Supply Chain Leaders Dare to be Differentiated

By Tom Cisewski | Principal, Supply Chain Design As a supply chain design consultant, I have the privilege of working with a wide array of companies,...


By Tom Cisewski | Principal, Supply Chain Design


As a supply chain design consultant, I have the privilege of working with a wide array of companies, challenges and strategies. One way in which supply chain leaders are different from supply chain laggards is in how they tailor supply chain solutions to drive value to the business—and  the extent to which they differentiate supply chain solutions to provide a competitive advantage.

Supply-Chain-Differentiators Supply chain leaders understand that one-size does NOT  fit all

Supply chain leaders drive value to their business by assessing the multiple meanings of differentiation, or being differentiated: They understand the differences among things. They distinguish. Finally, they change or alter.  In other words, they know the segments of the business need to be differentiated and devise and implement strategies to address those nuances.

Supply chain leaders drive value to their business by differentiating among:

  • Channels
    Supply chain leaders understand the different requirements, needs and roles that channel strategies and channel partners play. They craft supply chain offerings to meet the specific needs of each, doing so in an advantageous way.
  • Customers
    Supply chain leaders understand which customers drive profitability, the requirements of key customers and the competitive landscape of their business.  They work actively with the stakeholders to craft rules of engagement and create supply chain solutions that delight, retain and grow their most profitable customers.
  • Products
    Supply chain leaders also understand which products drive profitability and the inherent differences and effects that each velocity, value, size, and seasonality have on or within their product portfolio.  They distinguish between line fill (i.e., I received three out four items in my order) and “in full” (i.e., I did not receive all my items, my order was incomplete) metrics and understand the requirements each one has on the supply chain.  They alter the network design and flow paths accordingly.
  • Geographies
    Supply chain leaders know approaches (i.e., cross-docks, dedicated fleets and backhaul strategies) and metrics (i.e., cost per pound, delivery cost per unit, miles per case delivered) that work well in the eastern United States that may not work as well in the West. They understand and respond to localized differences in channels, customers and products.

Supply chain leaders “size the prize,” prioritize opportunities, balance the trade-offs and most importantly tune out the noise.  When assessing differentiated supply chain strategies, it’s easy to react to the exceptions. But, being differentiated does not mean being all things to all people.  Supply chain leaders drive value to the enterprise by focusing on these distinctions with meaningful scale.

If you need help differentiating your supply chain from the competition to gain a competitive advantage, Chainalytics can help. Feel free to reach out to me using the form below, or via LinkedIn.


Tom Cisewski is a Principal of the Supply Chain Design practice at Chainalytics. In addition to leading client engagements, Tom is responsible for advancing Chainalytics’ project delivery methodology and mentoring consulting staff within the practice.

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