There’s no crying in supply chain… and other lessons from Kinexions ‘19

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There’s no crying in supply chain. Except when there is. Working in this industry is tough. The challenges are large. The pressure to cut costs, improve efficiency and keep customers happy even more so. Despite all that, this past week at Kinexions ’19 in Orlando, Florida, I was reminded once again how enriching, inspiring and fun (yes, fun!) working in this industry can be. The annual conference held by Kinaxis for its users and supply chain innovators is always a highlight for me. For the past five years, I’ve had the privilege of connecting with customers, prospects and partners at this event. Understanding their triumphs and tribulations. Sharing in their passion and joy. Witnessing year-over-year how they do things with our software, and within their supply chains, I never dreamed possible.

Supply chain is a team sport

This year was the most motivating yet. And it all started with one simple phrase: supply chain is a team sport. Everyone is in this together. Not just across your own company, but across everyone who has chosen to make this thrilling, frustrating and rewarding thing called supply chain their career. There was ample evidence of that everywhere I looked at Kinexions. Companies and individuals sharing best practices and lessons learned, in breakout sessions, on the mainstage and even during meals. Across industries and within them, everyone at the event put aside the pressures of the bottom line and competitive rivalries to find new ways of managing supply chains. It’s in the sharing of stories about the craft we love that lets us all learn. Both of the keynote speakers at Kinexions spoke about the power of teamwork. Eight-time NBA All-Star Steve Nash, had wise words to share about the importance of having passion for what you do, and staying positive and supporting your team on those rough days. Adventure Racing World Champion Robyn Benincasa made a strong case why the secret to success is to not play as an individual, but to play as a team. What we all learned from Benincasa is that sometimes, you just need to completely change the way the game is played. It’s about doing what it takes to win, not just lose. For supply chains, that means focusing on the one true purpose of all supply chains. Eliminating waste.

Supply chain is about eliminating waste

Every layer of pavement that stands between my feet and the earth. Every forest made of skyscrapers instead of century-old trees. Every time I look at the night sky and see the artificial glow of streetlights instead of twinkling stars. I realize how precious the world around us is. And how much our wasteful ways are harming it. As Kinaxis CEO John Sicard called out in his opening remarks, “Everything we do, every action we take, is to eliminate waste.” Wasted time. Wasted opportunities. Wasted resources. Together we can change supply chain—and the world. What does it take to eliminate those kinds of waste from your supply chain?

  • Enable transparency: You can’t trust what you can’t see. That’s why it’s so important that planners trust the tools they’re using, including the results of any automated processes or machine learning-based algorithms. Trust goes a long way in reducing time wasted on digging through data just to ensure the answer your system generated is the right one. But it’s not enough just to trust the technology. You have to trust the people you work with too – both inside and outside of your organization. That means holding shared goals, working from a common plan and having visibility into what others are doing. That’s how you foster trust across your supply chain.
  • Achieve hyper-agility with accuracy: As Kinaxis Co-Founder Duncan Klett said during a panel discussion at Kinexions, “Delay in response is the real killer of supply chain efficiency.” Creating the perfect plan is impossible. Responding quickly to the unexpected doesn’t have to be. That agility to respond to any change—big or small—within your supply chain helps eliminate wasted time, and wasted resources by letting you know sooner, and act faster to avoid disruptions that can lead to expedites, excess inventory or lost revenue.
  • Drive autonomous efficiency: How much of your day as a planner is spent chasing yesterday’s issues instead of getting ahead of tomorrow’s opportunities? Automation doesn’t have to be a dirty word. It’s not about replacing planners – it’s about empowering them. To take back their time. To take back their passion. And to take back their lives and have a little fun again.

Supply chain can be fun

Supply chain planning often gets a bad rap—painted as a boring, stagnant career choice. Yet the reality is it’s one of the hottest, most in-demand careers around. And one of the most fun! For every graduate coming out of a supply chain program, there are six open positions. That’s a heck of a lot of opportunities to go out and find a company where you can make your mark, help eliminate waste and change the game of supply chain forever. Still don’t believe me about the fun factor? A quick review of some of my Twitter shares from Kinexions ’19 embedded in this post will tell you otherwise. The first-ever supply chain seventh-inning stretch. The first-ever supply chain wave. Or the first-ever supply chain conga line. Thanks for another amazing Kinexions and the opportunity to live, laugh, learn and share with you. See everyone next year in Austin, TX!

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