Supply Chain Matters does not normally cite or comment on the huge plethora of opinion research studies concerning the discipline and state of global supply chain management.  By our view, there are too many outlets, beyond experienced analyst anchored firms, producing so called research vs. opinion of the day among a limited set of respondents.

We were recently able to obtain a copy of The Chief Supply Chain Officer Report 2013, Pulse of the Profession, conducted and compiled by SCM World, and we were impressed with the research approach as well as the key findings. The full report is available for no-cost download by registered members of SCM World and is well worth a reading. An Executive Summary can be obtained by no-cost registration.

This is fourth year of this particular study and the continuity of the study and its findings adds particular meaning. This year’s research survey was conducted during late July and August of this year and was noted as including over 750 completed responses, which is a substantial study considering today’s practices in these types of surveys. It is current and timely.

The goal of this commentary is not to re-produce the findings but rather to add some of our impressions to the findings. SCM World, the authors of the report have done a great job of articulating individual findings.

Our impressions are the following:

More and more, senior supply chain executives now have a seat at the senior executive table but that comes with the reality check of added accountabilities. According to the summarized findings, supply chain leaders are apparently caught in the middle of rising customer demands and expectations and the global growth ambitions of their firm’s management teams.  The conundrum of objectives directed at continued reductions in costs while helping to grow the business are being taken on. There is rather interesting detail that points to how these pressures now manifest themselves in stated supply chain process and management objectives, which should capture the attention of peer supply chain executives.

By our Supply Chain Matters lens, this is not an area that is addressed by summarizing multiple years of industry performance and metrics, but rather leadership for weighting and interpreting key business objectives to required supply chain outcomes.

The report further provides compelling evidence on the impact that omnichannel online fulfillment is having on retail supply chains as well as key suppliers to retail.  The report concludes: “the omnichannel model is swamping traditional store-based operations.”

We were fascinated with some of the findings related to changing perspectives and landscapes surrounding the firm’s supply chain related social and environmental responsibilities (SER). Responses point to more and more focus towards leading corporate social responsibility efforts, while consumer willingness to pay for socially responsible products remains low. SER efforts continue to be driven by cost and efficiency goals, but the recent visibility to health and safety issues has increased the ranking of health and safety objectives across the global supply chain

Concerning the area of supply chain risk management, the authors point to responses indicating easing concerns in this area. Executives actually quantified multi-million impacts of recent risk events in their responses and the report authors conclude that this easing stems from supply chain teams investing in risk sensing and management capabilities these past few years.  Survey findings rank the top ten risk mitigation practices, and by our view, tend to have a procurement focused bias toward continuity of supply. Report authors point to more executive mindshare now focused on other cost and price risks which we believe, further reinforces a procurement lens, and perhaps the need for broader cross-functional perspectives related to other forms of key risk.

In these times, no supply executive survey neglects to reinforce the challenges related to overall talent management and the annual occurrence of this particular survey provides a historic perspective to some progress being made in this area. The findings point to specific successes in knowledge workforce development but efforts to provide an overall compelling career management perspective in supply chain remains challenging. Again, there is interesting data related to different perspectives, a broader skills umbrella, and advocating for broader cross functional and cross business training initiatives.

Overall, we view this research as insightful and thought-provoking, and recommend that industry supply chain executives take the time to review and absorb the findings.

Bob Ferrari