When I Grow Up I Want To Be a Chief Supply Chain Officer

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Even with the term, “Supply Chain” being around for 30 years now, not too many parents have ever heard their kids proclaim, “I want to be a CSCO when I grow up”.

As one presenter at the latest CSCO Summit held in Chicago on November 29th and 30th, observed, “Supply Chain is not sexy.” Even Finance and IT draw more youth to their respected fields than careers in Supply Chain. Maybe Supply Chain has always been the black sheep of the company family, the necessary evil, the cost of doing business. Although this was only the second CSCO Summit held by the IE Group, it became evident early in the presentations that Supply Chains are playing an increasingly integral part in the profitability and competitiveness of today’s leading companies. A key theme that emerged from the 2 days of presentations was that companies need a Supply Chain strategy, not just to drive out costs but as one presenter put it, drive “Shareholder Value”. During Randy Kesterson’s presentation on “Achieving Supply Chain Excellence Through Continuous Improvement”, he challenged the audience to think about their own supply chain strategies and continuously think about how to better “serve and respond”. Mr. Kesterson observed that some of the difficulty with Supply Chain improvement activities is that Supply Chains are so cross-functional. The need for Organizational Change Management is essential for any sustained improvements in Supply Chain. Supply Chain Excellence, as highlighted by a number of other speakers, means that by being prepared to respond, companies can take advantage of business opportunities that may not have been “part of the plan”. Speaking of “the plan”, what was part of the plan yesterday is much different than today. There were many discussions on the risks associated with today’s supply chain and the need for both optimistic and pessimistic views of the plan. One presentation was dedicated to the risk associated with IP theft, piracy and corruption. For demand and supply balancing, receiving counterfeit materials is as bad as scrap and worse than simply late orders, but all part of the “new plan” for some companies. The final panel session did a great job of tying presentations on Supply Chain Excellence and Supply Chain Risk together by asking the tough question, “How Do We Increase Supply Chain Flexibility and Manage Risk at the Same Time?” This was a timely topic since what we’ve heard until this point is that “2 out of 3 process improvements fail” and we are dealing with risks that we never could have imagined. There were a number of strategies discussed and the conversations made it all worth the price of admission but it was clear that the Supply Chain professionals are now getting their well deserved seat at the “C” level table. Supply Chains are defining the difference between profit and loss. The take away from all of this is that risk and volatility are the new norm and must be accepted in order to drive the right supply chain strategy. With this kind of responsibility and challenge, soon kids all over the world will in fact be jumping at the chance to join the ranks of Supply Chain Professionals, striving for that elusive position of Chief Supply Chain Officer. In the meantime, any company would be well served by participating in the CSCO Summit to share best practices in Supply Chain Excellence. If you attended this one, please let us know what you heard. Hope to see you at the next one.


Trevor Miles
- December 12, 2012 at 5:13am
Hi Bill

Thanks for these observations. I don't know what will make Supply Chain Management 'sexy' again, but it sure is a critical component of Operations, and therefore sustainable financial performance.

I was a bit surprised by the title of the panel: “How Do We Increase Supply Chain Flexibility and Manage Risk at the Same Time?” I would have thought that a key way of managing risk is by being flexible. I guess the nuance is that anyone can be reasonably flexible, but at what cost? Without stretching semantics too far, I use the term agility to bring together the concepts of flexibilty and profitability.It is by being agile that we get sustainable financial performance.

Nancy Beckman
- December 30, 2012 at 1:30pm
"Supply Chain Excellence...means that by being prepared to respond, companies can take advantage of business opportunities that may not have been “part of the plan”."

That kind of agility can really set a company apart. The "plan" has to be able to adapt, evolve and change to meet demands and respond to risk as needed. You can't plan for every possible outcome but you can plan to plan.

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