Saturday, September 15, 2012

UBIMS Changes Supply Chain Quality

                                  by Jess Parmer
We have stressed on this blog over the last few years the price and competitive improvements that will result from adoption of the UBIMS platform by end-user businesses and suppliers.  In capsule form, these improvements result from UBIMS’s direct assault on time and space constraints imposed by private supply chains in the service of ultra-large job-killing machines in our domestic economy, and in the world at large.  End-users—not limited to local retailers and service providers, but also including the retail customer—and employees have, under the regime of competition by size, suffered disproportionately.  The UBIMS solution offers definable relief from immediate impacts of the rigged private supply chain, but is there more?
One answer to such a question may be intuited from the U.S. healthcare system’s coming adaptation of unified service and supply platforms:  the leading innovators in IT applications in population health incorporate from the start of the change process careful attention to customer satisfaction alongside development of provider confidence in the outcomes fostered by IT change.  The nature of these developments, while not yet universal, is useful for thinking about what improvements may be sought in other real, functioning markets through UBIMS.  Is it realistic to expect a UBIMS public supply chain to reduce prices, to cut delays, and at the same time to improve quality—whether stated as quality of service, or of manufacture, or as measured in some other way?
Perhaps a better analogy than the health care system can be imagined:  suppose for a moment that all delicatessens in a large city could order directly from manufacturers all the foods not made in-house on a UBIMS platform.  Delicatessens typically allow customers small samples, such as a slice of corned beef or several bites of potato salad, prior to purchase.  All delis powered by UBIMS could collect customer impressions of quality in this exact moment and forward it directly to manufacturers, linking these to manufacturers’ lot numbers, dates of expiration, nutritional information, etc.  Amazon, for instance, solicits customer responses right on the page where orders can be placed, and Amazon’s vendors also request and publish on the same page customer satisfaction rankings.  But Amazon itself also has a stake in this, often being their vendors’ competitor, so that it is small wonder that the Amazon supply chain is littered with warnings about limited numbers of items available.
But since UBIMS is a public supply chain platform, it will have no stake in the availability of specific items, or in their prices, and via the UBIMS rule of fair trade no stake in delivery cost.  In fact, the analogy with goes only so far in explaining the power of a public supply chain platform.  The after-market in private passenger vehicles, despite the viral growth of CarMax and its imitators and the availability of accident databases by VIN number, presents numerous opportunities for informing consumers as fully as possible prior to purchase.  Even with such highly standardized products, UBIMS would find room for operation through owner service records and parts replacement validation, just to name a pair of areas in this massive market that would benefit from a public supply chain platform.  The popularity of the PBS Radio show, Car Talk, illustrates the breadth and depth of opportunities in this market.
A third example of a market that could develop rapidly under a UBIMS public platform is that of consumer appliances:  Consumer Reports touches only one edge of the information potentially usable from implementation of UBIMS here.  The problem in this area is that there is virtually no public aftermarket in used appliances, as our landfills testify.  Even smaller cities could benefit from a fact-based market in these, as landlords seek to fill semi-furnished rentals and new homebuyers stock their properties with appliances—often in the futile hope of avoiding a large home-improvement loan to do so.  Emergent technologies in heating and cooling can also complicate purchasing plans by lacking long service records.  A data-based approach to this market could convert a scrap operation into a thriving after-market business in major household appliances, or turn the small appliance department of a large used-goods store into a business with reliable profits, ending forever the appeal of cheap imported goods in this market and giving the big-box stores some real competition.  Buying reliable used appliances could come to resemble buying clothing in stores where you get to try things on before purchase, the difference being that someone else has tried on the appliance and told you his or her experience with a specific example of product.
The basic product of the UBIMS supply chain system is information relevant to market participants, publicly available in a model of cooperation and validation under an overall model of absolute competition, as opposed to competition based on size alone.  Quality assurance is the fundamental criterion of markets in goods and services—quality that is assured by reliable information in an open system that cannot be gamed or otherwise compromised.  This is the medium- and long-term promise of UBIMS, and it is why the UBIMS public supply chain platform will become the commercial platform of choice.