Any supply chain professional will tell you that we spend a lot of our time explaining what we do to others. While there is much currently written about supply chains, not many people understand their depth and breadth. Often, after indicating that I work in supply chain, the response is, “What do you supply?” My first attempt at a clarification is to describe the various activities within supply chain, from raw materials to finished product, as well as the data used to make informed decisions.
It helps a little, but people still tend to look at me rather quizzically, wondering what this has to do with supplying products and/or chains.
Knowing that many individuals understand project management, I attempt to reference how that requires a network of coordinated activities, communications and resources to deliver a defined goal within a set timeframe, budget and scope. I note that these activities can span continents and people both inside and outside the organization. Then I get brave and explain how supply chains create order by organizing these activities along a predictable timeline and ensuring that each key transformation phase is specific and measurable.
Unfortunately, these discussions rarely amount to a crystal-clear understanding of the complexity and beauty of an efficient and effective supply chain. But we’re getting closer.
Then, I hit them with this: Supply chains create value for customers by delivering products and services. In so doing, they reach all aspects and functions of the business itself, as well as its partners. Through a vast network flows information, physical products and cash. Whether small and local or global and multi-organizational, supply chains touch everything and everyone. This is why they make such a significant impact on people, our environment and global economies. It’s also why supply chain is such a dynamic and rewarding industry to be a part of.
The opportunity now
Of course, in the era of COVID-19, the need to explain supply chain is fading every day. Supply chains are proving themselves to be the backbone of our economy, affecting almost every aspect of our lives. With these concepts and impacts now much better understood, our perspectives have changed. This is an extraordinary time, and those of us in supply chain have an opportunity to take this moment of awareness and use it to inspire others to get involved.
To that end, I am asking you to forward this article to someone you know who does not define themselves as a supply chain professional. Tell them a little bit about ASCM; but, more importantly, about the power of associations. Associations build strength by enabling people to innovate toward common goals. They create a more informed public and a more educated workforce. They produce groundbreaking research and valuable best practices. They develop a body of knowledge and standardized vocabulary to enhance communication and collaboration. Most importantly, associations unite individuals and organizations, which are distinct and diverse, yet share the same challenges and opportunities.
No matter the job or industry, everyone can advance their business and career through the essential supply chain resources that ASCM provides. Invite someone in your life to explore the possibilities today.