Getting the basics right – blocking and tackling

Over the last two decades I have watched as supply chain systems and practices have become more and more sophisticated. This has been a good development, as this has meant that supply chains have become more robust and flexible, and more responsive to customer and company needs. This has allowed companies to squeeze significant savings out of their supply chain practices.

But I have also seen a downside to these developments.

As the systems and processes have become more complex, there has been less need for people who truly understand the principles that make any supply chain effective. In addition, with less human interaction, there has been less opportunity for creativity and for exploiting the opportunities that are inherent in every supply chain. I’m afraid that we are heading for a supply chain world where the only role people will have is to push certain buttons. While this will certainly save companies money, since they won’t need to hire people who truly understand how a supply chain operates, it could lead to a decline in the overall knowledge level of the people who are working in supply chain positions.

In my opinion there will always be a need for people working in a supply chain to understand the basics – the blocking and tackling practices – that make every supply chain successful. No system can replace solid human judgement and experience, they can only mimic it. And companies that let this knowledge perish among their people will pay a price in missed opportunities and decreased commitment to supply chain excellence.

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Comments

  • christinebaese  On December 13, 2011 at 07:40

    I am with you wholeheartedly on this. I have seen the overall transportation knowledge and growth of the people in our entry roles decrease as our processes have matured. It’s an unintended consequence of changes made with good intentions. How do you see us repairing this?

    • fitz1  On March 17, 2012 at 14:01

      I don’t think we can repair this on on our own. If the companies we work for don’t see the decline and work to correct it, we’ll need to wait until the damage starts undermining the bottom line performance. Then I think we’ll see more interest in resolving these issues.

  • fitz1  On December 13, 2011 at 20:15

    I don’t think this will change until those in leadership positions realize that systems cannot adapt to change as rapidly as well-educated people can. An over-reliance on systems is dangerous and short-sighted, as these are rarely self-correcting. Sadly, I think things will have to deteriorate further before this becomes truly obvious.

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