Daily Archives: September 17, 2008

First out of the Gate: Bob Ferrari

Everytime I launch a new cross-blog series, I always wonder who will be first out of the starting gate, trying to be the first to capture the readers’ minds and hearts. This time it was Bob Ferrari of Supply Chain Matters and The Ferrari Group who posted his Seven Grand Challenges for Supply Chain Management yesterday.

In his first post, he lays out his seven challenges and tackles the first three head on, promising us two more posts on the last two challenges before the week is up. Bob’s Seven Grand Challenges are:

  1. Ubiquity of Portable Computing Leading to Real Time Sensory Networks
  2. True Supply Chain Business Intelligence and Decision Making Tools
  3. Managing the Explosion of Data and Information Needs in Global Based Value Chains
  4. Managing Supply Chain Risk Management on a Global Basis
  5. Who Assumes Ownership for the Extended Supply Chain?
  6. Articulating the Value and Consequences of Supply Chain Directly to the C-Suite
  7. A Global Shortage of Talent and Skills in Supply Chain Management

I really like #2, because it meshes with my seventh challenge of Opportunity Analysis. Today’s supply chains are filled with untapped opportunities, and you’re going to need good business intelligence and decision making tools to find them. And we’re definitely on the same page with #4! Risk is everywhere, and supply chain disruptions are still rising rapidly, due, primarily, to poorly managed, if not unmanaged, risk.

I’m not convinced of #1, #3, and #5 though.

1. I can certainly see the value of Real-Time Sensory Networks and systems self-updating as soon as product is detected in area B when it was in area A, but I don’t think this is going to add that much efficiency, especially if we had integrated physical, financial, and information-based supply chains where all it took to accept a complete shipment was logging into the shared system and checking “received”. Plus, I don’t want to see us become over-dependent on technology. What happens on that fateful day, which always happens eventually, when it fails and no one knows how to do it manually?

3. I believe that managing the data explosion is an IT challenge, because it goes well beyond just supply chain and supply chain systems. Data explosion is everywhere, and it’s IT’s job to build the databases, marts, and warehouses we need to manage it. It’s Supply Chain’s job to select from the best systems out there. Bob makes some great points in his post, but I’m not sold.

5. I think this is a great question to ask, but it’s not really a challenge, because, in my view, it’s trivial to answer. The CEO. Today, your company is your supply chain. Sure you have a CSCO who’s job is to manage the chain on a daily basis, but the buck should ultimately stop with the CEO. Nonetheless, I’m waiting to see what Bob has to say on this one …

And #’s 6 and 7 certainly have me thinking!

If we go back to the Top Three challenge, David Bush of e-Sourcing Forum and Iasta proclaimed that the top-three challenges of supply chain today were Adoption, Adoption, Adoption. This is a cry I’m hearing from e-Sourcing and e-Procurement companies across the board. And even though this is the perfect economy for those providers, because e-Sourcing and e-Procurement software is about the only way to reign in your spending during the deflationary/slowdown/recession economy we’ve been in for a while now, the cry only seems to be getting louder. Maybe it is a longer term challenge than I give it credit for. I’m anxious to see what Bob offers up on this one!

I’m definitely on board with #7! If you check out the talent category here on SI, you’ll see that I’ve essentially been whining about this problem since day one! It’s a huge challenge right now, and it’s going to be for at least the next five years. However, history tells us that talent shortages tend to resolve themselves over a ten to fifteen year window. Once demand gets high enough, and stays high enough for a few years, students, anxious to have a job when they graduate college / university, see that as a good career choice and take educational paths that will prepare them for that careeer. Young professionals ready for a career change go “back to school” (through night courses, part time programs, private programs, etc.), prepare themselves for that industry, and move on in. Simultaneously, the industry, desperately short on talent and needing to get through the day, re-engineers its processes, automates as many tactical functions as it can, and learns to do more with less. After ten to fifteen years, the talent shortage drops to a manageable level. And I’m looking at a twenty to twenty-five year window with these challenges. It’s definitely a major challenge … but is it important enough to knock, say, GHG Tracking and Reduction off of my list? I don’t know. But I’m definitely anxious to see what Bob has to say on this one too!