Commodity and multi-component product supply chains comprise a long series of processes that subject materials to multiple points of mixing, transforming or combining by various actors around the globe.
I felt the current linear depiction of a product’s supply chain—with just one actor at each stage of the supply chain connected in a simple line—was misleading. Look at the following illustration of a supply chain and consider its simplicity when compared to the supply web above.
The complexity and scale of just one product’s supply chain is challenging for any brand to map and manage. The difficulty in ensuring that all suppliers are operating responsibly is amplified when you consider that many brands and other supply chain actors can change their supplier base daily. I have heard that a single electronic brand can have as many as 20,000 suppliers and sub-suppliers along their supply chain.
When you multiply those numbers by the various industries and products supplying goods worldwide, the impacts on the planet are exponential. Our reliance on global solutions means that we have a responsibility to consider the potential ethical and environmental damage our products create. All practitioners need to recognize the complicated reality under which we are attempting to affect large-scale positive change as we develop solutions on such a large scale so that we can begin to minimize that damage.
This dynamic element of shifting suppliers and sub-suppliers gets lost in the linear representation of a supply chain. As I have been analyzing the challenge of illustrating the complexities and shifts, I created a new animated version of my supply web slide to illustrate the connections and shifts between various levels of the supply web. You’ll find the animated supply web slide in action here.
Please share the slide (and supply web reference) with others if you would like. I only ask that you let me know when you do and that you give me credit for its creation. And, of course, please check in with me on how I can help educate others on the realities of commodity and multi-component product supply webs.