2020 is Less Than a Year Away. And we still haven’t crossed the supply chain plateau. Part I

Six years ago tomorrow we commented on a piece by the Supply Chain Shaman who believed we had reached the supply chain plateau. This was based not on a gut feeling, but on an objective analysis of balance sheets of process companies over the course of a decade. The result: the average process manufacturing company has reached a plateau in supply chain performance. As bluntly stated:

Growth has stalled. To compensate and stimulate revenue, the companies increased SG&A margin by 1%. However, the conditions were more complex; the average company, over the last ten years, experienced a decline of 1% in operating margin, and an increase in the days of inventory of 5%. While cycle times have improved, the majority of the progress has come from lengthening of days of payables and squeezing suppliers.

And while SI still believes, as it did last year, that we have not reached the plateau, SI believes that growth is still stalled. As the Shaman conjectured, complexity has increased, but many well-intentioned executives still lack the understanding of the supply chain’s potential or how to manage the supply chain as a system. So while select projects in the hand of gifted buyers, departments as a whole are not performing as well, and often being managed even worse.

The core problem has not changed — manpower capability has not kept up. While leading vendors are building assisted intelligence technologies (and a few are experimenting with augmented intelligence technologies on the way to delivering cognitive, almost AI, experiences), the average organization, if they are lucky, are running on first generation Sourcing and Procurement systems from the early 2000s. And if they aren’t, they are running on spreadsheets and thoroughly outdated ERPs (as noted by the Supply Chain Shaman in the aforementioned article).

A year ago tomorrow we conjectured, in our post where we asked will this be the year we traverse the supply chain plateau, we conjectured the manpower capability issue was a lack of education. While the average practitioner is not educated enough, it’s certainly not a lack of education opportunities, so we’re obviously still missing part of the puzzle.

So what are the missing pieces?