The Best Way To Add Value To Your Growing Business? Invest In Supply Chain Leadership
From the C-suite business leader to the multitasking entrepreneur, the temptation to compartmentalize business functions can be overwhelming. Having visibility and control of your business is paramount, but when you’re striving to delegate, manage quality assurance and minimize costs, keeping functions siloed can seem like the easiest path to success. This mindset is particularly prevalent in supply chain management.
Traditionally, supply chain functions were treated as individual aspects of the overall business strategy, used as reactive tools to influence the bottom line. But now, businesses are seeing the incredible advantage they can gain through strategic supply chain management and cross-functional leadership, streamlining the supply chain to flow value throughout an organization. As a result, supply chain professionals have become more front-facing and are moving out of their silos and into the C-suite.
To become C-suite leaders and chief supply chain officers (CSCOs), supply chain professionals need to retain their technical subject matter expertise while seeking greater overall business wisdom. They must demonstrate internal and external focus. They must build a supply chain that is responsive to and predictive of customer needs. They must maximize efficiency and reduce delivery time in an increasingly complex system. And they must do all of this while decreasing spending.
Best Practices For Big-Picture Supply Chain Success
How is it possible for one professional to succeed at such a seemingly impossible task? The new Association for Supply Chain Management, the largest nonprofit association for supply chain, has compiled five best practices. You as a business leader should keep them in mind as you help your supply chain professionals forge ahead in their careers, further optimize their day-to-day practices, secure a competitive advantage and positively influence the organization’s bottom line.
1. Adopt an enterprise-wide mindset. Supply chain positions are innately equipped with high visibility across various organizational sectors: sales, finance, research and development, customer support, and more. The savvy supply chain professional understands his or her responsibility to work well with these groups and should be prepared to communicate and negotiate, using past experience as leverage to strategize improvements. This visibility and history is extremely valuable, particularly when managing and encouraging others.
2. Think long-term. Small or large, companies must be scalable and capable of forecasting demand in a strategic and holistic manner. Planning is vital to any supply chain career, and, as supply chain professionals move up within their organizations and manage others, they must scale their own skills and push limits to take on larger projects. They must trust in their abilities and maintain an organized project pipeline to ensure all deadlines are met and tasks are delegated appropriately.
More broadly, these leaders should focus on sales forecasts, looking two to three years ahead. They must identify any potential risks to the plan and develop backup strategies to address them.
Lastly, supply chain professionals should ensure stakeholders and partners in all departments have the tools and information they need to meet specifications and realize the business’s vision.
3. Encourage workforce development. To move the organization beyond technical competency, supply chain leaders must encourage professional development and embrace opportunities for the organization as a whole to gain the advanced management skills necessary for today’s successful business.
They should look to organizations such as ASCM, which can help build configured talent development programs that align with corporate needs within the supply chain function and the functions that enable it — finance, IT, product management and engineering, for example.
4. Keep sustainability at the forefront. Ten years ago, sustainable supply chain knowledge was a nice-to-have; now it’s a must-have.
According to a 2018 study by Deloitte, “Millennials want leaders to more aggressively commit to making a tangible impact on the world while preparing their organizations and employees for the changes that Industry 4.0 is effecting.” As supply chain leaders address employee and customer concerns, they must look to specialized resources that will help evolve systems, such as the SCOR-Enterprise designation, which is the industry’s first and only corporate supply chain designation that includes an ecological dimension.
By pursuing additional training in this realm, supply chain teams can improve their circular economy capacities; their climate strategies; their energy, water, waste and material usage; and their product life cycle stewardship.
5. Invest in technology. Some would say we are in the midst of the next industrial revolution, and CSCOs should keep an eye on smart manufacturing platforms to enhance productivity, provide preventive maintenance and unite key stakeholder groups.
Technology-powered manufacturing platforms can help achieve this through the use of artificial intelligence, mesh technology and data analytics. When it comes to technology within the supply chain, more users create more connections, leading to more opportunities for success.
Supply chain professionals are gaining prominence in businesses everywhere — and increasingly with larger corporations. From Apple to General Motors, CSCOs, with their technical know-how and business leadership skills, are taking their place at the decision-making table and uniting not just supply chain functions, but also company-wide business functions. This unique position has the potential to influence the bottom line in a massive way, giving the organizations that embrace this front-facing supply chain leadership approach a competitive edge.