Logistics Report Cards: Identifying a Good Supply Chain Manager

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January 20, 2014

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Hello Good people, I know almost everyone is nursing the Monday blues, however, that won’t stop me from sharing my usual little wit of logistic bravery. Come with me please.

We have said a lot about logistics: from the safest way to freight different types of products, to the role of the government in transporting cargo in Kenya. The one place it seems we are yet to shine the spotlight on is the people that actually make logistics possible: supply chain managers.

Photo Credit: Lassen High School (US)

Photo Credit: Lassen High School (US)

Like any other profession, there are mediocre supply chain managers and those that excel. The difference is usually determined by how well they perform a few very basic supply chain management tasks which may not seem glamorous, but are what the very industry is based on.

A key function of any manager is to properly manage company resources to ensure maximum efficiency. For a supply chain manager, this becomes even more specific: where technology allows, the duty of a good supply chain manager is to ensure automation of processes that tie up the valuable resource that is employees.

Where low level functions of the supply chain management process can be done automatically, employees will be free to be deployed on more urgent and useful tasks, effectively increasing the workforce at no additional cost. An example of this would be inventory and records upkeep: with logistics software available to quickly and accurately deal with updating inventory records, employees who would otherwise have had to do manually can be redirected to processing orders or other similar task that can be optimized with an extra pair of hands. A good supply chain manager will be able to identify areas such as these and implement automation procedures as needed.

Delivery cost management is another key duty of a supply chain manager. This means that he or she is capable of analyzing and somewhat accurately predicting the total supply chain costs for cargo, from source of supply to the final point of distribution. The value of this skill is self-explanatory: logistics firms or departments are able to properly allocate budgets as needed and ensure that cargo is at no point stalled due to lack of funds e.g. for clearance fees, fuel for vehicles and other routine costs.

For a supply chain manager to be considered efficient at their job, they must be able to manage variables that come along with transporting goods from source to final destination. This includes sudden increases or reductions in projected costs of freighting, departure time, arrival time and other such factors that affect delivery of logistics services. A good supply chain manager is therefore expected to be able to plan for any contingencies that may occur within the freighting process, and adjust  for them accordingly, allowing for as little interference with promised deliveries as possible.

Related to this is the need for dynamic routing. In some cases, planned routes for delivery may be unavailable for one reason or the other. These can range from natural causes such as volcanic ash or flooding to manmade disruptions such as roads being closed for unscheduled construction work or military coups making trade routes through given countries impassable. Dynamic routing means that for each part of a freighting journey, the supply chain manager in charge has back up routes and can adjust plans to ensure delivery of cargo within the original timeframe via alternative routes. For a supply chain manager to be recognized as “good”, therefore, they need to not only be skilled at planning optimal delivery routes, but also be adept at finding replacements that cause minimal interference to delivery as promised.

To employers currently evaluating their employees’ performance in this capacity, we ask that you do so with compassion: skill in these areas can be learned and perfected. As for our supply chain managers out there, how well did you score with our checklist? We do believe we hear the sound of socks being pulled up. Have an efficient day, won’t you?


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