Smart Supply Chain Management Is Key to Success In the ‘Age of Now’


At some point in the past decade, society entered what I’ll call the “Age of Now.” Instant gratification is not a new concept, of course. According to Wikipedia (our favorite modern shortcut to learning things now instead of doing actual research), pizza delivery began in Naples way back in the 1800s. Florists have offered same-day delivery since forever. But technology has hastened a quickening and widening of instant gratification. In the very near future, companies that can’t serve their customers with goods and services in real time will struggle to survive. In the Age of Now, dexterous supply chain management will separate winners from losers.

Just this month, Amazon released the results of a test it did with its Amazon Prime customers. The bottom line: Merely displaying an icon that promises same-day availability of a product increases sales conversions by up to 25 percent.

That simple finding explains some of what we’ve seen in the headlines over the past few months. Over the past holiday season, a number of large companies announced experiments with same-day delivery. Amazon, Walmart and eBay all said they were dipping in their toes. Even the U.S. Postal Service has talked about trying a same-day service (even as it abandons Saturday delivery).

As detractors have pointed out, same-day delivery has been tried before and remains exorbitantly expensive. Others point to evidence that, while consumers say they want same-day delivery, they usually don’t want to pay for it.

However, technology has made the idea more affordable than before. And, as one expert told The New York Times, it is inevitable that consumers will eventually demand same-day – if not same-hour – delivery after they get used to it.

“People don’t need immediate delivery today, but they will need it tomorrow, because as soon as you know it’s available, you start expecting it and you start demanding it,” Tom Allason, chief executive of the British delivery service Shutl, told the Times.

In other words, if the Age of Now hasn’t already dawned, it will do so imminently.

The question for companies moving forward is whether they have a plan to accelerate delivery of goods and services exponentially in the coming years.

Does the supply chain management solution they employ offer the organizational transparency needed to reduce delivery costs while increasing efficiency? Are fleet schedules and vehicle routes optimized? Do they have real-time work order communication with rolling assets? Do they even know the whereabouts of all assets at a given time? Do they have the ability to track multiple warehouses and truck inventories? Are drivers equipped with connected mobile devices that allow them to communicate with customers about arrival or delivery times? Can they guarantee service delivery windows of 15 minutes instead of three or four hours?

These are all critical questions to confront for any company that hopes to compete in the Age of Now. If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that technological advancement will wash over us, whether or not we embrace it. As a long strong of notable speakers, from Charles Darwin to P.W. Botha, have said in various contexts, it’s truly a matter of “adapt or die.”