Fifteen years ago, the supply chain leader in most companies held a title such as “vice president of logistics.” It was a largely functional role that relied on technical proficiency in discrete areas: knowledge of shipping routes, familiarity with warehousing equipment and distribution center locations and footprints, and a solid grasp of freight rates and fuel costs. He reported to the chief operating officer or chief financial officer, had few prospects of advancing further, and had no exposure to the executive committee. The way companies need to think of the modern supply chain executive has changed dramatically.
Today, the need goes well beyond functional expertise. Supply chain executives still need to be experts at managing supply chain functions such as transportation, warehousing, inventory management, and production planning. But the supply chain process extends end-to-end within the firm and even outside the firm, including the relationships with suppliers and customers on a global basis.
Leading firms now see the supply chain functional leader as the necessary executive to coordinate the end-to-end supply chain process, even though he or she does not control it all. The battle for top supply chain talent must be focused on acquiring people with process expertise, not simply functional competence. The mental shift to supply chain-as-a-process leads inevitably to the shift of the role of the supply chain executive from a functional focus to process focused, and to supply chain leadership becoming part of the executive team.