Does Supply Chain’s image need to catch up with the times?
We all know the Supply Chain field and all the great functions within it (Logistics, Procurement, Distribution, Operations, Manufacturing, Planning, etc.) are in high demand within companies, and we also know that Supply Chain has a lot of work to do to attract talent in the next few years – what with so many baby boomers at the manager level and above retiring in the next 8-12 years.
It’s our perpetual hobby horse here at Argentus that Supply Chain needs to be doing more as a field to attract young people. Whether it’s organizations partnering with universities to provide information and educational opportunities, or industry associations holding informative events aimed at the wider public, many Supply Chain leaders are using creative strategies to develop the next generation of talent in the field. But is there something about Supply Chain’s image that’s holding it back from being seen as the crucial, strategic function with tremendous career potential it is today?
This is an issue that popped up in our discussion of why there aren’t more Women in Supply Chain Leadership roles: it’s the question of Supply Chain’s popular image and whether it’s preventing women and others from viewing it as a lucrative and vibrant career option.
On company websites, magazines, promotional videos, and industry association pages, Supply Chain has always employed imagery of the nuts-and-bolts of how products get to market. We’re all used to images of hard hats, warehouses, trucks, trains, shipping containers, boxes, and palettes as a sort of visual shorthand for Supply Chain as a function. We use plenty of these images here at Argentus in our blog posts, service pages, etc. We get it: there needs to be some kind of imagery to associate with an industry or function. But it’s worth considering: does imagery of trucks and boxes adequately convey the strategic edge that Supply Chain offers to companies? Does it offer a realistic vision of what Supply Chain Directors, Planners, Strategic Sourcing professionals and others do every day to uncover efficiencies and integrate global processes across a business? Or does it send a message to young people that a career in Supply Chain is, let’s face it, boring?
We all know that’s not the case. We recruit for jobs in Supply Chain every day, and we hear this from candidates all the time: A progressive career in Supply Chain is fast-paced, with tons of variety. It’s very closely tied to both technology and globalization, so it’s rapidly evolving. And it’s rewarding, both intellectually and financially. But many people outside the field have a persistent perception that is rooted in Supply Chain’s origins: that it’s a blue-collar, transactional function. And the imagery that we often employ hasn’t caught up with how the field has evolved.
Let it be said: we fully support and admire all the front-line individuals who make Supply Chains run effectively. Distribution centre staff, drivers, and transactional buyers are all crucial components of Supply Chain success. But it can’t be denied that images of trucks and warehouses end up reinforcing an image of Supply Chain as a purely transactional function. Beyond that, they often don’t show the people themselves who really provide the value. Maybe part of the difficulty is that Supply Chain offers value as a connector. It connects suppliers with businesses, manufacturers with distributors with customers. And it’s harder to depict the connections between things than it is to depict the things themselves.
We’ve written before about how Supply Chain isn’t the flashiest business function, and it rarely gets recognition in the news. In fact, many in the wider public aren’t even familiar with what Supply Chain is. But at all levels of business all the way up to the C-suite, more and more people are noticing that Supply Chain offers a strategic edge that allows companies to succeed in a global context. It brings business functions together, streamlines operations, and ensures positive customer experiences.
Isn’t it time that Supply Chain’s image caught up to the times?
Bronwen & Sam
So what do you think? Does Supply Chain have an image problem? If so, what can be done to change its image? Is there any other imagery that companies can use to show the flexibility and strategic ability of today’s modern Supply Chains and help attract young people to the field?
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