Year 2020, however difficult and chaotic, was the year that showed everyone how important the supply chain community is to keep the world running. The only reason we did not face food shortages under the widespread lockdowns was because the supply chain professions worked tirelessly, globally, to keep the supply chains running and ensure we get all the necessary goods for our daily livelihoods. We should all say a big thanks to all of them, and this opinion piece by Radu Palamariu, MD Asia Pacific, Alcott Global and the Global Head of Supply Chain & Logistics Practice, presents a blueprint for the future supply chain managers to move up the ladder.
LEARNINGS THAT COVID-19 PANDEMIC HAS BROUGHT FOR THE SUPPLY CHAIN PROFESSIONALS…
The need for an internal pre-existence BCP (Business Continuity Plan) team and Logistics Business Continuity Plan that supports overall company goals and objectives was quite evident and the most impactful lesson that Covid taught us. What this phase taught us is that supply chain managers should have the operational network readiness to change modes and routings flexibly to avoid transportation modes and routings constraints faced due to countries locked down/transport space capacity constraints. Covid taught us the importance of greater digitization and connectivity as more employees work from home and maintain social distancing. The enablement of an integrated visibility tool (eg: operations dashboards) will help facilitate decision makings in planning and execution remotely. Besides, there are following pointers managers must consider:
There needs to be a greater diversity in supplier bases for critical parts.
Companies should consider dual sourcing/ localization strategies and build logistics support strategies around it.
Consider warehouse space buffers and scalability against supply chain disruptions (ie to cater for early pull - in of materials in anticipation of countries lockdown).
Consider a more distributed manufacturing and warehousing strategy to reduce sole dependency on one site.
BIGGEST CHALLENGES THE INDUSTRY WILL FACE IN THE NEXT 5 YEARS…
To me, attracting and retaining the right talent will be the main challenge. We need to make supply chain a “sexy” profession to work in so that the young generation will want to be part of. The fight for the brightest minds is now across all industries. As one example, we all know “data is the new oil”. Everyone wants data scientists and analysts to make their businesses better. From Google, Facebook to logistics companies, to shipping companies, to manufacturing companies, the only way to beat technology companies is to improve your company and industry brand. Moreover, statistics showing the talent crunch in supply chain are numerous. Companies need to put in place talent development programmes, constantly upskills their people and give them opportunities to grow and develop. This way they will retain them. People stay where they get taken care of and developed!
TOP SKILLS THAT COMPANIES LOOK FOR HIRING SUPPLY CHAIN PROFESSIONALS
Supply chain network design wizards: With so many challenges in capacity in airfreight and sea freight, thinking out of the box and redesigning your networks is a must. Data analytics skills to extract insights and know what to do
Thunder fast implementation skills of digital technology: The implementation cycles have shorten from years to months and even weeks.
Swiss army knife skills: Versatile professionals that can think on their feet, adapt fast and weather any storm.
KEY SKILLSETS NEW AGE SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGERS NEED TO MAKE IT TO C-SUITE IN SUPPLY CHAIN…
The key is the soft skills, supply chain executives need to focus on a number of essential areas:
Communication and storytelling skills: We have extremely capable talent in the SCM community, that can get stuff done. The main challenge is that they sometimes are not that good in telling the story behind the value they bring to the organisation. How they help the company be more effective and serve clients better. Why supply chain is so vital. This is key for the CEO, the board or any other executive in the company to understand the value of supply chain professional and for the supply chain professional to get promoted.
Leadership and team building skills: These are the basic, fundamental skills of any person in a managerial role. But again, many professionals need to work on this. The only way to get things done in an executive role is by and through people, by building diverse and great teams. It is not by being a great individual contributor. That never works in a senior role!
Ability to be both hands-on and strategic: Forget the idea of a manager sitting in a fancy office and giving orders. That is not a leader. It has never been! To be effective in these chaotic times where a crisis is always on, you need to be in the field of battle, next to the team and show the way when necessary. Cheer and encourage from the front as well as have the ability to step back, see the big picture and act for the long-term benefit of the company.