In our Expert Insights Series, we ask supply chain thought leaders to share their views on meaningful questions. As February is the month of love, this time we’re talking about the love for supply chain!
Supply chains keep the world moving. They involve complex networks of suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and partners that strive to seamlessly work together to efficiently move products from point of origin to point of consumption. Supply chains play a vital role in the global economy ensuring that materials are delivered to wherever they are needed, enabling businesses to create and distribute products and services, and making essential goods and services available to everyone.
Working in (or with) supply chain can be as challenging as it can be rewarding. And it’s not hard to imagine how becoming involved in such a purpose-driven field can lead to strong feelings and a sense of fulfilment.
We asked industry experts to share what it is that made them fall in love with the world of supply chain. Here are their thoughts:
“This is an interesting question. My dad worked in sales for a subsidiary of International Paper, and while on a camping trip through the South (USA), we stopped at one of the manufacturing plants in Richmond, Va. I suspect I was about 13 at the time. Despite it being in the middle of the summer, in the South, and with sweat dripping off of me on a 90-degree shop floor, I was hooked. I loved watching how something as simple as envelopes were made. Fast forward ten years, and I found myself working in a variety of different IT related roles for manufacturers, distributors, and logistics firms. It allowed me to merge my creative nature (programming) with the fascination with how product was made, moved, and used. As my interest in IT waned (with the emergence of packaged ERP solutions), I moved into the functional side of manufacturing and supply chain - and never looked back.
My roles have morphed over time, but the passion for manufacturing, discovered as a 13-year-old, has not. I still love knowing and seeing how product is brought to market.”
“The relentless need for creativity in the resolution of complex problems. And it keeps complexifying and accelerating, which feeds the passion.”
“I love the fact that Supply Chain is a fundamental part of our world today. It touches everything and keeps our global commerce working. The ability to be part of such a fascinating and complex industry that has a deep impact on the global economy is both exciting and fulfilling. Equally, I love the fact that it requires finding solutions to complex issues and can bring together people from around the world with diverse backgrounds and experiences. I strongly believe that supply chain has the power to make the world a better place.”
“People. I had no supply chain background and just stumbled across it when I started executive search. And my focus area happened to be supply chain companies. But after quite a few months I got hooked because I loved the people I was meeting. Down to earth. Pragmatic. Making things happen. And by and large, most of them just great human beings.”
“When thinking about love, the first word that comes to mind is heart.
Supply chain appeals to me because it is at the heart of an organization. It makes the connection between customers, production and suppliers. But is also connects to almost all other functions in the organizations. That creates a dynamic that I really like with a high degree of complexity, but which is never dull. It is sometimes very practical and pragmatic but can also be conceptual and analytical.
The other part of heart for me is that is really a people's business. I find it inspiring to work with people from all levels in an organization, from operators and planning to senior management. As supply chains are very international it also provides the opportunity to work with people from all over the world and get to know different cultures. There are many passionate people working in supply chain and I find to rewarding to make connections and support to unleash the potential of people and teams.
The last part of heart for me has to do with my personal purpose to help drive working towards a more sustainable world. I believe that supply chain is the functional that should be at the center to drive this challenge by taking better decisions to efficiently and effectively using scarce resources and incorporating circularity into the supply chain.”
“Supply Chain Management is all about solving tangible problems that have real-world and far-reaching implications. Being able to spend my time working on these types of challenges is extremely gratifying.”
“How did I fall in love with Supply Chain? I didn’t. I just fell into it through a series of jobs. I was lucky to be working on implementing new technology projects in the 1980s when supply chain practices were being defined, and I got swept up in the stream of activity and definition.
I love the ideation of thinking past what is to what could be. In my career, I have worked on improving my writing, and I give thanks for the 332,000 people that follow me on LinkedIn.”
“For me, supply chain is a captivating world that creates bonds amongst colleagues who enthusiastically share interests, struggles, and successes because it is so compelling. I fell into supply chain having graduated as an engineer with an insatiable curiosity for discovering how things work and dreaming up innovative solutions from daily tasks to long-term, strategic decisions – and supply chain has left an indelible mark on me for 25 years.
Supply chain is unique with its challenges and opportunities across the spectrum. In the same week, I can see tangible, real-world outcomes delivered in days, while also innovating on new approaches that go beyond what had ever been envisioned before (e.g., AI/ML). Supply chain provides constantly changing scenarios and circumstances, and lastly, a mixture of heads-down, data-driven analyses and peer-to-peer collaboration that keeps you coming back for more.”
“My mind has always worked in a way to want to optimize things. And in supply chain, you can do this all day long and see the results black on white. Later on, I realized how much interaction with people this field involves and I enjoy building strong relationships. The mix of both is very appealing to me.”
“As a former librarian walking into a warehouse for the first time and seeing how similar it was to a library - everything had its place and if you needed to find something, just look it up in the 'card catalog' aka WMS and it will provide the location and how many copies are available.”
“I started in product commercialization, and it touched every single part of the business, one had to know everything, literally (not a joke!) - I loved it, it was complex. Then all companies started dismantling these departments at that time, so I had to find a new place that I could fall in love with again. I could not find any other area of any business, which was complex enough for me to find it challenging, so supply chain came to the rescue, and I was in love again.”
“At the early years of my career, I was an Operational Excellence Manager, improving processes and leading changes. Afterwards, I was promoted to a position of a Production Planning Manager overseeing multiple sites. When the company turned global, I was asked to establish the Supply Chain organization (aka Logistics back then). I was thrilled to put together my planning / analytical skills together with my continuous improvement way of management and take it globally. I loved turning a firefighting culture into a risk management, learning from failure (and success), organization and simplifying complexities while solving near impossible problems.
The thing that I really LOVE about Global Supply Chain is the people. I managed and participated in diversified, multi-cultured teams from five continents, across dozens of countries and everywhere I found dedicated groups of colleagues with a mutual goal to efficiently improve customer service while achieving the company's strategic goals.”