Recent Changes and Trends

1. Supply chain management is taking on a more strategic role.

This change has been taking place over the past decade with the supply chain no longer being relegated to a position of only tactical importance. Many company leaders now see the effective design and management of their supply chain as a competitive advantage and key component of overall business success. Increasingly, there is the advancement of a “Chief Supply Chain Officer” as a key member of top management.

2. The supply chain is having an impact on the top line as well as the bottom line.

Panelists said, in fact, that the supply chain is expected to help grow the top line and even help “fuel the growth” of the company, not just to reduce or control costs. In addition to its traditional cost focus, the supply chain can now be a financial advantage and be leveraged to improve cash flow by improving asset utilization, reducing inventories and shipping perfect orders. By focusing on “order to cash” as well as costs, and by managing factors such as inventory, accounts receivable, and accounts payable, supply chain leaders can improve their company’s ability to invest in other purposes.

3. Companies are looking to supply chain professionals to provide expertise in customer relationships.

With increasing demands and expectations from consumers – as well as powerful group purchasing organizations in fields such as health care – supply chain and logistics operations play a major role in customer service. Supply chain professionals are being called upon to bring innovative solutions and ideas to their customers more frequently.

 4. There is a greater reliance on data analytics.

Today’s supply chain professional relies more on collecting data, turning data into business intelligence, and using that intelligence in strategic ways. Supply chain experts are analyzing point-of-demand data to understand changes in trends or consumer behavior. This knowledge has pointed to more flexible, smaller orders — even to the point of direct-to-consumers – requiring supply chains to be more agile and supply chain experts to use analytics to provide greater visibility and to deliver higher levels of service at the same cost.​

5. Expectations for speed-to-market are higher.

Panelists mentioned speed-to-market in relation to innovation cycle time noting that the supply chain can be leveraged to impact how quickly and efficiently a company can respond to changes in the marketplace and deliver new products, services, etc. In today’s 24/7 demand market with increased proliferation of SKUs, flexibility and speed are critical.

6. Performance measurements now include a focus on point-of-sale availability.

No longer is it enough to have product in the customer’s distribution center on time and complete; now it’s part of supply chain responsibility to make sure product reaches the customer where and when the customer needs it. Achieving improved point-of-sale availability requires increased collaboration between manufacturers and retailers. Another factor coming into play is the continual rise in ecommerce and omni-channel retailing, an integrated sales experience combining physical stores with online shopping.

7. There’s an increased need to manage an extended supply chain – including suppliers as well as customers

This frequently requires being able to balance the reduction of cost that comes with outsourcing with the need to control the quality and integrity of the supply chain. Panelists emphasized that managing the extended supply chain requires strong leadership – being able to identify core competencies and find the right set of partnerships to manage other areas. They mentioned leveraging the expertise of a logistics provider and harnessing synergies that can be realized through collaboration, such as in transportation, with other companies – even those who are competitors. They also stressed increased need for collaboration up and down the supply chain so that win/win situations can be created as part of long-term partnerships.

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