In a document that dates back to 1870, James M. Gamble notes that orders from his company can be shipped the same day they're received, if a customer desires. That capability was thanks to a telegraph-order system that Thomas Edison, a clerk in the local Western Union office at the time, helped Cincinnati soap-maker Procter & Gamble develop. No doubt, that was bleeding-edge, technology-enabled business-process optimization at the time.
Fast forward to today. Consumer-goods giant Procter & Gamble's extensive supply chain is built on a global ERP system, uniting operations in 130 countries and supporting myriad products, from diapers to toothpaste to pet food. The breadth of P&G's product lines and global reach are impressive, as are its efforts to preserve its rich history (including a team of five who handle the 165-year-old company's archives), to build on top of its core, cash-cow Tide product (if you look deeply enough, every product can be linked back to its detergents), and to instill loyalty among its employees (there are many who have spent their entire careers at P&G, including 11 chief executives).
But the $40 billion company seeks new and better ways to move its hundreds of brands through its global supply chain, creating a real-time business that's driven off product demand, not forecasts, and where products are delivered accurately, eliminating manual intervention and costly product returns. That means using electronic catalogs, Web-based ordering systems, and radio-frequency ID chips designed to track individual products, among other technologies.
On top of that, the company seeks ways to create new product innovations that can make their way through this sophisticated supply chain to land in front of consumers' eyes more quickly. That requires a keen understanding of the customer, not just among the brand managers, but among the business-technology executives as well.
Find out more about how P&G is feeding the pipeline and the leaders behind the charge on p. 47.
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