Today’s supply chain organizations want to accomplish big things. And to do that, they need project management skills.
Back in the day, managing a supply chain was only about the movement of goods from point A to point B. In other words, what we might now describe as “logistics.” Cut to 2023, and modern supply chains are exceedingly complex.
Today’s top supply chains don’t just move tremendous volumes of goods around the globe. They use big data to add value across a business. They minimize excess inventory while increasing efficiency, as well as supplier resiliency. They’re a key driver of strategic innovation, enabling new product launches and better customer experiences. Increasingly, they’re also a seat of corporate social responsibility, empowering diverse supplier groups through supplier enablement, and improving the environmental footprint of their products. And they continue to do all of this while facing major disruptions, from the pandemic to the war in Ukraine and beyond.
Supply chain management has grown up. And today’s supply chain organizations have big ambitions. They want to not only modernize, but implement new emerging technologies like automation, digitization, AI, robotics, and others that can vastly improve supply chain performance, as well as overall business performance.
It’s no longer just about fighting daily fires. It’s about having vision, and using every tool in your toolkit to make that vision a reality. And to do that, more supply chain organizations are adopting a tool—and a skillset—that’s long been a part of supply chains, but more in the background:
Today, we wanted to write a brief post about project management, and what it—as well as Project Managers—can offer supply chain organizations.
First of all, to clear up any confusion: what’s the difference between supply chain management and project management?
- Project Management is the discipline that manages a specific task, using a variety of techniques and tools to ensure that the project is completed on-time, on budget, and within a defined scope.
- Supply Chain Management seeks to maximize the value from a business’s inputs, managing relationships with suppliers, logistics, inventory, distribution, and ultimate delivery to a customer. This often involves projects to improve the supply chain’s capacity to service the business and the customer.
It’s easy to see why these two disciplines—and careers—go hand in hand. But it’s not always the case.
In certain industries that rely on big building and infrastructure projects, project management has long been well-aligned with supply chain management. Mining companies need to build and supply new mines. Heavy industrial manufacturing organizations need to build new manufacturing facilities, and expand existing ones with capital-intensive equipment. These are massive projects, with huge budgets, and companies have long hired project managers with supply chain skills, or supply chain managers with project management skills or designations, to ensure that these projects get completed on-time, on budget, and within scope.
But outside these industries (or even within them), supply chain managers are increasingly tasked with executing massive new projects from business leadership, but they don’t always have the right project management support. A few examples of these projects:
- New technology implementations. For example, ERP upgrades, MRP upgrades, and WMS upgrades.
- Emerging technology implementations. These include automation, digitization, AI, robotics, and others.
- Procurement centralization projects. Many companies still have spend siloed across multiple offices (on the indirect side) or manufacturing sites (on the direct side). Adopting a centre-led procurement model allows companies to define relationships and success across the organization, consolidating suppliers and measuring supplier performance in a more holistic way.
- Procure-to-Pay (P2P) enablement projects. Companies that don’t already have robust P2P processes and systems are implementing them to knit together the entire lifecycle for their procurement. But executing these projects takes a tremendous amount of data, organization, and buy-in from suppliers.
- Facility and capability expansion. For example, new distribution centres and manufacturing facilities.
We’re living in the age of supply chain transformations, and any transformation is a major project. Many supply chain leaders are already coping, using project management techniques on an ad hoc basis. But there are tremendous risks that these projects will go over budget, blow past target deadlines, or will fail to remain in scope.
That’s where Project Management, and Project Managers, step in. They’re skilled at not only executing projects, but also at knitting together stakeholders—including suppliers—to get real buy-in and find efficiencies.
The Talent Angle:
So how do companies get this competency?
The good news is that Project Management skills are very compatible—and even transferrable—with Supply Chain Management. The best Project Managers and Supply Chain Managers are good at forecasting, risk management, and logistics, not to mention the soft skills to draw insights from data and present them to leadership. Many organizations will work to upskill their existing supply chain managers with Project Management designations, including Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP), and PMI Scheduling Professional (PMI-MP).
But sometimes, you have to bring in new talent.
In our recruitment practice at Argentus, we’re noticing Project Management skills starting to proliferate into supply chains more generally. More companies are calling us to hire Project Buyers, or Project Procurement Managers, or Supply Chain Project Managers—individuals whose background and expertise bring together the best of both worlds, to help them meet these challenges.
Additionally, many organizations are choosing to use us to recruit Project Management resources on a contract basis. That means they will bring on a Project Manager, or a supply chain consultant with project management skills for a set term, typically the duration of the project. This allows the company to ensure that the project is completed on time, on budget and on scope, without adding to their permanent headcount.
A skilled Project Manager, or Supply Chain Project Manager, can save much more than their pay rate in terms of mitigating the risks associated with the project. Many of these individuals also prefer to work on a contract basis. When the project is finished, they move on to another opportunity.
Supply Chain Management is continuing to evolve, and the demands placed on supply chains everywhere are only growing. This is just a small intro to the role that project management plays for supply chains everywhere—but hopefully it gets conversations started about the intersection of these two crucial disciplines.
And if you’re a supply chain leader contemplating a big project, consider Argentus for your Project Management staffing needs, either on a contract or permanent basis. We’ve been specialized in Supply Chain Management for over 20 years, and have worked with some of Canada’s top companies to get them results on some of these major projects. Call 416 364 9919 or send an email to email@example.com! We’d love to chat with you about your staffing challenges and how we can be of assistance.