FLOW: The Movement of Things

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

In a world where supply chain disruptions continue to be a problem, Flow: How the Best Supply Chains Thrive by Dr. Rob Handfield and Tom Linton offers key frameworks and solutions to remedy the weaknesses that exist in global supply chains. The authors conceptualize the success of supply chain performance as based in the ability to achieve flow – a concept which evokes physical properties in nature. By broadly applying physical laws to the global supply chain, the authors explore the impact of supply chain physics on global market policies. Complete with insights from case studies on Biogen, General Motors and Siemens, this book is essential reading for organizations and managers interested not only in supply chain optimization, but for anyone concerned with enterprise-level success.

In Conversation with Rob Handfield and Tom Linton

During COVID people became more aware of the impact of supply chains than ever before. However, most people have only a vague notion of what supply chains are and generally associate them with driverless vehicles or tracking shipments on their FedEx app. Often the impression is that significant technology lies behind the ecommerce providers. However, if one looks behind the curtain at transportation providers, as in The Wizard of Oz, there really isn’t as much there as you might think! Most of the activity that occurs behind the scenes in all stages of the supply chain involves human activity, processing transactions on screens and Excel sheets to make things happen. The next great leap in productivity will be to drive efficiencies in global supply chains, which is the last untapped frontier. There are few efficiencies to wring out of the four walls of manufacturing plants but massive white space opportunities in the global supply chain. This is also the area where there is the greatest resistance to change; people who work in supply chains don’t want to yield control to the machines and will block machine-based decisions that take away their comfortable spreadsheets. The next era of change will make supply chains as efficient as manufacturing plants are today.

This change is equivalent to the notion of FLOW, which invokes the idea that supply chains are moving, things are getting done, deliveries are going to customers, and vaccines are being distributed to patients. We focus on this concept in our book, Flow: How the Best Supply Chains Thrive, and examine how our supply chains and the world of global business is going through a massive change. The real contribution of the book involves our insights on how the combination of digital connectivity, geographical compression, and artificial intelligence will change the way supply chains operate, with productivity improvements never seen before in the history of humankind. 

We sought to emphasize these elements, and to produce a book that is focused on the idea of FLOW, which relates back to the physical properties that exist in nature, specifically to the field of thermodynamics, the flow of electricity, the flow of data, the evolutionary flows of rivers, and the frictionless flow of material between geographically proximate locations in the supply chain. Flow refers not only to material flows, but also to the current supply chain revolution that is underway, involving the cognitive integration of end-to-end supply chains, the geographic relocation of global supply base, and the radical changes that AI and machine learning will have on reshaping the global economy in the next decade. We cover how the next generation of artificial intelligence will connect every aspect of the supply chain and feed data back to a centralized control tower. Ultimately, these signals will be compressed into insights that humans can digest and convert into action.

This theme of FLOW relates also to many of the events of the trade wars of 2018–2020, as well as the massive disruptions of the COVID pandemic, and relates them to the flow of time, events, and material. The fundamental idea behind our book is that everything can be viewed in the context of flows over time. If events and materials flow, that also means they can be predicted – and this is an essential point for managers. We need to find ways to look around and build business strategies that rely on predictions based on the flows of world events, global supply chains, and data between smart technologies. Companies who hitch themselves to understanding flows have the potential for the greatest elimination of waste, material, and labour, which will effectively form the foundation for a supply chain revolution.

Learn more about Flow: How the Best Supply Chains Thrive here.


Subscribe to our newsletter to find out about new and forthcoming releases in your field, books for courses, and special discounts and promotions.

Featured Posts