Angela Robine, director of strategy-supply chain with VF Corp., talks about the challenge of taking the long view at a time when so many companies are struggling merely to survive.
When companies are forced to focus on short-term problems, it can be a significant challenge to step back and take a more strategic approach to planning. But that’s what Robine is tasked to do at VF Corp. She’s not dealing with the “three a.m. phone calls” in response to sudden emergencies, and considers herself fortunate to be able to take a longer view of the company’s supply chain
At the same time, the “crisis of the moment” gives her the opportunity to propose long-term changes in the way the business operates. One example is talk of near-shoring production, a discussion that wasn’t on the table until very recently. It’s been spurred by developments such as port congestion, overseas factory shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and various geopolitical issues.
The experiences of the last two years have prompted VF’s supply chain to shift from an exclusive focus on cost to one that also considers risk. The company has had to reevaluate the best operating model from a long-term planning perspective.
“Long term” in Robine’s world means three to five years – significantly shorter than the five- to eight-year horizon that the company previously set for planning. But even within that shorter span of time, VF is constantly revising its strategy in line with actual events. It must consider trends both inside and outside the company to determine if the long-term plan is still relevant to its needs.
Robine considers it vital to make decisions that take in account all functions of the company, avoiding the suboptimization of one activity while attempting to optimize another.
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