14 March 2014 | Tim Wilson
It has never been more important for organisations to know where their products come from. Such knowledge allows companies to make reliable product claims, informed sourcing decisions, and improve triple bottom line reporting. But as everyone involved in value chains knows, it isn’t easy.
Now, thanks to a pilot project, cost-effective value chain mapping could become a reality, but it needs organisations to sign up and take part. There will be no costs involved, just a willingness to share the challenges and issues they face, and to pilot the new software.
Many organisations will already appreciate just how difficult it can be to collect accurate and verifiable information from their global supply chains. Most do this by simply asking their suppliers where their products came from. This seems logical enough, but in many cases the supplier doesn’t actually know. There are too many steps in the total value chain, and the supplier is only responsible for a fraction of them. The result is often lots of inaccurate and unverifiable information.
We have spent much of the last 20 years working with international brands and retailers including Wal-Mart, Marks & Spencer, Decathlon, and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), helping them to collect accurate data about millions of items from thousands of businesses throughout hundreds of value chains.
The various projects undertaken over the past few years have revealed what does and does not work using existing approaches, and has raised serious questions about who has access to data and on what basis. The projects have shown that for value chain mapping to work, data needs to move through the global value chain as efficiently as the physical goods themselves. We have proven that this is possible, but the technology needs to be simplified to operate cost effectively at the scale and scope required.
We were recently awarded significant funding from the SMART programme run by the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, to enable us to “go back to the lab” and radically improve our ‘string’ technology, making it simpler for organisations in the global value chain to share information about their products.
As part of the project we will be piloting the new prototype software and are looking for organisations to take part.
We are incredibly close to making value chain mapping cost effective, even at scale, but we need your help. Please get in touch to find out more.
☛ Tim Wilson is founder and director at Historic Futures