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Wanted: Supply-Chain Management Leaders

Trey McClure, vice president of supply management with Lawson Products, explains the importance of supply "change" management -- and identifies a shortage of leaders who can address the issue today.

Supply chains today are more than about just buying and planning, says McClure. “They’re actually strong levers for corporate value and success.” In keeping with the growing importance of good supply-chain management, universities have stepped up with additional programs over the last 15 years, he said. And private companies are beginning to pay generously for supply-chain talent.

A decade or more ago, supply-chain professionals were still fighting the perception that the discipline was just a new name for the traditional functions of purchasing and inventory control. But “supply-chain management has a respect today that it didn’t have then,” McClure says.

Nevertheless, companies still have work to do in developing strong supply-chain leaders. The word is all about the ability to elicit trust from co-workers, and ensure respect from other parts of the organization. “You’re not just leading [employees] in day-to-day work,” McClure says. “You’re taking the function to the next level.”

The links that make up a supply chain are more plentiful and complex than ever. They include demand management, sourcing, planning and buying of inventory, logistics and warehousing. But that wide array of functions can make it difficult to find appropriate talent. Especially challenging is the task of finding people with hands-on management ability, says McClure.

“Good programs are out there,” he says, “but there’s a talent gap. Leadership is very difficult to teach.”

Industry associations such as APICS, the Institute for Supply Management and Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals can help. Formerly focused strictly on the skills development, they are branching out to embrace more cross-functional and leadership abilities.

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Keywords: supply chain, supply chain management, supply chain jobs, supply chain training, supply chain planning, supply management

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