Chain of Thought

Corporate Silos Link Comedy to Tragedy

Comedy and tragedy are relatives. Shakespeare demonstrated that truth and it continues to be played out by the writers of today’s TV sitcoms and comic pages. We inspire that truth by how we run our own families, at home and in the office. The number one rule of comedy: familiarity breeds contempt.

Sometimes I think family members treat each other with more contempt than they show to total strangers. That seems to hold true in corporate families too. Corporate executives are often more communicative with colleagues in outside organizations than they are with support staff under their own roof who help keep that roof over their heads.

Part of that disconnect has to do with the quickly evolving digital links interconnecting global supply chain partners. These cyber connections outside an organization seem to be forming faster than the human connections inside. Mitch Free, global manufacturing analyst & CEO of, the online service that matches manufacturers with suppliers, spoke with me about this recently. He said how manufacturers deal with supply and demand in the digital age will change supply chain management significantly in the next few years. In fact it’s already happening.

Manufacturers have been letting suppliers manage their inventories for quite a while now, but with the new technologies being developed, OEMs can give suppliers windows of visibility into their marketplace, showing them what demand looks like so they can anticipate orders. Suppliers can even be more strategic about raw material sourcing by being afforded more time to look for lower prices.

“If suppliers can anticipate when their customer will order they can try to guess when there’s a low point on materials purchasing,” Free said.

This has even made it more attractive to let suppliers take over manufacturing, giving OEMs virtual ownership of their brand but leaving the physical make-up of its products to contractors. But in this new era of supply chain trust, Free also sees the folly of contempt within the corporate family.

“Manufacturers have made some pretty good investments in systems, procedures and processes for managing the external supply chain and bringing those companies into the fold,” he said. “They do a good job with their external systems of how they communicate with their suppliers, but you look internally and the company is operating in silos that don’t communicate.”

That’s like the old wives tale of the shoemaker whose children go barefoot. It’s not only unfair, but it can be fatal to business, especially if customers and outside stakeholders see how inefficient that internal supply chain becomes and then feel the consequences. A supply chain’s weakest link is often corroded from within.

CEOs need to be fostering internal communications that are just as good, if not better, than the cyberlinks they’re forging with partners around the world. The walls that separate sales & marketing from logistics must have doorways linking them to each other. And while you’re opening doorways in the home office, don’t forget the brothers and sisters in product design and engineering.

The only good thing to come from the disconnects among business siblings is a comic strip called Dilbert. Try not to open a doorway into his next panel.

Related Articles:

How Amazon Profits from Retail’s Sales/Logistics Disconnect

Internet of Things Gaining Bandwidth

Supply Chain Managers Get Physical with the Internet

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