Supply Chain Talent Challenges in the 140-Character Era

With all of the up-and-coming new talent to the field of supply chain, there has been a lot of discussion around how to integrate the newcomers into a mutli-generational work environment.

In addition to that, we need to address the technology, communication, and social styles that come to bear, crossing over the generations. Let's complicate things more, and add the complexity of a global supply chain, demanding consumers and fierce competition between countries and companies.

As a consequence of all the above, I propose that there is a gap between supply chain analytics and supply chain practices.

Mind the gap
You might think I am making a case of the new guard vs. the old guard, but this is not my intent. My intent is to suggest that there are those who practice supply chain (let's call them the field), and those who analyze and plan the supply chain (let's call them the analysts). It takes both types to operate successful and efficient supply chains.

I know, I know: I have left many groups out. You might be thinking about different categories of SC professionals — how could we do our job without sales, marketing, finance, engineering, manufacturing, and so on. For the interest of the brevity, I'd like to propose that I stick with the two general categories, and apologize for everything else.

So how do we integrate the field and the analysts? How do we leverage the strengths of both disciplines? How do we mind the gaps?

Weekend jaunt
I think we can all recall some situation where gaps occurred. One of my personal favorites was some years back, we were moving goods from the north side of the Mexican border into Mexico. The analyst thought that it made more sense from an efficiency point of view to place material closer to the point of use — good idea. The thinking went that it could all fit in a smallish flatbed truck that could be rented in Texas, and simply driven over the border on the weekend, kinda like moving a friend. Obviously, there were some gaps in this plan, and the field guys went a little nuts.

On another occasion, we had some field guys wanting to move a receiving dock to a more efficient location at a facility. They thought they could just let the trucking companies know that the dock location had changed. Needless to say, the analysts went a little nuts, all those POs with the wrong delivery locations and all.

These are just simple examples of the gap, and with a lot of us moving at the speed of Twitter:

  • How do we keep a competitive pace without crashing into the gap?
  • How do we integrate the new generation of talent, take advantage of experience, and bring the field and the analysts together?

I'm sorry to report that I have not come upon an institutional approach in solving this challenge. The approach I have taken is to focus on the supply chain issue, rally around the burning platform, and solve the problem. This serves as the bridge and common language bringing teams and people together.

I'm looking forward to hear more from you about how you are approaching similar challenges.

1 comment on “Supply Chain Talent Challenges in the 140-Character Era

  1. Brian Fuller
    March 1, 2013

    Wade, you teased the generational question and I wonder–to your larger point (the gap between analytics and practice)–whether the younger, more tech-savvy generation of supply-chain pros will really bridge that gap. Seems to me they're really comfortable not only with digital interaction but seeing how that interaction works for them through Facebook likes, retweets, and so forth.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.