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The New Supply Chain Balancing Act
By Jon Adams, Chief Fulfilment & Logistics Officer, The Warehouse Group
There was a time when the predominant balancing act in retail supply chain management was to steer an even and honest path between the two monolithic functions of buying and store operations. Sure, there were more conceptual and intellectual challenges to manage—the balance of tradeoffs between cost and service, stockholding and availability, productivity,and team engagement amongst other operations. But in reality in retail supply chain, just as in IT, it was only when things went wrong that there was any real scale of attention and focus.
Times change, however, and we are now well into an era where in retail, just as in so many other spheres, the supply chain function is regarded as a key and pivotal point of difference for any self-respecting, future-driven, and most importantly growth-challenged retailer. Second only, of course, to technology. Both supply chain and technology figure loud and clear as enablers of this significant change.
It’s an exciting time for all the retailers who have just woken up. And there’s no shortage of opportunity nor is there a lack of ideas or potential partners and solutions. The challenge is to tie it all together—even loosely—in some way that makes sense and provides a map of the journey rather than just a flag to wave.
And that is where a solid partnership between CSCO and CIO can really pay dividends. This futuristic fusion of the pragmatist and the idealist can lead the charge for the modern retailer.
The big new balancing act out there for a modern retailer to conquer is the optimal split of focus between now and the future.Flying the plane and fixing the engines is a relevant and well peddled phrase, but in this era of Elon Musk and SpaceX, the new paradigm is that as an industry we are launching a rocket ship whilst still merrily tinkering with the engineering. Not a very likely recipe for success without some pretty radical alternate thinking. And I believe that the radical answer is one that's right under our nose— People.
The big new balancing act out there for a modern retailer to conquer is the optimal split of focus between now and the future
A lot has been written about the importance of people in the new world. Indeed with the procession towards AI and robotics, theorists have us believing only the top jobs will remain, and they may well be right. Leaders have volumes written for them—how to transform themselves and their organizations, how to attract and develop the very best and youngest talent, how to organize, be credible and aware, and how to stay healthy and sane while doing so. We have a very clear picture of what we need and what we can expect, from the next wave of future recruits. Data driven skill sets, agility, curiosity, networked, savvy, connected, egalitarian, and diverse yet without expectation of any loyalty or longevity. Yet there’s a missing link that is at risk of being forgotten, and that’s the people in the organizations.
Certainly in retail supply chain the skills and nous that are gathered up from months and years spinning plates, developing relationships, and following processes should still be valued just as highly as the critical skill sets that are brought in to supplement and transform. People want to learn and develop. And more of them have the capability to evolve if we as leaders are willing to support them instead of scare and confuse them. If the new balancing act is to throw everything at a radically different eco system enabled future, whilst still winning today in the most cut-throat competitive arena ever seen, then who better to help you get there than a hardy band of loyal, trusted, and proven cohorts. Not leaving them behind is your duty.