December 15th, 2015

Enabling a Science-Driven Supply Chain

by Lara Birkes, Vice President, Chief Sustainability Officer

SOURCE: Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)


Existing systems and technologies that power our supply chains are evolving at a highly accelerated rate. When we think manufacturing, our minds recall the revolutionary Ford assembly line, or the Toyota production system a century later. Now, we are already at the next overhaul of not only transforming manufacturing, but also our entire supply chain. As the amount of data available for collection increases exponentially, technology is advancing our ability to compile, analyze, and learn from this data at a deeper level than ever before. As a result, we’re uncovering new efficiencies and opportunities to revolutionize industries.

Despite all of the advances within supply chains to date, there are still opportunities to improve, and this is where sustainable innovation can and should be leveraged to transform slowly evolving systems. Innovations such as blockchainbig data, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are improving operations– and together these developments have the power to disrupt and redefine supply chains for the betterment of society and industry.

Blockchain has progressed by leaps and bounds from its origin as an innovation tied to bitcoin, a digital currency experiment. By maintaining a decentralized digital ledger, blockchain has the ability to increase traceability–from the provenance of goods to the identity of workers—in turn leading to greater accountability by businesses when it comes to the intricacies of running supply chains.

Blockchain is driven by extremely large data sets, or big data, that can provide extraordinary insights. By utilizing big data we are able to identify trends within the supply chain that can lead to improved predictions. This enables better collaboration within and amongst organizations, making it more feasible to mitigate risk, achieve sustainability goals, and contribute solutions to global challenges like poverty, hunger, education, diversity, and gender equality. For instance, through HPE’s Living Progress Challenge, we’re helping WWF use big data analytics to disrupt illegal fishing, with future applications to timber and other commodities.

With these technological advances driving us forward, it’s clear that digitization plays an important role in driving sustainable innovation – so long as it’s managed strategically, with consideration given to environmental and social impacts. Our goal as sustainability leaders must be to ensure that innovation can happen and thrive in an environment that is mindful of the human and societal impacts of large supply-chains.

At HPE we believe it is our responsibility to continually build the capability of our suppliers so that we all can contribute to building a sustainable, low-carbon future. This evolution affects us all, and each of these components requires varying levels of investment—from the C-suite to procurement. It is essential to have buy-in from a values and financial perspective as we continue to evolve into this new chapter of supply chain management. We must embrace sustainable innovation as a differentiator of a successful business, as companies who focus on this will adapt to rapid, large-scale transformation whilst those who don’t will be left behind.


Tweet me: .@HPE_LivingProg is Enabling a #Science Driven #SupplyChain @LaraBirkes #SDGs #LivingProgress

KEYWORDS: Supply Chain & the Circular Economy, Environment, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Lara Birkes, Internet of Things (IoT)

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