What keeps supply chain managers up at night?

Cost containment, talent and global issues among the top 13 issues


The supply chain arena has become a quagmire of challenges. As the world has gotten smaller, the complexity of the global supply chain has become that much more multifaceted.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Global Supply Chain Institute recently hosted a group of senior executives (VPs of supply chain to CEOs) from 39 companies in its advisory board to talk about the supply chain issues that keep them up at night. The following 13 issues encompass a vast range of concerns about their supply chains:

  1. Cost containment: In the absence of economic growth and with inflation, how do we find creative ways to contain cost? (The normal/easy things already have been done.)

  2. The economy: How do we get through the volatile times ahead in the next one to five years?

  3. Retailing changes: How do we deal with the coming change in retailing as the presence of big box stores decline and smaller footprint stores become the trend? How should we redesign our supply chain to serve these stores, especially in urban areas?

  4. Supply chain and product design: How do supply chain professionals get involved early in product/process design?

  5. Talent: How do we find and develop the supply chain talent we need to integrate the three supply chain dimensions operating in most companies (information, product, and financial)?  How can people be prepared to run all three of these in a synchronized way? How can we prepare people to understand the broad disciplines of supply chain management?

  6. Global: How do we develop the competency of our organizations and associates to understand and navigate global issues?

  7. Supply base: How do we manage the supply base in a way that creates competitive advantage?

  8. Supply chain innovation: What's next (In the next few years, not in 20 years), especially in the area of sustainability?

  9. Compliance: How do we master the increasing complexity in regulations, environmental compliance, global regulations, etc.?

  10. Transportation: How do we deal with the aging driver pool that is causing a shortage of drivers yet at much higher costs?  (Also the impact of the CSA law-carrier safety administration.)

  11. SKU complexity: How do we manage in an environment of increasing SKU proliferation and complexity?

  12. SOP: How can we best create one integrated plan to align supply with demand?

  13. Supply chain security: How do we manage security risk from geo-political to terrorists threats?

Dittmann is the executive director of the Global Supply Chain Institute in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Business Administration. Dittmann joined the university after a 30-year career in industry.  He is a certified instructor for the Project Management Institute, offering seminars around the United States in the area of global project management and change management. He has taught numerous public seminars in the areas of lean manufacturing, global business, and supply chain excellence; he has spoken at over 30 conferences.

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