When you hear quotes like “Companies don’t compete. Supply chains compete” made by some of the world’s foremost corporate executives, you know for sure that the value of supply chain training and education is greater than it has ever been before.

Business success is rapidly becoming synonymous with supply chain success, and the more you spread an understanding of supply chain management across your enterprise, the more likely is your business to thrive and grow.

For this reason if no other, basic supply chain knowledge should no longer be allowed to exist solely within your company’s procurement, logistics, and manufacturing functions.

 

The Teams to Target for Supply Chain Training

 

So who else needs to understand supply chain management within your business?

You might be surprised to know that your company will benefit enormously by delivering supply chain training to those in the following functions and teams:

  • The executive management team
  • Sales managers
  • Marketing professionals
  • Accounts and finance departments
  • The IT organisation
  • Human resources managers

Yep! It’s a long list and one which may have you wondering where all the money’s going to come from to provide supply chain training to what seems like the entire company.

 

As will be explained later in this post though, basic supply chain training for the groups listed does not have to be expensive or overly extensive.

 

In the following paragraphs, we’ll explain how and why each of the teams in this list can do more for your company with a little basic supply chain training and education.

 

Supply Chain Training for Executive Officers – Really?

Perhaps your company has already recruited a Chief Supply Chain Officer, or promoted one from within the organisation, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for other senior leaders to lack technical knowledge about supply chain matters.

For example, unless they hail from a supply chain background, CEOs may underestimate the importance of aligning supply chain strategy with business strategy. Some basic supply chain training can equip your CEO to prevent or correction strategy misalignment, a common and sometimes costly business weakness.

 

At the very least, the CEO and other executives should understand how supply chain performance affects business operating costs, product availability, and working capital requirements.

 

Supply chain knowledge will also help your CEO and her colleagues select the right candidate if and when they bring a Chief Supply Chain Officer into the executive fold. The importance of this will not be lost on any company that has suffered from a poor CSCO appointment decision, and there are a few such enterprises still picking up the pieces.

Furthermore, with the benefit of appropriate supply chain training, executive teams are better equipped to…

  • Drive cross-functional collaboration to improve supply chain performance
  • Understand and properly assess business cases presented by supply chain managers
  • Secure the right business partnerships to improve the extended supply chain
  • Leverage the company’s supply chain to add business value

 

Troublesome Trade-offs in Sales, Marketing and Supply Chain Management

The supply and demand business is fraught with trade-offs, many of which deliver gains for one function at a cost to another. For instance, when a sales department offers deep discounts toward the end of a period to meet its targets, sales orders may indeed improve dramatically.

 

Sales spikes don’t always benefit profitability though, especially when margins are eroded both by discounts and logistics cost increases.

 

When supply chain functions are not informed in advance of such discounts, those extra orders cost more to satisfy, and it may even become problematic to fulfill them. Not only is this a thorn in the side of logistics managers, it can also cause customer service issues and harm your company’s reputation.

 

These and similar problems arise too, when marketers run promotions without warning supply chain management to expect an uptick in orders.

 

Apart from placing a strain on logistics resources and raising cost-to-serve, the impact on inventory management can be severe, resulting in shortages and even stock-outs, or at the other extreme, a glut of post-promotion inventory tying up precious working capital.

 

Generating Empathy with Supply Chain Training

The good news is that the above-mentioned trade-offs can become less thorny if only sales, marketing and supply chain teams are able to collaborate more closely. More often than not though, a vicious circle ensues, where the trade-offs create enmity, exacerbated by the lack of understanding as to how each function’s activity impacts the others.

 

Basic supply chain training can help sales and marketing professionals understand concepts like the bullwhip effect, cost-to-serve, and sales and operations planning (S&OP).

 

This in turn might make it easier to end the blame game. When enmity is replaced by empathy, your company has the chance to transform supply and demand planning into a collaborative activity, reducing uncertainty and bringing down operational costs across the board.

 

Supply Chain Training Elsewhere in the Enterprise

Just as sales, marketing, and executive activities impact supply chain performance, so too do those in other areas, such as human resource management, information technology, and finance.

 

If you provide supply chain training to staff and managers in these areas, you increase the opportunities to strengthen your enterprise.

 

Here are just a few examples of how a little supply chain understanding can be a big help to the way your business runs:

  • IT personnel can improve the way in which procurement and logistics technology is selected, implemented, and managed.
  • Human resources specialists will be better able to recruit, hire, train and develop supply chain professionals.
  • Your accounts payable, accounts receivable and other finance functions can integrate processes more closely with procurement, logistics, and manufacturing teams, perhaps to reduce order-to-cash and procure-to-pay cycle times.

 

Pragmatism Matters in Supply Chain Training

Before you have palpitations over the potential cost of providing supply chain training across your entire enterprise, it’s important to know that it doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive, or to require many hours of classroom training-time.

 

The most valuable supply chain training is the pragmatic kind, using hypothetical and real business scenarios, peer-to-peer coaching, online education, and occasional workshops or seminars.

 

These training methods help business professionals quickly grasp how the gears of the supply chain mesh with those of sales, marketing, finance, IT, and human resources.

You don’t need to think in terms of bachelor’s degrees or supply chain certification. Instead you might…

Finally, if active training is not an option, you could always provide employees with one or two practical books on supply chain management and run a testing or assessment program to ensure the literary guidance has been synthesised and understood.

For those in your company who are not directly involved in supply chain operations, training in the fundamentals is all that’s needed. The important thing is to choose the right level of education, tailored to the right group of students, and focused on the transfer of practical, rather than theoretical knowledge.
Best Regards,
Rob O’Byrne
Email or +61 417 417 30