When the Walls Come Tumbling Down

It might sound like two things I did this month—traveling to Phoenix for ISM’s annual conference and working on this Warehousing issue—have nothing in common. Ah, but they do. What happens in the warehouse, the orchestration of products coming in and going out to where they need to be, hinges on the convergence of many functions—purchasing, finance, transportation, logistics, and technology. And that convergence in the warehouse reflects what’s happening in the larger sense in enterprises all over the world.

It’s also why the editor of a logistics/supply chain publication attended the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) annual conference. There, I observed purchasing, supply management, production, and inventory control professionals embracing cross-functional cooperation. For example, I met with the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars winners, many of whom say that if their responsibilities are broadened across the entire supply chain, they feel they have a better opportunity to contribute, make a difference, and beneficially impact enterprise operations.

Driving this increase in cross-functional cooperation is a growing recognition that linking supply functions with demand will benefit overall enterprise performance. The industry organizations serving functions such as purchasing, production, and supply, which traditionally had little direct involvement in logistics operations, are recognizing this by starting to bring their members logistics information, research, and, in some cases, certification.

At the conference, ISM CEO Tom Derry introduced the ISM Mastery Model, which outlines new global standards of excellence for the supply management profession. The free model outlines what it takes to be an exceptional supply management professional. "This was not an ivory tower exercise within ISM," Derry says. "It was built on the knowledge provided by practitioners in the field."

What it now takes to succeed in supply management is far different from what it was decades ago. The Mastery Model’s new standards recognize that. But ISM is not the only association bringing more logistics and supply chain information to members. The recent merger between APICS and AST&L also illustrates how hard and fast barriers between functions are coming down in recognition of today’s global business realities. If industry associations support convergence by providing the right kind of tools, such as the Mastery Model, they will create new value by cross-pollinating each supply chain function.

Behind this convergence and cooperation is understanding that you have to better match demand to supply to stay globally competitive. Industry associations are encouraging it, and providing tools such as the Mastery Model to help supply chain professionals excel in multi-disciplinary ways.

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