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business models, strategies and technologies

Supply chain communication – the power of “show”

“Show, don’t tell” thinking for explaining and learning from supply chains and their data – the Sourcemap approach

Data linkages tell powerful stories

There’s a saying/cliché about it being better to show things rather than waffling on about them in words. US company Sourcemap Inc. has followed this age-old adage, with a range of software tools and solutions for supply chain mapping – with seemingly substantial strategic and commercial perspectives.

Sourcemap apparently started as an MIT Media Lab research project to map supply chains. Subsequently transitioning to a self-funded startup, the company reckons it has developed the world’s first supply chain mapping platform. And that such mapping – used appropriately – can pave the way to credible supply chain transparency with important consequences for strategy as well as data-driven decision making.

Sourcemap solutions make it possible to automatically map a supply chain end to end on the basis of purchasing data, linking raw materials all the way through to end customers. And not only does Sourcemap enable companies to generate an effective, convincing visual rendition of their supply chain, it also paves the way to the consistent analysis of chosen parameters (such as the carbon footprint) at each node in the chain.  The company’s software apparently maps both the upstream and downstream activities in the supply chain as well as the complexities present along the way. The tool enables users to zoom in and out on a map to build a broader or more granular perspective about any particular supply chain.

Supply Chain Mapping for Everyone from Sourcemap on Vimeo.

Visualisation aids transparency

Mapping supply chains and structuring the data associated with their operation means that this information can be used for better-informed decision-making, moving from analysis and inspection of individual components in a chain to consideration of a connected, responsible whole.

Supply chain visualisation paves the way to transparency and opportunities to build and ensure mutually beneficial business relationships. Sourcemap is probably the world leader in mapping and transparency platforms. The question is what uses this know-how and these capabilities can be put –  it’s up to users whether this transparency gets transformed into actual corporate social responsibility measures that bing about change. But the company certainly seems to have lofty ambitions. Sourcemap seems to do a lot to highlight the ethical aspects of what its software products can do, and enable others to do.

Sourcemap blog post

Sourcemap’s bigger picture

As a self-funded startup, Sourcemap explicitly states that the company reckons it can afford to take risks and develop cutting-edge solutions ahead of market demand – a brave declaration, indeed.

As just one example of how the company’s capabilities can be used, in October 2018 Sourcemap launched the Open Apparel Registry (OAR) — an open, crowdsourced database of garment production facilities around the world that provides manufacturers and consumers with unprecedented access to information about the factories responsible for making their clothes.

It seems as if the Sourcemap solutions could be a useful tool in transforming the many downsides of globalisation into transparent frameworks of connected capabilities and individual, local skills.