C-Suite Insider

4 Ways to Make Supply Chain a Competitive Advantage

Turning your Supply Chain Aha! into a Transformation Opportunity.

The toilet paper shortage of 2020 had a silver lining for supply chain management.  Seemingly overnight, individuals, households, teams and organizations comprehended the criticality of supply chain, validating its value.  And, many organizations have used this as an aha! moment to assess, innovate and strengthen their supply chain effectiveness.

As a supply chain professional and member of the Board of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), I have spent the majority of my career improving supply chain processes. Over the years, I’ve had several aha! moments, each one confirming that supply chain management impacts every aspect of a business… Customer experience. Profitability. Quality. Sustainability. Reputation. And more.

Supply chain is a differentiator from your competition…IF managed proactively and effectively.  

That’s historically been a challenge for many organizations. And COVID-19 put the spotlight on any existing supply chain weaknesses.  Recent research confirms this:

  • At the height of the pandemic, 94 percent of Fortune 1000 firms had supply chain disruptions, according to an Accenture study. Of that group, 75 percent said they had negative or strongly negative impacts on their businesses.
  • 97 percent of respondents to a recent Gartner survey said they experienced a disruptive event in the past two years, with an average number of four events.

The good news? There are some key actions that can be taken to bolster your supply chain resilience and overall performance.  AND there are resources to help along the way.

 Four Ways to Turn Your Supply Chain into a Competitive Advantage

  1. Hire the Best – Include certifications and credentials as part of the hiring criteria for key supply chain roles – for both junior and experienced hires. And establish a framework for new employees to actively use their supply chain knowledge early on. Leverage 30 / 60 / 90 day reviews to learn their “aha’s” re: processes, technology, analytics, etc. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from their insights and fresh look at your company.

    Example: When I led General Motors’ Global Aftersales Supply Chain, Warehousing and Logistics, one of our interns helped open our eyes to GPS asset tracking devices for material trailers. We acted on their aha!, replacing the manual method.  The result? , Greatly improved visibility and a payback in less than 6 months.

  2. Make Training and Development a Priority – Establish ongoing requirements for supply chain professional training, certificates and even full certifications for certain positions.  This is especially important for employees who have been with the company for several years to keep them up on the latest innovations and thought leadership in supply chain management.
  3. Learn from the Best – Gartner recently published the Supply Chain Top 25 for 2021.  Use this resource to assess your company against the top three trends and characteristics for achieving supply chain excellence:

    1) Build risk-balanced, cost-optimized operating models that deliver segmented customer service;
    2) Transcend the status quo of bottom-line profits by becoming a purpose-driven organization; and
    3) Create a multi-year, integrated digital supply chain strategy and roadmap.

    Example:  One customer I worked with established a fully integrated digital supply chain from supplier to customer, minimizing COVID-related business disruptions vs their competition. The result? Double-digit revenue growth throughout the pandemic.!   

  4. Leverage Professional Resources – ASCM, The Association for Supply Chain Management, is the global leader in supply chain organization transformation, innovation and leadership.  The association is an unbiased partner, connecting individuals and companies with industry experts, frameworks and global standards to transform supply chains. Take advantage of the numerous transformation, education and certification programs ASCM offers.

Bottom-Line Business Benefits

Everything can be made better.  Every company’s supply chain operations can be improved through well-established and well-executed supply chain practices that are continually being monitored, updated and refined with the latest developments and technologies.

And clearly, the pay-offs are big.  When you invest in your talent and strengthen your supply chain, you can measurably increase your competitive advantage and significantly improve business performance to achieve long-term, sustained operational excellence.

Written by Lisa Veneziano.

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Lisa Veneziano
Lisa Veneziano is a global supply chain and operations leader with extensive experience steering high-volume business transformations and optimizing performance in a variety of functions. She led Global Aftersales Supply Chain, Warehousing and Logistics for General Motors Customer Care and Aftersales, an organization of 95 warehouses in 21 countries, and serves on the Board of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM). Lisa has a tenacious drive to win and is recognized as a leader of high-performance teams.

Lisa Veneziano serves as an external advisory board member for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.