Let’s Hear It for the Supply Chain Pioneers!

In the research done to write the book, Bricks Matter, Charlie Chase and I interviewed 75 supply chain pioneers from four different generations.

The first generation of pioneers were mainly male and from engineering backgrounds. It was the world of clipboards and operations. The second generation was more diverse. They drove the global expansion of supply chains opening up new businesses in the emerging economies of Brazil, India, Russia and China. They also implemented the first generation of supply chain technologies. The third generation drove the innovations through the years of e-commerce and advanced analytics.  They were the first generation of supply chain professionals to graduate with a supply chain degree. They embraced social technologies and mobility faster than their managers and corporate cultures. The fourth generation is now entering the workforce from major universities.  As they do, the volume of data and the speed of communication is increasing. It is a world of mobility and private and public networks. They are entering the workforce in a period of tight talent. Increasingly, the pioneers are pushing advances in processes, technologies and organizations. On the bottom of figure 1, the progress on revenue/employee by peer group in Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) and High-tech and Electronics is tracked.

In 1982, the term Supply Chain Management was first applied to commercial operations that crossed deliver, make and source processes. In 2012, Supply Chain Management celebrated a third decade.  2013 is the beginning of a the fourth decade. Listening to the stories of the four generations of supply chain pioneers formed the fabric of the book Bricks Matter.  Each generation had a different take on the challenges and accomplishments of their period.  It was fascinating and rewarding to hear their stories.

In the mining of the data on financial ratios for supply chain leaders, we find that we made great progress on employee productivity. As shown in figure 1, each of these periods of supply chain leaders saw progressive leaps forward.

However, when we look at the progress of supply chain leadership on the Effective Frontier where companies have balanced growth, costs, complexity and cycles, we find a very different story.  High-tech companies continue to make progress after three decades of work, but the majority of the industries are stalled or going backwards.  Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), food & beverage companies and chemical companies are stuck and pharmaceutical and industrial companies are moving backwards. For a complete look at this analysis, check out the new report by Supply Chain Insights on What Drives Supply Chain Excellence: A Look Back and a Look Forward.

As companies take stock and begin to run the race for Supply Chain 2020, that is outlined in Chapter 6 of the book, there are differing points of view of what maters. More and more, companies are realizing that they are stuck on the Supply Chain Plateau of the Effective Frontier and things need to change.  Join us at Supply Chain Insights as two leaders, Fran O’Sullivan, Global Manager of Integrated Supply Chain IBM Manufacturing, and Michael Corbo, Vice President of Global Supply Chain of Colgate-Palmolive, discuss their journeys for supply chain excellence in their race for Supply Chain 2020 on our upcoming webinar.


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