Here's How Johnson & Johnson Is Creating an Intelligent Supply Chain

The act of facilitating supply and demand is no mean feat. Things used to be slightly easier back in the day as companies would tend to favor geographically proximate suppliers from which to source goods and services.

Today, however, we live in a global marketplace, and while ordering a product and having it delivered may seem like a simple thing, it is a massive endeavor involving multiple stakeholders and thousands of miles. Each part of the supply chain needs to be carefully managed in such a way so it can produce predictable and measurable outcomes, which is essential for providing a consistent service.

It probably won't surprise you to hear that digital technology is helping big brands such as Johnson & Johnson to create more intelligent and dependable supply chains throughout its business network.

Johnson & Johnson

The responsibility for this transformation falls to the advanced planning team at Johnson & Johnson, which has been tasked with developing the complete end-to-end infrastructure of the supply chain and improve the brand's customer experience by using digital technology to create new efficiencies.

"I work in advanced planning," said Senior Director of Global Supply Chain Advanced Planning at Johnson & Johnson, Neil Ackerman. "It's part of the global supply chain. I focus on delivering an improved customer experience and creating a competitive advantage by levering advanced capabilities within the supply chain. What makes up the J&J supply chain? How do we think about it? We have some big, strategic ideas about supply chain. We want to fast track our innovation. We want to be an agile solution provider for customers. We want to have an end-to-end value, and we want to inspire our employees and people."

How, then, does customer experience fit into this idea of an intelligent supply chain? The expectations of customers have changed a lot when it comes to ordering products - regardless of whether they're B2B or B2C clients. If a company can't meet those expectations, those customers will have little problem seeking out one of its competitors.

Personalization and automation are two such ways Johnson & Johnson is working digital technology into its supply chain operations. Customers these days expect a certain amount of self-service. They don't want to have to sit on hold waiting to speak to someone. Instead, they want to be able to solve queries via chatbots or instant messaging services. Of course, sometimes a query is too complex to deal with via virtual assistants. However, allowing simpler issues to be dealt with this way frees up more human staff to deal with those tougher problems - improving the customer experience no matter the contact method.

"The world of the customer and what their expectations are has changed a lot," said Ackerman. "I remember years ago when you had to wait on a phone call and customer service took a long time. Now, it's not the same. A lot of things are self-service, if you think about what's happened. The customer has greater expectations. Why is that? It's because their whole lives around them have also become more efficient; effective, you could argue. As a result of that, in their whole lives they want that same efficiency."

Cognitive Automation

At the core of Johnson & Johnson's goal for a more intelligent supply chain is data. Thanks to Johnson & Johnson's powerful IT capabilities, it can send data crawlers out into the supply chain to gather and index vast amounts of data based on pre-set parameters.

It's then able to create an analytics layer which can be used to create different types of data tools, which can then be used to create a number - such as a forecast - depending on the insight the advanced planning wants to achieve. For example, the data could be used to calculate the average times it takes a certain product to complete its supply chain journey, and then use that information to reliably inform customers how long they can expect it to take for their order to arrive.

Alternatively, it could inform teams if there are any points in the supply chain which are consistently failing to meet expectations. Once identified, these inefficiencies can be addressed and then continually reassessed to make sure the necessary improvements have been achieved.

"Let's take something simple - well, relatively simple," said Ackerman. "You order something. You want to know or the person listening wants to know when they're going to get it. Very simple, right? Except, actually, really hard. What happens is, they'll say, 'Over the past six months, when someone has ordered widget A, when has widget A arrived?' When we told them it was going to be this date, were we actually accurate with that date? Actually, you'll find that most of the time people are not."

Final Thoughts

Creating an intelligent supply chain using automation and data is a great way to boost both the performance of your brand and the customer experience simultaneously, and it's great to see massive brands such as Johnson & Johnson leading the way in this regard.

You can hear Johnson & Johnson's Senior Director of Supply Chain Customer Solutions, Ruben Taborda, speak at Supply Chain Next 2019, taking place in November at the Westin Chicago River North, IL.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.

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