BIG companies tend to have big supply chains: sprawling networks of producers, suppliers, ‘super middlemen’, retailers and consumers that connect, for instance, a piece of mined aluminium with a finished car, or a field of wheat with a loaf of bread on the table. Under any circumstances these are complicated things to design and manage but even more so now that constant change seems to be the 'new normal'.


These days technologies emerge or evolve with extraordinary rapidity, as do new ways of doing business. And, so, of course, do customer expectations. We take it for granted, for example, that shopping can be delivered to our doorsteps and that we can listen to music and read books and articles (such as this one) at the click of a mouse. And we get frustrated when we can’t. At the Institute for Manufacturing’s Centre for International Manufacturing we study how companies should design their operations networks so that they are making the right things in the right places and getting them to their customers as efficiently as possible – and how to do this while retaining the agility to take advantage of new technologies and the resilience to deal with unforeseen disasters.


For multinational companies getting this right represents a major source of competitive advantage. But no-one ever said it would be easy.


Read the full article that appeared in Cambridge Business magazine here.