Supply chain leaders set sights on three areas

28 May 2013

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28 May 2013 | Rebecca Ellinor

Talent, smarter growth and attaining the next level of performance are the three standout areas of focus for supply chain leaders this year.

Researchers at Gartner found these are the common trends for those ahead of the pack. Among those in the lead are Apple, McDonald's, Amazon, Intel and Unilever, according to the company's Supply Chain Top 25, as reported by SM on Friday.

Stan Aronow, research director at Gartner, said leading supply chain organisations are going beyond specific talent initiatives to look at the fundamentals of motivation in their supply chain teams. “For them, it’s about igniting passion and excitement for the work. These organisations use terms such as wanting to be a ‘destination company’ or ‘employer of choice’ in supply chain. They're finding ways to connect individual activity not only to their corporate goals, but to a larger aspirational goal.”

These companies areinvesting time and resources in expanded university relationships, rotational programmes, enhanced career progression planning specific to supply chain, multi-channel learning options, supply chain certification programmes, supply chain leadership development and more. 

Against a backdrop of slow growth, many companies might have been expected to slip back to focusing on delivering cost reductions and efficiency gains, but according to Gartner supply chain leaders are embracing “a new imperative for growth”.

Managing vice president Debra Hofman, said: “At leading companies in diverse industries, the supply chain organisation is no longer narrowly focused on driving efficiencies and cost cutting. It sees itself – and is seen by its CEO – as a growth enabler.

“Part of ‘getting smarter’ about growth is partnership across the business. Leading high-tech and consumer product companies for instance, are approaching new markets with cross-functional teams that include sales, marketing, operations and IT to holistically design a synchronised entry strategy. They start with the customer and design the right product, pricing, margin targets, service levels, and supply chain network design and tradeoffs that will all work together to achieve the goal."

In terms of the next level of performance, while many companies are working on building the foundation of an end-to-end supply chain across disparate businesses (improving core supply chain functions and creating more common processes), more-advanced companies are building on those foundations. Leaders describe initiatives that include end-to-end supply chain segmentation, simplification, cost-to-serve analytics, multi-tier visibility and supply network optimisation.

Aronow said: “The leaders have gone beyond the theory and are deploying the capabilities that others are just starting to consider. They are finding new and creative ways to use these capabilities, exploring synergies and opportunities they hadn’t necessarily anticipated in advance. This gives them an entirely new toolbox with which they leap ahead of the competition.”

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