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'Know Sooner, Act Faster': A Supply-Chain Mantra

C.J. Wehlage, vice president of high-tech solutions with Kinaxis, details industry's major supply-chain management challenges – in particular, the difficulty of obtaining full visibility of supply and demand, and dealing with the volatility of markets.

“Know sooner, act faster” is the mantra offered by Wehlage as a key strategy for dealing with growing market volatility. “I run into clients who don’t know as much as they think they do,” he says. “It’s about responsiveness, and how much you know about your supply chain.”

In seeking upstream visibility, many companies don’t look beyond their first-tier suppliers. As a result, crises often devolve into “firefighting,” rather than being averted through proper oversight of all suppliers, third-party logistics providers and even the retail store.

It’s tough to put a value on the prevention of a crisis that never happens. Still, says Wehlage, that necessary level of responsiveness “is the core of supply chain.” It’s the key to how managers can influence the reporting structure within their organizations. Being able to make informed decisions, and acting on them, provides executives with a level of power that isn’t reachable through traditional methods.

Responsiveness isn’t just a tool for managing supply-chain execution; it also bears a strategic element. Decisions can be driven at the C-level, rather than occurring exclusively in the trenches.

A key competency that many companies are missing today is leadership. “There has to be somebody asking the end-to-end questions,” says Wehlage. “What’s my profitability across this?”

Yet another key element of modern-day supply-chain management is obtaining the right talent. It used to be sufficient for employees to possess functional expertise. Now, “end-to-end skills are critical.”

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Keywords: supply chain, supply chain management, supply chain planning, supply chain risk management, inventory management, logistics management, sourcing solutions, global logistics, supply chain jobs

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