Breakthrough innovation in the graphics supply chain through integrated solutions.
Creating the right balance between shorter term, marginal gains programs (the 10% mind-set) and longer-term programs that challenge the status quo (the 10x mind-set) is key to achieving a successful innovation program.
It’s very easy to focus too much on the short-term probable and profitable things and miss the bigger opportunities. Too easy to look at the competitors in your industry and the tools used in your industry and try and squeeze more out of the same thing. Doing this gives you a view on what’s probable.
Unfortunately, most companies are organized and focused on the probable/profitable short term, and therefore miss the potential of breakthrough innovation that comes from being focused on the possible. This is frequently how well-established category leaders miss opportunities that transform their categories.
Looking outside into other industries and markets provides a window into the possible. We had a desire to create something new. To create a new category – a new offering that provided more value to our clients than the sum of its parts. To do this, we looked outside the graphics industry.
We took our inspiration from several sources – Keurig Green Mountain, Rolls Royce, General Electric, Boeing, and Lufthansa to name a few. Companies who were providing innovative combinations of technology, products and services as high-value unified responses to their clients’ needs.
The graphics arts industry is a pretty crowded place to be, with thousands of agencies ranging from the industry giants with turnovers of $900m down to the boutique agencies employing just a handful of people.
Even narrowing down “graphic arts” to the sector that we operate in – packaged goods and the associated value chain, which extends from packaging, through retail, on-line retail and promotions (what we call the Connected Moment of Truth [CMOT]) – the market is still crowded with design agencies, localization service providers and pre-press suppliers, all competing across the different service categories and ultimately providing a management headache for the brand owner.
Figure 1: The connected moment of truth service offering
The solution we created provided a whole new approach to the process of creating and localizing assets across the CMOT supply chain – from promotion through to packaging and from physical products to digital.
Our approach means that our clients are buying guaranteed solutions for trouble-free operations. The onus is on us as an Integrated Service Provider to identify and solve each client’s business problem by providing services to design, integrate, operate and finance an end to end delivery platform.
|Systems Integration||Operational Services||Business consultancy||Vendor financing|
|One platform for project visibility and workflow tasks
Integrated portal for management of the supply chain vendors
Asset delivery system into the end delivery supply chains
Localization and production
Translation and Transcreation
|Continuous improvement program (10%)
Innovation program (10x)
Coordination across the whole vendor base
|One invoice to the Tier 1 vendor|
Figure 2: The table summarizes the service capabilities for integrated solutions
The solution combined our unique network platform, where all our studios, and those of the chosen partner network, are linked on what is essentially a global file system, meaning a whole new approach to collaboration, sharing and co-working at the asset level. This network platform enables Spark to provide regional account management teams, working in the same time zones as the client, and a follow the sun operational model using either our own teams or those of the partner network. We can work with highly locked down, secure and confidential projects in a totally safe way (the platform is ISO27001 compliant) – and yet still offer round the clock operations with a specialist network of partners.
Figure 3: Network alliance model
Our first implementation of this platform wasn’t for the faint hearted. We were approached by a global category leader – in fact one of the biggest companies in the world- to participate in an RFP they were conducting in this space.
A key statement in their RFP was “we are looking at how we can change process for the better and increase innovation to allow us to deal with future scale and complexity”.
The initial financial impact to the client was in the millions of $’s, with direct cost savings being experienced not only in the graphics services space, but also the connected supply chains and the program and project management areas.
Figure 4: Typical single product launch
Today, their internal groups and partners are benefiting not only from these lower service costs but also from the reduction in lead times. SLA’s that were in the tens of weeks are now down to single weeks, and lead times that were around the 4-5-week mark are now down to days, giving their product and marketing teams much more agility.
Giving those teams more time back, means enabling quality time for marketers and brand teams to make better decisions about product. It means not forcing decision making as early in the product process as it used to which has huge value to the organization.
The client found that the integrated approach meant that because we were providing both the services (either directly or through the network of partners) and the systems, we could better understand their requirements. When they said, they needed a workflow system that was going to be global, work across multiple business groups, with multiple product types, we got to the answers much faster than expected.
Previously the client had managed many vendors themselves and this level of innovation just hadn’t been possible. In one example, we delivered savings worth several millions of dollars on a single project due to the integrated nature of the solution.
The partner network model we use facilitates innovation across the whole partner network. In the example we are using here, the client benefited from increased efficiency and innovation, without losing the core product knowledge of their existing vendor base. Some, but not all, of the existing vendors were bought into the new partner network, retaining critical product knowledge but now working through a common tools platform and aligned to achieve further innovations, channeled through our model.
Our solution can help any brand owner in the packed goods space. As the levels of complexity and regulation increase for a brand owner, the benefit of this solution increase. High volumes of packaging SKU’s, complex content that needs to be the same across all delivery channels, a high degree of localization, either regulated markets or products where regulations play an important part in compliance, high levels of competition and the need to run secure and confidential projects in a much faster timeframe. All these factors enable our solution to make a significant impact to a client’s business.
Bernie Bingham is the Managing Director of Spark.
Contact him at email@example.com