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At the End of the Day - Supply Chains are
About People Not Technology
by Pamela Ruebusch


In a recent Harvard Business Review article, seven leaders in Supply Chain Management discussed some of the most noted challenges of today's overall business climate. What most of these Senior Managers found is that supply chains are about people and relationships more than they are about technology. We understand that technology has been the enabler to integrating the supply chain, but it is how we work together that dominates our ongoing drive for optimization.

What motivates procurement managers, for instance, may conflict with what motivates the distribution, transportation or customer service department. Since the supply chain has brought these departments more closely together, the internal issues need to be addressed with new human capital strategies.

The following are the top ten concerns supply chain leaders face today with observations on what to consider for a more optimal workplace.

Focusing on your Supply Chain Strategy

Now that supply chain leaders have risen to the full boardroom level, senior management needs to focus equally on strategy and immediate day to day challenges. Make sure your firm is properly organized to allow the senior supply chain person to spend equal time looking 3-5 years ahead and accomplishing the monthly, weekly and daily tasks for the company.

Cost Cutting

In economic uncertainty, it is important for you as the supply chain leader to prioritize assets in order to ensure that return on investment (ROI) will satisfy the board's and shareholders' expectations in a realistic fashion. This is always a fine balancing act.

Innovate in Order to Prosper

Spending time and resources on helping your employees stay motivated and creative is still a key role and responsibility of senior management. In today's workplace, we need to address tasks and relationships in tandem with one another. Make sure you foster an open door policy with your staff and that they are aware of the company's interest in their input.

Managing Change

Teaching all of your staff and department heads better ways of dealing with change will leave you with fewer headaches. It can be very costly if people do not learn how to shift more rapidly. Questioning why you may implement change is good, as long as your staff have an open attitude to learning and doing something a new way.

Crisis Management

It is imperative for supply chain management and staff to be proactive in making crises the exception rather than the rule, so communication is critical. Communicating with your boss and pre-empting any possible problems is a key competency most supply chain managers seek in their new-hires today.

New Technology, New Ideas, New Processes

Knowing when to purchase new technology means not only mapping out the new process, but also training the people involved. Technology is not cheap, so planning the timing and properly training people not only leads to lessened stress levels, but allows for participants and users to add new ideas and improve overall processes.

Lack of Efficiencies without Trust

How much time gets wasted through inefficient processes and why does the communication break down? First, people are not empowered to look for better ways of doing their role and secondly, various departments do not communicate effectively. Work on these two issues and you can significantly add revenues to the bottom line. It's that simple.

Managing Risks / Adding Metrics

Risk management is paramount to any leader in the supply chain since a good percentage of revenues is controlled under this umbrella, including people and technology. In order to understand how to measure it, you need to know what return you will see and by when in order to deploy those assets. So remember, if you can't measure it, you can't manage it. Know what to track and why you are doing it. And remember, micromanaging wastes your time and your company's too.

Invest in Relationships

This ultimately means clarifying what works best with everyone you touch in your role including your boss, your employees, your suppliers and customers. Sharing and collaborating has become the mantra for the new ways in which we execute our supply chain strategies. The mentality of "profit for all" does work and needs to be ingrained from the top of the company's core values and beliefs.

Supply Chain Mastery

It takes all of your intellect, co-operation and motivation to go from good to great. If you don't raise the bar, though, mediocrity will prevail.

What's the bottom line to all of this? Supply chain mastery starts with you setting the tone as the leader. Setting an example and recognizing the culture you want to create within your firm will raise the bar for the entire company. If you take an honest look at what you want to improve, and get the support and buy-in from your entire team, everyone will work towards a common goal. It is what will ultimately separate the gap between the great supply chain leaders and the average performers.


The Author


Pamela Ruebusch is Senior Partner TSI Group (, one of Canada's leading recruitment, training and development firms in supply chain management. Pamela is well-known in Canadian logistics circles and plays an active role on many industry committees, associations and events. Contact Pamela by e-mail:

This article was originally featured in Canadian Transportation & Logistics
and is reprinted with permission.

Many more articles in Logistics & Supply Chain in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2004 by Pamela Ruebusch. All rights reserved.

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