Kinlock dropship BeCycle01Imagine the bicycle delivery person in the picture pedaling through a “pedestrian zone”. His first stop is a small T-Shirt store. He brings their package inside and gets a signature on his hand-held device. Next, he delivers a smaller package to a teenager in a nearby apartment. Again he gets a signature. You have just seen the tail end of a World-wide “drop ship” scenario that is highly dependent upon COLLABORATION.

Let's walk back up the supply chain and see what we find. Our first observation is that all the  interfaces are electronic. It goes from BECYCLE, the company making the actual delivery;  through DHL Logistics, to a virtual manufacturer, then on to his manufacturing partners, 3pl logistics providers and suppliers. Even the teenager ordered his shirt from the manufacturer's  on-line store and the T-Shirt store ordered from the same company's B2B WebSite.

These packages delivered in Nice, France were purchased from the headquarters of the lean supply chain. It is a  Montréal company engaged in what’s known as the rag trade business. There’s a lot of EC in this picture. I even know the guy who does nothing else in life but sell clothing labels (he is legitimate) and does this from a BlackBerry.

Recently, we interviewed Eric Chaffee, SPS Commerce's Director of Product Management about Retail Universe  (RU). We reviewed how RU can companies help select 3pl's and other partners. When you think about collaboration, it’s easy to see that with an intricate supply chain, all the participants in the supply chain will need tools to share information swiftly.

We just recently touched base with Eric to see how RU can help supply chains collaborate. His comment: “We expect that the first release of the Orbits functionality will be available this summer.  It will include a Google+ circle's like functionality for creating and managing the multi-dimensional relationships in the retail supply chain.  We'll then expand that to provide security and access control management as well.”

Going back to What is a Social Supply Chain?, it seems that companies have begun using social media to work with suppliers, vendors and customers. As an example, they can have discussions on issues and arrive at a consensus. Even the customers get to collaborate by providing feedback (the good, the bad and the ugly). These comments could be something like “this is the greatest T-Shirt in the World” or maybe “customers complain your shirts shrink too much”. All of these comments can easily go up and down the supply chain.

To make our supply chain work, we will need all the tools in the book. One objective is to minimize the products that go into and out of a warehouse. The best way is to go directly from the actual manufacturing plant to the customer (drop ship). Next best way is to cross-dock products. By collaborating, other innovative solutions may surface.

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