Am I being unreasonable in thinking that the title of supply chain manager or director implies that the person in this position looks after the whole supply chain?
Whether there's a supply chain manager per division, per country or just one for the business, many firms feature the role. They usually only manage one part of the supply chain, such as logistics. Have we given these people the responsibility that the job suggests or just renamed the job to fit the trend?
You do not achieve an effective supply chain just by appointing people with the job title. I know that is true from the companies we see. In one case, we found well-established supply chain jobs, yet the main business issue was that inventory levels were too high. Either its supply chain people did not understand best practice or the company didn't, so it did not allow its supply chain professionals the responsibility to do their jobs. We saw one supply chain manager in charge of planning, forecasting and inventory. His battle was to reduce stocks, yet purchasing was not considered part of the supply chain, so he had no control over the waves of material being pumped his way.
How many of those in your business whose decisions affect your supply chain have had formal education in supply chain management or planning? Investment in people's understanding is still woefully low. It's the first area to be cut when life gets tough, but that's precisely when it's needed.
Some visionary companies have a supply chain director on the board. Yet they are still seen as junior to sales or operations directors. And they don't hold the key performance indicator (KPI) levers needed to run the supply chain as effectively as possible.
If a business runs on local optimisation measures and not global supply chain KPIs, no matter how many supply chain people you hire you won't compete with the best.
Hugh Williams is founder of supply chain planning specialist Hughenden.