles of supply chain management have already started to shift from the organisation of superabundance to the coordination of scarcity. However, as highlighted by Water Ploos van Amstel, [is lector Citylogistics at Amsterdam university of applied sciences], no business has the capacity to overcome these issues alone. Only truly effective supply chain collaboration can help resolve problems like food shortages or ensure that the limited amount of raw materials available to us are used effectively. As a result, the future of supply chain management should be built around harnessing collaboration between customers, suppliers and other supply chain partners in order to maximise the potential benefit of supply chains.

Although establishing a mutually beneficial relationship between a supplier and a customer may prove challenging, working together collaboratively can yield some amazing results. However, before the opportunities presented by external collaboration can be fully explored, businesses must first ensure that everyone internally is singing from the same hymn sheet. Once all divisions within an organisation have been aligned, the relationship between supply chain partners can be established. However, in order to ensure that working collaboratively is mutually beneficial for all parties, the relationship between supply chain partners must be built on a foundation of common metrics, shared benefits, and trust; only then can a business operate effectively within a collaborative supply chain.

While there is no denying the benefits of collaboration within the supply chain, businesses must ask themselves a number of questions in order to understand how collaborative supply chain relationships can be harnessed to achieve their full potential: Are collaborative supply chain partners sufficiently aware of each other’s strategies? Is your company suitable for supply chain collaboration? Does the partner company’s strategy facilitate the potential for supply chain collaboration? Does your company currently have sufficient knowledge and the right skills to establish collaborative supply chain partnerships that are equally beneficial for all parties? Is the decision-maker within the partner company willing to co-operate at a personal level? Is there enough time and opportunity to build a trust-based relationship with that decision-maker?

All these issues and more will be discussed on the 16-17th September 2015 at the upcoming 3rd International Supply Chain Summit in Istanbul!