Interesting read on the impact of implementing the blockchain at a massive retailer like Wal-Mart. I think the second question you ask is the most challenging. Because of the massive number of components in the company’s supply chain, it would seem to be very difficult to get everyone on board. Wal-Mart’s key advantage here is its size, by virtue of which it can effectively force everyone to get on board. Even with this however, there’s going to be a significant adjustment period which will require a robust training pipeline for Wal-Mart’s suppliers and internal management. If blockchain is a new and intimidating technology for a student like me, it’s reasonable to think it will be the same for the thousands of employees at Wal-Mart. How the company addresses this challenge is key, and the answer to your first question may well be conditional on the second.
Healthcare is one of the trickiest of topics because it is the intersection of very significant number resources and decisions. Reflecting on digitization of the healthcare space, what’s interesting to note is that a significant amount of healthcare costs are the result of specific patient behaviors. Heart disease and Type II Diabetes in particular are often caused by specific lifestyle choices that individuals make. Digitization efforts that can motivate people to do what most doctors recommend (nutrition, exercise, limit alcohol intake, etc.) are probably the biggest leverage points for the system. Could wearable technology provide patients, providers, and insurers better feedback mechanisms to improve the population’s health? It would be interesting to see how health insurance pricing could be linked to motivating healthy behaviors.
Digitization of the supply chain for clothing manufacturers is an interesting challenge. 18 months seems like an awfully long time to bring a product to market in today’s world. Additionally it’s worth noting that, like Nike, the fundamental value proposition for Under Armour is the combination of performance products with quality branding/marketing. Their initial foray into the market with their heat gear products and great tagline ‘protect this house’ was best example of this. Specifically I would think about ways that they can use digitization to understand or shape consumer preferences, and then link the supply chain around that.
Fascinating look at the biggest player in the shipping market. Thinking about your prompt, I wonder what are the major cost drivers for the shipping industry? We’ve seen recently with the U.S. Navy the damage that can be caused by ship collisions. I don’t know how significant a problem this is for Maersk, but implementing a networked fleet could prevent similar occurrences. I also wonder about some of the key passage points for international shipping, e.g. the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal, and the Straits of Malacca. How could traffic be coordinated in a better manner through the use of digitization? Depending on various characteristics of the boat, spreading information and creating a market around access could increase the efficient flow of products around the globe.
Great questions to think about for REI as it progresses through a challenging time for brick and mortar retail. I don’t think their emphasis on green is necessarily a competitive disadvantage because the typical REI shopper doesn’t shop on price alone. Arguably the green emphasis induces shoppers to the store that would otherwise go elsewhere. Their primary focus on outdoor equipment makes environmental concerns a clear complement. Surely in isolation, you could see that green efforts effect the bottom line, but if using cheaper, traditional energy sources turns away customers, aren’t they making the right move?
Very interesting to read the follow on actions taking place at VW after the emissions scandal. Addressing the credibility issue, I don’t think this is as big a deal as it might seem. Several other automakers have encountered public scandals, e.g. Ford Pinto, and have come back just fine. I think the question moving forward for the company is whether they will produce automobiles that (1) customers want to buy and (2) the government will permit them to make. Addressing the electrification issue, if we suppose the company is already a late mover into the space, what’s the way for them to play? My suspicion is that they need to find ways to differentiate VW’s electrification efforts from those of the American and Japanese companies.