7 Supply Chain Lessons from Amazon

As a start-up company in the garage, Amazon Supply Chain has made a giant leap that revolutionized many aspects of overall supply chain management. With more than 130 million stocking keeping units to manage and millions of transactions to control, this article will show you how they make it.

We've previously covered supply chain issues of the world's leading companies including Amazon in the article "Supply Chain Case Study". Anyway, we feel there are something missing.

We dig deeper and find one interesting article on Forbes named "The Best CEOs -  Amazon's Jeff Bezos". The article provides many examples about how Bezos manages various business issues and many of them are supply chain management related. As usual, we extract only the goodies and turn them into this simple infographic,

Amazon Supply Chain

1. Put yourself in customer's shoes
At Amazon, they care so much about customers and this is not just something fancy to say. In many internal meetings, Bezos leaves one empty chair next to him and tell people that they should also think on behalf of one important customer who can't manage to be there. Then the word "empty chair" becomes a symbol of customer centric business practices inside Amazon.

Also, many executives have to attend call center training so they can know customer's feedback, good or bad, firsthand.

2. Don't be distracted by the competition
Many companies focus on benchmarking performance against competitors but this is not the case for Amazon. Bezos believes that the pace of industry change is too fast so it's not good to make knee jerk reaction after competitors do something new. What Amazon does is to acknowledge what happens but keep focusing on it customer's needs.

3. Keep an eye on the ball
Culture of Metrics is the word used to described the obsession over the performance measurement. They're currently tracking about 500 KPIs and 80% of them are customer related.

4. Go extra mile
Bezos once insisted on using better quality box so customer can reuse it. And when Amazon's brand is on every box, it's the free publicity. He also pushed many executives at DCs to extend order closing time to 6pm or 7pm, even though this means over-time cost to Amazon.

5. Plant seeds and watch them grow
The example of this philosophy is that Amazon invests in many hardware technologies that don't make any short-term gain just to make sure that they build Kindle that people love.

6. Learn to improvise
Amazon asks candidates to make action plans, outside their comfort zone, with the assumption that there will be no budget for such plan, to test how each candidate react to unfamiliar business issues. As mentioned earlier, the pace of industry change is fast so they need people who can think outside the box.

7. Build the dream team
Amazon believes small work team is more efficient. To determine the right size of each team, they've developed a "rule of thumb". If it needs more than 2 pizzas to feed the team, that team is too big (so I name it "2-Pizza Heuristics").

I'm really a big fan of simple principles that work. In a very complex world, Amazon uses customer's needs as it guiding light.

Do you feel these are things that you can apply to your situation? Do you think, if you focus on customer, things will never go wrong?

Posted by , the editor of SupplyChainOpz.com