Putting a Shine on Supply Chain’s Image!

Putting a Shine on Supply Chain's Image

For many of those who work in Supply Chain they know that there is a lot of excitement in working in this field. It’s time for putting a shine on Supply Chain’s image.

The diverse career paths and responsibilities, the involvement in most aspects of a company’s tactical and strategic activities, and the opportunity to be at the forefront of future change and technological advancements all make Supply Chain exciting.

But for many who work outside Supply Chain, who are new to the work force, or even those who work in the field there can be an outdated or tarnished image of what working in Supply Chain means.

It’s time to make everyone aware of the prospects and future opportunities in Supply Chain and putting a shine on that image.

Why can Supply Chain be Perceived Poorly?

First I’d like to say that not everything in Supply Chain, or any job or profession for that matter, is all wine and roses.

Any job in any company in any industry in any country has its ups and downs. There are good days and bad days. There are great parts of the job and there are crappy parts of the job.

For those who are looking to move to another job or career path because they perceive that the grass is greener on the other side I would only say that grass is grass. Sometimes just making a job change is good, but sometimes it’s not. Problems go with the territory no matter what you do.

That being said Supply Chain is an area that has not always had the respect of the other functions in a company because of the tasks that they do, where they do them, and a failure of Executives to realize the strategic value of the area.

The word “chain” also suggests for some negative images of what working in such an area may involve.

Supply Chain includes functions such as:

  • Procurement and Purchasing, where a lot of activity is associated with placing and managing purchase orders and dealing with Suppliers and all of the issues that come with Suppliers.
  • Warehousing and Distribution, where buildings full of racking, fork trucks, equipment, and boxes are often associated with dust and dirt and grime.
  • Inventory Management, wherein employees have to cycle count parts.
  • Product Data Management, where people have to receive, input and manage enormous amounts of data and databases in order to allow a company to run
  • Planning, where demand has to be loaded into ERP systems and often massaged or updated based on forecasting issues and errors.

For many people these activities may not seem that important even though they are necessary. Further people may construe that these activities are not much different than manufacturing assembly line jobs involving the manual processing and handling of goods and paper and data.

Loftier functions such as Sales, Marketing and Engineering can be perceived to be the core of a company’s mission. Sales brings in revenue. Marketing establishes the brand. And Engineering designs the products and services which determine what a company does. Supply Chain may not even report directly to the CEO in some companies.

To the uninitiated or uninformed Supply Chain jobs may seem to involve no technology at all. They involve handling boxes and skus and shuffling pieces of paper around. As such it can be perceived that there is no intellectual aspect to these jobs. They are mundane and mindless.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Supply Chain is the engine, and a huge part of the heart and brain, that makes most any company run! Let’s start putting a shine on that image.

Supply Chain Rise and Shine!

For anyone working in E-Commerce or Retail they know that the Supply Chain engine is at the very core of their service offering and capability, the customer experience and their growth and success.

Think about companies like Amazon, Walmart and Alibaba, et al and how they work.

Potential customers go online to order goods. If the inventory levels aren’t right there is an immediate customer problem. If the delivery offerings (eg. same day or next day delivery), estimated delivery dates, and shipping costs aren’t acceptable then a customer will just click out and go to another company.

If the customer places an order they expect to be able to track where there goods are and when they will arrive. When their package arrives they want to open it and see the package carefully wrapped and free of any defects or quality issues. And if, for any reason, they want to return their goods they expect to be able to do this easily and hassle-free.

So who makes all of this happen for the customers?


Now think of it from the perspective of being inside the company.

Most of the cost of goods sold expense is from purchases made from suppliers of goods and services, controlled by Supply Chain. That means that the ability of the Supply Chain/Procurement team to negotiate successfully and competitively has a profound impact on the profitability and competitiveness of any company.

All of the inventory levels, controls, and turnover is managed by Supply Chain. That also means all of the terms and conditions and parameters for delivery, including things such as lead times, cycle times, MOQs, vendor managed inventory (VMI) programs, order management activity and more are all under the direct control of Supply Chain. Inventory will affect cash levels, delivery performance, profitability and return on investment like no other asset.

In fact most of the cash position of the company is determined by inventory and accounts payable which are controlled by Supply Chain. Any company will live or die based on its cash position which means Supply Chain is eminently important.

Many of the service offerings and capabilities of the company are determined by Supply Chain. As discussed above in our E-Commerce example, most of the processes and mechanisms surrounding the order management, fulfillment and delivery capabilities all begin with design and execution by Supply Chain.

Most future technologies that will be critical to the growth of any company are also based on Supply Chain strategic development and deployment. Blockchain, the Internet of Things, 3D Printing, Autonomous vehicles, Big Data, Advanced Analytics and more all are rooted in Supply Chain. The ability of Supply Chain to develop these strategies is central to any company success.

Many of the jobs that have been historically highly manual and repetitive, and have contributed to a diminished view of Supply Chain, will be increasingly displaced by automation, artificial intelligence and advanced analytics.

And no organization in any company has a better holistic view of the end to end operation of the entire enterprise than Supply Chain. From customers to internal operations to suppliers Supply Chain touches them all. The proper design and functioning of these processes requires Supply Chain intellect. End to End connectivity of the Supply Chain is also a requisite capability for any company, enabled by many of the technologies we’ve mentioned above.

And Supply Chain is being positioned higher and higher in the company hierarchy. The Chief Supply Chain Officer, the Chief Procurement Officer, the Chief Operations Officer are growing in importance and rank for any company serious about their growth and future. Even the CEO position increasingly requires someone with a background in Supply Chain.

On top of that an increasing number of educational institutions and professional organizations are offering Supply Chain degree programs and accreditations. There is a growing recognition of the importance and value in this field. Now we are putting a shine on that image.

Putting a Shine on Supply Chain’s Image

Supply Chain is an exciting career path for anyone.

As mentioned before any job has its ups and downs and good and bad parts. Stress and challenges are too be expected anywhere. Supply Chain is no exception.

But most any part of Supply Chain has phenomenal potential no matter what your interests may be. No day is the same and there is always something new happening no matter what job you are doing.

It’s time for putting a shine on Supply Chain, Procurement, Purchasing, Logistics, Distribution, Planning, Management and more!

Originally published on July 9, 2019.
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