August 01, 2016

Lessons from Pokémon Go to Improve Your Supply Chain Program

Jane Khoury

3_screen_mobile.pngBy now, you’re most likely one of those millions of people that have chosen to Get Up, Get Out and Explore, traveling around the globe to locate, capture and train as many Pokémon as you possibly can. And if you are in the minority, or you are not just ready to admit your obsession to your colleagues, here is a quick introduction to the game1:

  1. As a Trainer, you use your smartphone camera to scour the globe for Pokémon which you catch using Pokéballs. You collect the balls at Pokéstops and as you enhance your level, you receive more balls.
  2. You use the Pokémon you have collected to build your network and battle with other trainers so you can become the master trainer.
  3. You collect candies, stardust and potions to make your Pokémon stronger and improve your chances of winning or restore their health after battle.
  4. You win badges along the way as you complete different activities in the game.

Is Pokémon a fun and addicting game? Yes, it is. But I could not help but notice how lessons I picked up from playing the game could be applied outside the alter-universe to advance the success of your supply chain resiliency program.

Lesson 1: Investment in building an integrated supplier network with key intelligence and analytics is a competitive advantage

The objective of Pokémon GO is to catch all the possible Pokémon and build your network so you can battle other trainers successfully. Players visit Pokéstops to collect items like Pokéballs, potions, incense and eggs. It’s important to have access to this gear to make it easier to catch wild Pokémon or heal your Pokémon after a battle. You use candies and stardust to continue to train your Pokémon and improve their level or evolve them to make them stronger. Players have to take time out from catching Pokémon and go find an actual Pokéstop location to get the items they need to prepare them for battle. You don’t want to turn the corner and encounter a rare Pokémon without a Pokéball to catch it. You don’t want to emerge from a battle without Potion or Revive to heal and restore the health of your Pokémon army.

Your global supplier network is akin to the international Pokémon you are catching, some of which you didn’t know existed, like sub-contractors, sub-tiers or obscure locations. It is important to reach out to all these nodes in your supply chain, understand them, bring them into your network and collect key information about their capabilities. Once you understand your suppliers’ strengths and weaknesses, you can then work strategically together to train them to become healthier, evolving them by using the information you’ve collected about them, to become more resilient. Similarly, the Potions and other tools that help you prepare to battle are akin to the intelligence and analytics you have about your supply base.

You become an integrated network: The more suppliers you bring into your network and the more resilient those suppliers are, the more powerful you are as a company. The more intelligence you have about your suppliers, the more prepared you will be to respond appropriately and effectively in a crisis situation or proactively to protect your company from the future impact of a crisis. Building this repository of data is not an insignificant task and takes time, planning and resources. However the return on investment is far superior to any initial cost your organization incurred. Having the right tools and data to get your suppliers up and running quickly pays for the initial investment in resiliency.




The lesson: Companies invest in supply chain resiliency solutions for revenue assurance. By having the right information and analytics around your supply chain, you can use it as a competitive advantage and protect your company’s growth targets.



Lesson 2: “Level up” your supply chain / trainer

Players earn experience points for various activities throughout the game, and are able to advance in levels as a trainer, or “level up”, as they progress and gain new experiences. At higher levels, you’ll have access to stronger items, such as the Great Balls, that will give you a better shot at catching Pokémon.  Each of these items in the game helps you improve yourself as a trainer. By implementing the correct strategies, you’ll grow your Pokémon collection and become one of the most powerful trainers in the augmented reality universe.

Your company’s Supply Chain Resiliency program advances in the same way. We find that companies that both proactively manage and reduce key risks, as well as have the information to respond quickly and intelligently in a crisis are the true leaders in this space. However, this doesn’t happen overnight. Most companies just embarking on their journey start with focusing on how to collect the N-Tier data to be able to manage a crisis situation effectively and work to develop solid crisis management capabilities. As companies mature, they start using the depth and breadth of data available to them and harness that intelligence to “level up” and proactively improve the known gaps in their supply chain. For example, to understand your N-Tier supply chain, you need to first start working with your Tier 1s to identify their suppliers, then work with the Tier 2s to map out their suppliers. N-Tier supply chain mapping is an iterative process and you get more information as you advance. Companies who have been investing in supply chain resiliency programs for years are now able to make conscious decisions to use low risk suppliers and parts as they build new products, an advanced concept called design for resiliency.



The lesson: Supply Chain Resiliency is a journey but you need to start somewhere. Develop a blueprint with goals and your risk thresholds and work to mitigate suppliers and parts/materials that fall outside of your risk tolerance. Keep discovering risk and work towards mitigating risk you cannot accept, and you will naturally see your company shift from being mainly reactive to developing the processes and tools to become a resilient enterprise.


Lesson 3: Harness the power of Mobile and real-time alerts

Unlike previous Pokémon games, Pokémon GO is a departure from Nintendo’s handheld consoles, and is intended for mobile use. The overwhelming response to this mobile game despite a myriad of bugs and endless service outages2 indicates how powerful and necessary having mobile access is in today’s on-the-go world. The game leverages many of the features of your mobile device like GPS and notifies you by vibrating when you encounter Pokémon nearby.

As a supply chain professional in today’s world, you’re almost never at your desktop. Whether you’re en route to visit a supplier or in front of one of your customers, it is important that your supply chain resiliency solution can support your mobile lifestyle. A best in class supply chain resiliency program must have a global monitoring and notification component that sends you well-researched, relevant and real-time event alerts, allowing your company to turn every crisis into an opportunity to grow, capture market share and get ahead of your competition.


The lesson: Mobile access is a non-negotiable. Make sure your supply chain resiliency solution allows you to track your key suppliers and receive event alerts, assess and manage a crisis any time, any place. 



 Lesson 4: Entice your employees and suppliers to be the best they can be

Pokémon GO players run around trying to catch all the different Pokémon available, they scour the earth to locate the next Pokémon, they join teams to beat opposing rivals in gyms and they earn medals and experience points every time they do something that advances them.

The real world works very much like this alter-universe. Your employees are working together towards your company’s business goals and to ensure your company is always one step ahead of the competition. Your preferred suppliers are willing to join forces with you to collaborate on areas of risk and work with you to improve that risk, regardless of the additional work to them. Both your employees and your suppliers appreciate recognition and like being incentivized for good behavior. Companies that have world-class supply chain resiliency programs don’t forget this key point. Do you have a supplier that consistently embraces transparency and provides you with the necessary information you need to manage supplier risk? Recognize that supplier in front of their peers at your next Supplier Appreciation Day. Consider adding resiliency metrics to your supplier scorecards to entice suppliers to work with you to improve risk. Is there a commodity manager that has identified gaps with suppliers they manage and proactively worked to mitigate those risks, protecting company revenue? Reward that employee with a spot bonus award or other incentive. These recognitions gives your suppliers and employees constant incentives to continue to progress along the mastery curve.



The lesson: Reward and incentivize your employees and suppliers who are working hard to improve gaps proactively. Celebrate the success of the work your integrated network accomplished as they jointly improve overall company resiliency.





Want to learn how Resilinc can provide you the solutions to build a best-in-class supply chain resiliency program?


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Topics: supply chain visibility, supply chain resiliency, supply chain risk management, mobile SCRM, multi-tier mapping, proactive risk mitigation