The Advisory Board of the Global Supply Chain Institute at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, met in Chicago on July 23, 2014. The group consisted of 25 senior level executives. Companies represented included some of the largest retailers and manufacturers in the industry. When asked what issues weighed on their minds, they stressed the following eight topics:
Having the right people in the right positions is the key to everything else. All companies need better processes to assess, identify, recruit, develop and retain top talent, especially since supply chain talent is increasingly scarce.
Whether manufacturers or retailers, the executives felt the urgency to better understand the current and future needs of their customers. They understand that their customers should lead their supply chain strategies and they know that their customers should be better educated on the cost-service tradeoffs.
Given the increasing volatility in the global environment, the group understood the urgent need to plan and prepare for increased supply chain agility. Postponement is one of many enablers of supply chain agility.
Supply chain senior executives know they need to stay current with technology on many fronts, from warehouse and transportation management systems to network optimization tools and inventory planning systems.
Cost reduction will always be a priority and supply chain executives know their companies expect them to take the lead in that area, while still improving service. They know that they need to be more creative and proactive. They also understand that they must reduce cost while simultaneously redesigning their supply chains and leveraging the global environment.
Regulations and Infrastructure:
Although not the most exciting topics, executives know they need to find efficient ways to comply with the growing list of regulations, as well as the crumbling transportation infrastructure.
Supply chain executives understand they should have a better process to identify, prioritize and mitigate supply chain risks that can seriously damage their companies. Even weather must be considered, especially given the extreme challenges of last winter.
It's time to develop a serious supply chain sustainability strategy. A growing number of companies, including several represented in the room, had already begun that effort.
J. Paul Dittman, PhD, is executive director of the Global Supply Chain Institute at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.