Five Things Supply Chain Pros Must Know

Earlier this year, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Global Supply Chain Institute hosted a group of senior supply chain executives from its advisory board to talk about “what supply chain professionals really need to know.” These advisory board members range from VPs of supply chain to CEOs from 40 companies, such as Amazon, Disney, Dell, P&G, Kimberly Clark, Colgate, Johnson and Johnson, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, Boeing, Caterpillar, Nissan, Lowe’s, and Walgreens. This industry input is used to help UT design its executive-level MBA and non-degree educational programs, such as its new Global Supply Chain Executive MBA.

“The skill sets required by supply chain professionals certainly have changed dramatically from a decade ago,” said J. Paul Dittmann, PhD, executive director of the Global Supply Chain Institute at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “Then, the supply chain leader in most companies held a title such as vice president of logistics. It was a largely functional role that relied on technical proficiency in discrete areas: knowledge of shipping routes, familiarity with warehousing equipment and distribution-center locations and footprints, and a solid grasp of freight rates and fuel costs. That individual reported to the chief operating officer or chief financial officer, had few prospects of advancing further, and had no exposure to the executive committee. The skill set needed by the modern supply chain executive has changed dramatically.”

From its advisory board discussions, UT identified five core competencies today’s supply chain professionals need to master:

1. Global Business Leadership and Acumen

Supply chain professionals need to be able to effectively operate in the increasingly fast-moving international environment. They need to be comfortable and adaptable in dealing with disparate cultures. They need to fully comprehend how global risk plays out for their business and be adept at dealing with the long lead times inherent in the international marketplace. They must also know the basic supply chain fundamentals associated with global logistics, such as how to optimize import and export flows, how to source globally, and how to deal with global labor issues.

2. Transformational Capabilities

Supply chain professionals must get things done on-time and on-budget while delivering breakthrough results. As the bar constantly rises, skills in change management, project management, communication, negotiation, and talent management become paramount.

3. Integrated Business Planning

Supply chain professionals must find a way to integrate the operations side of the company with its demand side and embrace demand and supply integration concepts, such as sales and operations planning. They must also help develop collaboration initiatives with suppliers and customers and learn to plan the end-to-end supply chain.

4. Mastery of the Integrated Value Chain

In planning the end-to-end supply chain, supply chain professionals must be proficient in customer segmentation, product design, supply chain design, and optimization.

5. Link Supply Chain Performance to Organizational Success

Beyond knowledge of material flows, supply chain professionals need expertise in information and financial flows. And to sustain that performance, they must design a metrics framework that drives the right behavior and processes that deliver world-class results in product availability at the lowest possible cost and working capital levels.

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