Andrew Breckenridge, executive vice president of Fortna, tells how supply chain executives can engage in long-term planning to mitigate future risk, even as they’re battling the crisis of the moment.
First step toward taking the long view is surmounting “a mental hurdle,” says Breckenridge — the realization that what supply chains are going through now is the “new normal.” Second, he advises, companies need to take an “outside-in” view of their operations, drawing on the expertise of supply-chain partners and developing “what-if” scenarios for dealing with possible future disruptions.
“Supply chain is no longer a simple functional space,” says Breckenridge. “It’s now a horizontal function that impacts both the front end and support aspects of the business, and determines the types of capabilities and promises that can be made to the market.” To support that view of operations, he adds, companies need an “outside lens.”
Focusing on the future when present crises are so demanding can be a huge challenge for supply chain managers. But Breckenridge says organizations must adopt a whole new approach to what constitutes success. Where they once concentrated on metrics such as efficiency, cycle time and productivity, now they must adopt the mindset of long-term resilience. They must know what happens when things break, and how to fix them with the least amount of damage to the organization.
Still, these new “soft” metrics can be hard to pin down. New performance measures will draw on tools such as value-mapping streams and an assessment of how product and inventory actually flow through the network. “Over the last 10 to 15 years, the role of the supply chain leader has changed markedly,” Breckenridge says. “Making the mental and cultural transition to becoming a true supply chain leader is one of the many challenges.”
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