A supply chain is…

Again I asked my students to provide some metaphors for “supply chain”, just completing the sentence starting with “A supply chain is …”. Here are some flavours of the results, a bit grouped around topics – this year with favourite themes around nature, humans, human activities (baking, theatre, sports):

Metaphors from nature

A supply chain is …

“like an army of ants or a group of honey bees. when they coordinate in group they create something as magnificent as anthills or honey respectively.” (Abhishek Abhinav)

“a river that floats in opposite directions at the same time.” (Annika Alftan)

“the beginning of life until the final end.” (Benjamin Andersson)

“like a plant. It needs a variety of elements from different channels to grow, to be whole, stay stable and eventually flourish.” (Sara Brännäs)

“like a cell: a complex system in constant movement. Every component plays a vital part and all the functions follow a specialized code that keeps the entire system on track. A functioning cell is often taken for granted and but even the smallest malfunction can have serious consequences.” (Elina Häkkinen)

“like a tree. Different components and products are gathered and processed by different producers and processes like the roots of a tree. The final products or your firm is symbolized by the tree trunk and the tree’s ramification including the foliage symbolizes the distribution of the products to the consumers. The more complicated the chain the bigger the tree.” (Cecilia Mickos)

“a caterpillar. All parts have to move in sync to get to the goal.” (Kai Pietilä)

“critical path – in organizations or ecosystems – that secure the delivery of products or services from the supplier to the dedicated consumer of this particular product or service. An efficient Supply Chain operates in a balanced, optimized manner, so that the customer service interface, related costs and risks involved, are on the desired, planned level. From the receiving – customer – point-of-view the Supply Chain can be inward or outward bound, when observing the supply flows” (Juha-Pentti Rautalahti)

Metaphors related to the human body

A supply chain is …

“like the anatomy of a human body with arteries functioning as downstream and veins functioning as upstream.” (Mikael Holmberg)

“like a human body. Everything is related and linked. There is one main objective for every part of the body: the functioning and the health of the body (corresponding to the final customer satisfaction). The heart can be assimilated to the focal company: flows (blood) exist in order make the supply chain alive. Some suppliers (food, nerves…) provide raw material or information in order to irrigate the rest of the chain. The interdependency and process links of the human body embodies very well the interdependency of the different stakeholders of the chain: if something happens downstream, it may have important consequences upstream.” (Vivien Matthieu)

“like the human body: all the organs are linked together and there is information sharing between all of them, passing by the connections in the brain. If one of them stops to work or don’t work very well, there is a huge impact on the others and the whole body is affected. The whole purpose is for the human being to be healthy, and for this to work, all of the organs have to function well and together, each one of them fulfilling its objectives.” (Ana Zonari)

Metaphors from arts / sports

A supply chain is…

“a stage where the lighting is broken and you’re trying to peer into the darkness surrounding where you stand while simultaneously directing the play.” (Johan Järvinen)

“like a team; the communication needed and networks that arise are complex and the key indicators of how well the team is performing can be measured through the customer satisfaction.” (Janina Lindgren)

“like the process of a rumor spreading within a group of people. When the first person tells it to the next there is one version, but after several people have contributed to the story the last version of the rumor tends to be different.” (Charlotta Lönnfors)

“a football game. The coach is the person who helps the players to reach their destinations in an efficient way.  The players are the interconnected businesses/parties who bring the products/services, and their aim is to score a goal “product/services will reach to the destination”. The goalkeeper is the customer and he/she is waiting for the ball “product/service”. The players are always in contact with each other and they need to do their best in order to score. They might have challenges during the game since the opposing team can make different kinds of movements. Players need to pass these challenges and score the goal. There are complex movements which they can do, but they should choose which action would be the best and in this case, coach can lead the team.” (Zeynep Paukkio)

“like a game of football, where a team tries to cooperate according to a rehearsed game plan, in order to score a goal. The team’s coaches and management outline the strategy and train the players, and the players implement the strategy on a tactical level.” (Tom Turula)

“like a puzzle. Every part has to be on its own place in order to make the big picture work.” (Diana Welander)

Metaphors related to cooking / baking

A supply chain is..

“like cooking, all ingredients bring more value and taste to the food, and if one part is missing it can destroy the whole meal.” (Paulina Salin)

like baking a bun – right amount of right and fresh ingredients at a right order, exact time at the oven, baked with a decent effort and served to the nice people.” (Helmi Sihvonen)

and finally, a supply chain is …

“like a bridge which provides a way for linking the vendors, manufacturers, retailers and customers to work together to achieve their goal respectively.” (Yuqing Yang)

Beautiful, isn’t it?


2 responses to “A supply chain is…

  1. Quality articles is the important to attract the people to visit the
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  2. Love the SC metaphors, thank you.

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