The APQC Blog

Why is Reddit So Excited About Supply Chain Visualization?

Why is Reddit So Excited About Supply Chain Visualization?

Five thousand upvotes and counting. Dozens of Reddit awards (which, by the way, are purchased with real money). Hundreds of back-and-forth comments full of inside jokes, controversy, and sheer enthusiasm.* No, I’m not talking about the latest viral video or meme—I’m talking about a supply chain visualization tool. 

* Less than 12 hours after I first wrote this blog, the post on Reddit is up to over 60,000 upvotes, more than 400 Reddit awards, and more than 2,000 comments...and counting.

David Applegate reports that he spent the last eight months building ImportYeti, a free tool that allows anyone to visualize U.S. companies’ international supply chains. The tool is built on bill-of-lading data from U.S. customs that is publicly available but was too expensive and difficult for most to acquire. ImportYeti makes this information easy to obtain (and relatively easy to understand) for anyone. 

Reddit users are showering Applegate with praise and begging for more, and if you scroll through the comments, it’s easy to see why:

  • “I will absolutely be using this as my go-to for checking where companies source their products, especially those that claim they’re made in the USA”
  • “You should create browser plug-in that could surface this data and maybe mix it with company ratings on social issues”
  • “Have you thought about plugging this to the guys over at r/wallstreetbets? [the subreddit made famous for the Gamestop short squeeze]”
  • "Gotta say that this could upend entire industries"

When today’s average Joe makes a purchase or an investment decision, he’s thinking about supply chains. He wants to know where the parts in that product came from, and whether the companies he’s investing in align with his values. People cared about corporate sustainability and social responsibility before, but now—thanks in large part to COVID-19 introducing millions to the term “supply chain”—they have a new way to think about it. People are demanding information about organizations’ supply chains, and if companies won’t give it up, they’ll find it with tools like ImportYeti. The message to supply chain organizations is clear: “We’re watching you!” 

The good news is that many supply chain leaders saw this coming. APQC’s 2021 Supply Chain Challenges and Priorities survey found that environment, social, and corporate governance (ESG) is the second-biggest trend expected to impact supply chains in the near term—followed closely by blockchain, which is a key enabler of greater supply chain traceability and sustainability. The bad news is that our survey also found supply chain leaders are feeling pressure from multiple directions, and at the same time, their budgets for new initiatives and technologies are looking less generous this year. 

Thus, 2021’s ESG and supply chain visibility challenges must be solved through holistic solutions, not one-off initiatives. To that end, I’d recommend Supply Chain Planning: Blueprint for Success. This resource provides the benchmarks and guidance you’ll need to optimize processes, governance, infrastructure, and policies across supply chain planning. That foundation will be key to meeting the needs of executives, internal and external stakeholders, and that supply chain-savvy average Joe.