A Real-World Look at SCM

Supply chain management (SCM) promises to become even more challenging in the months and years ahead. how are professionals in this field coping with the stresses of performing in a tough economy? And what do they see as the keys to success for the future? For the answers, the authors went to the front lines—the logistics and supply chain managers who do the job every day.

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What’s ahead for supply chain professionals?  What are the challenges and opportunities that will confront them in the next few years?  To answer these questions, we interviewed a select group of supply chain and logistics executives.  We wanted to know their opinions on the current business climate and their expectations for the future.  The accompanying sidebar to this article describes the research design and provides details about the participants.  While we realize that generalizations should be made with caution, the participants represent a broad range of businesses in a variety of industries and perform a range of job assignments.  They also collectively represent a considerable number of years of experience directly relating to the impact areas we wanted to study.  Approximately one-half hold positions of senior managers or directors with the balance at the vice president level or higher.  They know what they are talking about!

Two general themes were voiced consistently in the interviews.  First, there seemed to be an overall feeling of uncertainty as to what will happen next.  The managers we interviewed realize they can’t just take a “wait and see” approach, but they were somewhat hesitant about making big changes.  It’s not so much that they were negative; rather, they were unsure.  Second, and not unexpectedly, the economy represented a major concern.  Recent economic conditions have influenced everything from pulling back on collaborations with trading partners to re-thinking sourcing decisions and general resource allocations.  In many instances, proposed initiatives haven’t received the necessary support internally.  Therefore, the survey participants said, many of their companies have resorted to “band-aid” approaches to problem solving as opposed to really fixing things.

The interviews were organized around three specific high profile, high impact areas: technology, talent, and sourcing.  The three areas were identified as high priority during earlier discussions with supply chain leaders.  Although there’s overlap and connections among the three areas, each will be discussed separately.

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