February 2013 | Commentary | Smart Moves

Five Core Competencies Every Supply Chain Manager Should Master

Tags: Education & Careers

Paul Dittman is Executive Director, Global Supply Chain Institute, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 865-974-9413

The maze of challenges that makes up the global supply chain demands that logistics professionals never stop developing new skills and enhancing existing ones. Here are five core competencies that supply chain professionals need to master—and continually improve.

  1. Global business leadership. If your supply chain isn't global now, it probably will be soon. Supply chain professionals must be able to effectively operate in the fast-moving international business environment. This includes adapting to disparate cultures; fully comprehending how global risk plays out for their business; and being adept at managing the long lead times inherent in the international marketplace.
    They must also know the basic supply chain fundamentals associated with global logistics, such as how to optimize import and export flows, source globally, and deal with global labor issues.
  2. Transformational capabilities. Supply chain professionals operate in a dynamic environment, where they are constantly driving transformational initiatives. They must deliver on time and on budget, while generating superior results.
    As the bar is constantly raised, they must excel at managing change, complex projects, and diverse talent, and possess exceptional communication and negotiation skills.
  3. Integrated business planning. Dealing with cross-functional and cross-enterprise issues represents a large part of supply chain management. This involves integrating a company's operations side with its demand side, and embracing demand and supply integration concepts, such as sales and operations planning.
    In addition, supply chain professionals lead the way in designing collaboration initiatives with suppliers and customers, and they must master the challenge of planning the end-to-end supply chain.
  4. Integrated value chain implementation. To be seen as central to the enterprise's success, supply chain professionals must exceed customer expectations and become integral to delivering outstanding value. Some customers don't know what they want until your firm exceeds their expectations. Supply chain professionals achieve this result by implementing an end-to-end value chain design, including customer segmentation, product and supply chain design, and optimization.
  5. Linking supply chain performance to organizational success. World-class supply chain professionals combine expertise in material flow management with outstanding knowledge of information and financial flow. Mastering these flows is crucial to generating supply chain performance and financial results that resonate in the executive suite and boardroom.
    To sustain that performance, supply chain professionals must design a metrics framework that drives the right behavior, and processes that deliver product availability at the lowest possible cost and working capital levels.

New Skills for a New Age

A decade ago, supply chain leaders at most companies relied on technical proficiency in discrete areas: shipping route knowledge, familiarity with warehousing equipment and distribution center locations and footprints, and a solid grasp of freight rates and fuel costs.

Today's supply chain executives, however, rely on the new core competencies and advanced industry knowledge to rise to the top.