- Excel spreadsheets remain a popular tool for supply chain management among innovators and late adopters alike, as 67.4% of respondents to an Adelante SCM survey said they used the tool.
- The web survey of 140 executives was commissioned by BluJay Solutions, a supply chain software provider, and set out to compare and contrast the characteristics of supply chain innovators with those of late adopters.
- When it came to IT systems, 29% of late adopters said they considered "outdated" systems a key barrier to innovation, and 78% said they used Excel. By contrast, only 17% of early adopters saw technology as a barrier to innovation, with just 56.3% saying they used Excel.
Excel has been and remains a powerful tool for collecting and calculating data, but the reliance on it for supply chain planning can be problematic from a risk perspective.
Often, warehouse managers will rely on multiple spreadsheets to manage disparate parts of their facility. Buyers and logistics managers may use the tool to evaluate suppliers and forecast rates. The problem, however, is the management of these spreadsheets is often manual and therefore error-prone.
The results of the survey do not indicate spreadsheets are a problem, but rather there is a correlation between using more integrated technology and innovation. However the commissioner of the survey BluJay Solutions, as a software provider, likely has an interest in promoting supply chain software and modern technology.
As the responses to the IT systems question showed, respondents who felt hampered by their technology tended to use Excel more than transportation management systems or warehouse management systems.
In another example, the survey found 77% of innovators measured and defined customer experience as a top priority, while only 55% of laggards did the same. Meanwhile, 48% of laggards saw cost reduction as a top driver of innovation within their company, while only 21% of innovators felt the same way.
When split among business categories, shippers and logistics service providers had nearly identical priorities when it came to customer experience. However, shippers cared far more about cost reduction (33.7%, the top factor driving innovation) than logistics service providers (21.1%, their lowest priority).
The report's authors emphasized one point upon their analysis: Innovation in the supply chain is not always due to "light bulb revelations." It is more often incremental in nature, led by small shifts in priorities or by readapting old models for new use cases.