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It’s [Supply Chain] War out There. The Best Duct Tape and Talent Will Win.
October 8, 2021
By Hannah Kain, ALOM President and CEO
“How long can I keep asking my staff to work 14 hour days?”, asked my friend who is running a major global supply chain organization. I had just shared my rather bleak views on bracing for ongoing supply chain uncertainty and increasing disruptions. While many areas may improve slightly in 2022, there is no end in sight for the issues caused by structural and infrastructure deficiencies. And, who knows when – if ever – any geopolitics and trade issues may improve? Supply chain professionals are doomed to working under whack-a-mole supply chain for a good while.
It brought the discussion back to not just the labor crisis, but the supply chain talent crisis.
Blogs, podcasts, and social media are flush with opinions about the mental crisis affecting most everyone. Medical front-line personnel face tremendous stress. And, right now, so do supply chain professionals. Some of us deal with disruptions that may be of life-or-death importance in medical supply chains such as critical medical supplies, vaccines, tests, and equipment. Many others are in critical areas from food to fuel. Certainly, the stress is pervasive.
With the whack-a-mole supply chain, new issues pop up every day. Ports close down, prices explode, factories run behind, orders get shifted, raw materials run out, packaging materials are in short supply – the problems keep coming at our staff. Our systems are not set up to deal with this type of crisis and change, and neither are our organizations. The systems break down when the information used for decision making is incorrect. For instance, in the “good old days”, meaning two years ago, lead times were fairly defined. Right now, lead times feel more like wish lists that change by the minute. This leaves supply chain professionals to fix the supply chain with duct tape, and then fix the fix to the fix multiple times.
Plans are being redone daily, procurement is helpless and yelled at from all sides, logistics experts are vying for limited space. On the front lines, the regulations and stress from lack of global coordination caused supply chain workers to send an open letter to the UN heads of state.
The word on the street is that the “Great Resignation” is partially caused by staff being overwhelmed by changes. If so, it is a true wonder that there is anybody left in supply chain.
For years, I have written about the talent crisis in supply chain, starting with the need to recruit and educate more supply chain professionals. I have also claimed that only companies with strong talent will be successful. Today, this is even more important than I had anticipated. I am privileged with great award-winning talented staff members. Over the last month, four staff members were recognized with national industry awards, and I am not beyond boasting of them.
The success behind supply chain is a strong planning process. Yet during whack-a-mole supply chain, these resourceful professionals catch and remedy all the changes that were not in the plan.
If it weren’t for the pandemic, we ought to declare a hug-a-supply-chain-professional day. It is war out there, including war on talent. Who is fighting for you?