Myths about Research
People who don't read/conduct research believe that "research is researchers' thing". This is not entirely true. First of all, we have to understand what "research" is. Simply put, research is how to solve problems systematically. Then, when business problems are solved systematically, this is kind of "research".
While most industry publications publish lots of "survey" research, survey is not the only research method. There are so many type of research methods in supply chain such as literature review, experiment, simulation and so on.
Is research relevant to business people who are not the big fans of algorithm? It's true that research in supply chain areas involves algorithm but this is not the sign of irrelevancy.
Application of Research in Supply Chain
In order to demonstrate the application of research is supply chain management, simple analysis was done as below,
- To determine how world's leading companies conduct research, I've gathered 4 data sources, namely,
->TOP 100 3PL providers 2012 by Inboundlogistics
->100 Great Supply Chain Partners 2012 by Supply Chain Brain
->Supply & Demand Chain Executive's 100 Awards 2012
->Exclusive Firm Profile appeared on Supply Chain Management Consulting Marketplace by Kennedy Consulting Research and Advisory
- Four data sources result in the list of 323 leading companies in various segments in supply chain.
- This analysis utilizes data from Google Patents which is publicly available. The reason is that patent represents "uniqueness" of research and development in business setting.
- Google Patents will show records of patents issued to each company aka "Original Assignee" or "Applicant".
- Some type of patents such as computer network, computer hardware, database management system, HR system and something not directly relevant to supply chain management is not included.
- Companies are ranked by number of patents obtained on or before 31 Dec 2012 (pending patents are not included).
- 30 leading companies are identified for further analysis.
And the winners of the World's Most Innovative Supply Chain Companies go to...
|Top Supply Chain Companies by ALPHABETICAL ORDER|
What kind of companies conduct research the most?
For consulting firm, the story is a bit different because we don't see many consulting firm on the list. My assumptions are that consulting firm may conduct only market research (so there are very few patents granted to them), OR, they may be the "users" of research created by other companies, OR, number of patent is not the good indicator for research in consulting environment.
Editorial remark: manufacturing companies are not included in this analysis because their patents focus primarily on particular products/services rather than supply chain "enablers".
Do you have to be a big company to conduct research?
|Number of Companies by Size|
The result is "NO". Companies of all sizes conduct research, from SMEs to Public Company listed in Stock Exchange.
What kind of problems companies solve systematically through research?
For air express, research is used differently from one company to another. Fedex tends to apply research to solve problems with air cargo loading while UPS applies research to increase efficiency in warehouse sorting and conveyor systems (air freight/warehouse material handling).
Some 3PL and small software companies choose to create system to cope with load planning/warehouse slotting and freight bidding problems.
Research about algorithm can be useful if it's implemented into software system. Many small software houses develop algorithms to improve supply chain operations such as collaboration, demand planning and position tracking.
Big software companies help their customers create competitive advantage through various e-procurement and supply chain planning software, backed by many researches in math modelling.
Research, the structured method to solve problems, is highly relevant to business. No matter who you are, family-owned business or multi-national corporations, research can help you improve supply chain operations and create long lasting value.