The latest PwC supply-chain survey reveals many traditional concerns of executives, including cost control, globalization and working-capital pressures. “All of those things are important and are going to continue to increase,” says Householder. But supply-chain flexibility, in particular, “is an up-and-comer.” The annual survey ranks it almost as highly as cost and profitability. Other issues that have risen in importance this year include sustainability, visibility and risk management.
Among the surprises to emerge from the new survey is the apparent culmination of a years-long effort by leading companies to deploy the supply chain as a strategic advantage. “The survey was able to validate that companies that treat it that way achieve better performance,” says Householder.
The survey also helps to define what constitutes a true supply-chain leader. It’s a company in the top 20 percent of a PwC-created index which incorporates a number of key metrics, including earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT), margin and revenue growth, inventory levels, working capital and customer service quality. In the process, PwC was able to address some “soft” questions as how closely the executive suite is involved in supply-chain decisions, and how tightly that discipline is woven into overall business strategy.
Leaders, says Householder, are investing in visibility and advanced planning, aided by information technology, at a higher level than laggards. They also display a more sophisticated approach toward supply-chain segmentation – the use of differentiated models to service various customer segments in a more targeted manner.
“Leading companies operate 50 percent more different supply-chain configurations than lagging companies,” Householder says. They tailor their approaches according to client, channel, geography and end markets, and align those efforts with marketing.
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Keywords: supply chain, supply chain management, inventory management, inventory control, global logistics, logistics management, supply chain planning, sourcing solutions, supply chain risk management