What Makes a Great Supply Chain Manager?


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Building a competitive and reliable supply chain is a critical success factor for any manufacturing business. This is especially true today, where we face constant volatility and disruption across global supply chains. In this environment, effective supply chain leadership is more critical than ever. So, what makes a great supply chain manager?

What is a Supply Chain Manager?

To be able to hire a great supply chain manager, you first have to know what that title actually means for your business. Over the years I have come across many individuals carrying the supply chain manager title who were focused on only part of the role. Often supply chain managers are really procurement managers, warehousing and logistics managers, distribution managers, manufacturing managers, or supply chain systems and planning managers.

In fact, the whole point of having a supply chain manager is so that they can oversee the whole end-to-end supply chain from your suppliers—through every step of your manufacturing and distribution network to your customer’s door. The aim is to get your supply chain working as an integrated whole to deliver outstanding value to customers and shareholders. A supply chain manager who is focused on one aspect of the supply chain is likely to optimise that function at the expense of the performance of the whole chain. Therefore, the first step in hiring a great supply chain manager is defining the role correctly.

What Skills Does a Supply Chain Manager Need?

Given that we have defined the supply chain manager’s role broadly, they need to have a clear understanding of the overall supply chain. While their career pathway may have been through manufacturing, logistics, finance, or procurement, the supply chain manager needs to bring to the role a broad understanding of each element of the supply chain. In particular, they need to understand the connections between different parts of the supply chain. For example, they need to understand why purchasing from the absolutely cheapest supplier may not be the overall lowest cost option to the business when supply chain risk and responsiveness to market change is considered. Likewise, they may need to see why smaller, more agile manufacturing units located close to customers might be preferrable to one big capital-intensive plant designed to “maximise efficiency.” They will understand how your company interacting with its suppliers can have a profound impact on your cost of sourcing. A skilled supply chain manager can really add value by applying their understanding of the connections and interactions between different elements of the supply chain from your suppliers’ suppliers through to your customers’ distribution network.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the April 2021 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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