Given the diversity of the challenges in their job, Supply Chain Managers need to be versatile, multi-skilled people, chameleonic in a way. A bit like the decathlon athlete, (s)he needs to perform well on a lot of different disciplines, not necessarily the best at each, but good enough to have a good shot at becoming the overall number 1 in the tournament. Inspired by the concept of the “T-Shaped Supply Chain Manager”, as it has appeared in various publications and was further developed by Inspired-Search, I will in a short series of blogs discuss the main important aspects of the Supply Chain Manager’s peculiar modern-day 21st century Daily Decathlon, as well as some of the main implications for the company. Here goes the second part!

Decathlon – Game 3: “Rush Hour®”
(A board-game centered on logical progression, problem solving and sequential-thinking skills as the basis for creating order and finding solutions in an apparently dead-end situation. The objective is to get your car out of a full parking-lot and the winner is the one who achieves to escape from the parking lot in the smallest number of movements).

25.000 customer addresses in 50+ countries and 2 business units to serve, 1000+ products in portfolio and increasing every year, 8 manufacturing locations around the globe, between 2 and 15 partners for each transportation mode and 3 more for warehousing. The expectation as raised by Top-Management is to increase performance while reducing operational costs. And still be “green”, by the way. Everywhere.

It’s obvious that a Supply Chain Manager has to be able to create clarity in complex situations, skilled at defining problems, structuring alternative solutions, setting up a global Program Structure and managing by projects. Medium- and long-term strategic and tactical thinking, executed via operational decisions in a logical sequence. This starts with the holistic view we’ve already seen, but also the skill to bring logic to the overall picture, to be target-driven and define clear and, to the extent possible, simple objectives. SCM is a complex area and it is therefore fairly easy to get lost in the (wrong) details.

Don’t get stuck in the parking lot!

Decathlon – Game 4: “Power Pit-Stop Project”
(Under time pressure, consult with a number of technical experts and deliver a solid plan for repairing a high-tech machine, broken down by an unknown problem – mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, etc. The plan should not only cover the repair itself, but also the sourcing of the required resources, such as materials and/or people. The winner is the one who delivers the most convincing and feasible plan within the available short time).

At the heart of it, Supply Chain deals with a lot of functional or technical issues (manufacturing, transportation & warehousing, inventory optimization), and it is clear that Supply Chain Managers have to have analytical skills and a good technical insight into the complex “machine” that a Supply Chain is, as well as the necessary project management skills to get things done. But not only should they be good at doing this at the global level, as was already stress-tested before, they also need to be able to deal with unforeseen operational problems and capable of evaluating proposals from the technical experts with whom they work: Supply Chain engineers, specialists from IT, manufacturing, maintenance and converting all of this info into a coherent and feasible plan for execution.

It’s no secret, Mr. Murphy does exist and he normally strikes in the worst moments: the system breakdown and the fire in the warehouse would most likely happen during the critical phase of an operational transition and not during the quieter moments of the year. But when these things happen, the Supply Chain Manager has to know how and where to spot the issues without losing time, defining with the team which actions should be taken.

Go, go, go, no time to lose!

To be continued here shortly
We’ve just reached the second turning point and we’ve again been handed out some refreshing sponges and some cool water. In the next post, we will continue our Supply Chain Manager’s Daily Decathlon.

(this post was also published on Supply Chain, 20-Mar-2013)