What does a dysfunctional supply chain look like? How about one that's perfectly coordinated and runs like clockwork? Ask any of the 700-plus attendees at software company RedPrairie's 14th annual RedShift user conference, and they'll probably tell you that there are a lot of rubber balls involved.
The opening session of the conference, held in mid-May in Scottsdale, Ariz., began with a kinetic demonstration of different stages of supply chain management. "Remember when supply chains were simple and linear?" asked a narrator, while a line of dancers placidly passed red rubber balls across the stage. But as time passed, the narrator continued, there suddenly seemed to be "a lot more balls in the air," such as international sourcing, demands for data, and increased speed to market. More dancers appeared, and balls began to fly everywhere; the panicked performers attempted to catch, throw, and juggle them all—a situation, the narrator said, that made it "easy to drop the ball" in your supply chain.
But then technology entered the picture, in the form of red-suited acrobats outfitted with springs on their feet. These high flyers fostered "agility, velocity (our favorite), responsiveness, and collaboration." Under their direction, the dancers on stage moved into a new formation, handing off the balls in a complex but perfectly synchronized web pattern. The scenario ended with everyone on stage lifting their balls to the sound of a triumphal, Wagnerian climax.
So the next time your boss asks you why you need to buy supply chain software, go out and buy a bunch of rubber balls ...