‘Best in Class’ Supply chain from a Road warrior perspective – Part 1

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Firstly, what is a supply chain road warrior? A supply chain road warrior works for a company that specializes in supply chain, spends many, many hours on a plane, uses lean principles when going through the security line, gets far too much satisfaction from collecting air miles and hotel points, is constantly wondering why the airlines have such antiquated software, can spot a casual traveler from a mile away, and is fixated on every situation where demand does not equal supply… or vice versa. The focus of this blog series is to share the insights I have gained during my 15 years as a supply chain road warrior. Having spoken to many companies, peeked inside their organizations, and worked alongside them during countless supply chain initiatives, I’ve built myself a bit of a list of what it means and what it takes to be best-in-class. Insight #1 – Your company culture Insight #2 – Your supply chain processes Insight #3 – Your supply chain measurements Insight #4 – Your supply chain technology Does being the best at a specific supply chain function — Demand Planning, Supply Planning, Inventory Planning, Order Fulfillment and S&OP—define a best in class supply chain? Process excellence is important but not enough. Let’s start with Insight #1. Insight #1 – Your company culture Your company culture defines your company – your goals, your values, and your mission statement. This directly affects your supply chain organization. In a Forbes article the writer talks about:

  • clarity of purpose
  • employee engagement
  • an environment of trust
  • continued learning

Most employees don’t necessarily look for a specific culture when job searching or even recognize the culture in their own companies. I recall writing a paper in university on ‘The Quality of Working Life’ and interviewing various industry leaders. It became very apparent that culture and organizational behavior have a significant impact on company and individual performance and are often undervalued. Company rating websites are providing potential employees with insights into a company’s culture, increasing the competitiveness of achieving employee satisfaction. Below are characteristics I have seen as a road warrior that demonstrate strong company culture in supply chain organizations:

  1. Concise communication of supply chain metrics displaying past, present and projected performance.
  2. Alignment of objectives linking individual goals to company goals using supply chain analytics.
  3. Collaborative decision making inside your company and with your trading partners.
  4. Embrace change, understanding that change is the only constant in supply chain.
  5. Decisions are tradeoffs and need to be evaluated based on their impact and the weighting of key performance metrics.
  6. Innovation through continued learning. People inherently want to do a good job. Great supply chain organizations provide their employees with the right training, tools and technology. I will talk more about technology in a later blog.

There are some interesting statistics that have shown that companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202% and that more than 1 in 4 employees do not have the tools to be successful in their jobs. It is also interesting to see how culture is projected as soon as you walk through the front doors of a company. My first business trip as a supply chain road warrior was to Pennsylvania visiting a scissor lift truck company. The lasting impression of this trip was the dark paneled walls in the conference room and the limited engagement of the audience during the meeting. There wasn’t any energy in the room. It was immediately apparent that they did not have a visionary that would lead the charge to supply chain transformation. In contrast, the companies leading in supply chain have a thirst for knowledge, and continuous improvement. We once asked a high tech company why they wanted to meet with us. They were known to have the best supply chain in their industry. Their answer was ‘We always want to remain one step ahead of the competition.’ Never be complacent.

In the next blog we will discuss supply chain processes and best practices as witnessed by a road warrior.


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