heroSupply chain managers are not generally considered to be heroic in their daily efforts. Sure, there are plenty of difficult issues they tackle all the time, but the individual things they take care of generally amount to keeping the business running on schedule - in other words, doing what they were hired to do. Supply chain managers can make themselves more important to their organizations by thinking ahead of their daily operations and keeping an eye on these 4 areas of concern that are already emerging in 2018.


Social media

Companies have been engaging with their customers over social media for some time now. Services like Twitter and Facebook have enabled quick responses and more personal interactions. And chatbots have been successfully added so that customers can get quick answers to their most frequent questions. Some companies have built a significant portion of their customer service initiatives around social media but haven’t often included supply chain activities in their loops. The typical ‘where is my order’ query may involve a portion of the supply chain but there’s likely to be much more information that today’s deeply integrated and visible supply chain can bring to the table. SCMs should work with customer service to identify questions that are not being addressed completely and find ways to bring more value to these interactions.

Sustainability

There are so many aspects of the supply chain that impact sustainability ranging from packaging materials to transport fuels. SC managers need to assess their responsibilities and actions as they consider partners and services, and develop checklists as starting points to comparative analysis. Small considerations can mount up to bigger issues and eventually result in savings and how the company is seen in its role in the environment.

Certifications

It’s one thing to test and certify the operation of a certain function or piece of equipment. Those certifications can be based on internal reviews or even applied against international standards. But one area that is being increasingly used without any valid certification is internet of things (IoT) devices. While IoT devices are populating every area of the enterprise they are still by and large untested for security, and that’s because a full security standard for IoT has not been ratified and accepted, much less implemented. SC managers need to be wary of any communicating device they add to their processes and look hard at how they connect and what information is being transacted to enterprise systems.

Data visualization

The supply chain is spawning massive amounts of data. SC managers need to do more than simply react to daily status reports and develop ways they can leverage the transaction data being recorded in their systems. Data visualization techniques can deliver new insights into both historic trends and recommended future actions. Explore the information stored in your systems and look for ways to put it to use.

None of these areas is individually likely to make you a hero to your enterprise but taken together and put to practice, they can make the supply chain a much more important and visible area of the enterprise, and the supply chain managers who enable and drive change in the right direction can be seen as heroes in their own rights.

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