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The DNA of Supply Chain Executives

Who are the professionals who make supply chain management the engine of the firm? We find that many roads lead to Rome: The diversity of supply chain talent resembles the extraordinary, cross-functional nature of the supply chain profession. Here is an overview of the education, career paths, and success factors of supply chain executives.

By ·

The daily life of supply chain managers is full of challenging tasks: negotiating last-minute order changes with sales due to new customer requests; defining working capital requirements with the CFO for the next budget period; or reviewing network structures for new emerging markets with suppliers. This diversity is particularly driven by the cross-functional nature of the job: Supply chain managers interact with many departments and people within and across the firm. In a recent discussion, a plant manager in the machining industry, a passionate athlete, shared his view on the role of supply chain managers. “I am an operations guy,” he said. “I really need tenacity to bring my production forward and achieve my annual cost reduction target; I need a limited set of capabilities, in particular, staying power like a marathon runner. A supply chain manager is a different type of athlete. He needs all these cross-functional skills, should be versatile, and must coordinate well with all departments. I admire people with these skills. In athletic terms, a supply chain manager should be a like a decathlete—the king of the athletes.”

Still, little is known about the backgrounds, careers paths, and success factors of these “decathletes” who intend to make supply chain management the performance engine of the company. In a joint project, our research group from KÜehne Logistics University and McKinsey & Company intensively analyzed the gene pool to shed light on supply chain professionals’ origins and evolution. We studied the career paths and educational backgrounds of thousands of supply chain managers and hundreds of supply chain executives. In addition, we conducted numerous interviews with supply chain executives.

In this article, we provide an overview of our findings. We summarize the educational backgrounds of supply chain professionals, detail the careers that led professionals into a supply chain executive position, and present factors that enable a successful career in supply chain management (SCM).

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Latest Resource

8 Ways to Master Your Supply Chain Labeling
Download the following report to learn how an Enterprise Labeling Solution can help you scale and add flexibility to your current supply chain labeling process, allowing you to adapt to evolving business requirements.
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By ·
Download Article PDF

The daily life of supply chain managers is full of challenging tasks: negotiating last-minute order changes with sales due to new customer requests; defining working capital requirements with the CFO for the next budget period; or reviewing network structures for new emerging markets with suppliers. This diversity is particularly driven by the cross-functional nature of the job: Supply chain managers interact with many departments and people within and across the firm. In a recent discussion, a plant manager in the machining industry, a passionate athlete, shared his view on the role of supply chain managers. “I am an operations guy,” he said. “I really need tenacity to bring my production forward and achieve my annual cost reduction target; I need a limited set of capabilities, in particular, staying power like a marathon runner. A supply chain manager is a different type of athlete. He needs all these cross-functional skills, should be versatile, and must coordinate well with all departments. I admire people with these skills. In athletic terms, a supply chain manager should be a like a decathlete—the king of the athletes.”

Still, little is known about the backgrounds, careers paths, and success factors of these “decathletes” who intend to make supply chain management the performance engine of the company. In a joint project, our research group from KÜehne Logistics University and McKinsey & Company intensively analyzed the gene pool to shed light on supply chain professionals’ origins and evolution. We studied the career paths and educational backgrounds of thousands of supply chain managers and hundreds of supply chain executives. In addition, we conducted numerous interviews with supply chain executives.

In this article, we provide an overview of our findings. We summarize the educational backgrounds of supply chain professionals, detail the careers that led professionals into a supply chain executive position, and present factors that enable a successful career in supply chain management (SCM).

SUBSCRIBERS: Click here to download PDF of the full article.

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8 Ways to Master Your Supply Chain Labeling
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From the November 2018
New research from APICS, Supply Chain Management Review and Loyola University Chicago finds that operating a responsible supply chain is an increasing priority. But gaps remain between practice and the goal.
2018 Warehouse/DC Operations Survey: Labor Crunch Driving Automation
Shining a light on the “black box” of transportation
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Inventory Management In An Omni-Channel World
In this webinar Bryan Jensen, executive vice president with St. Onge explains how leading companies are coping with inventory management and the strategies they're utilizing to succeed in this new world of distribution.
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EDITORS' PICKS
Proposed Tariffs May Have Impact on Most U.S. West Coast Ports and Supply Chains
Mega ports handling a more diverse array of goods are better able to withstand the blow of higher...
Supply Chain Crime Can Be Addressed By Blockchain Strategy, Says Deloitte Study
Yet, in a 2018 poll, just 15.1 percent of respondents report their organizations are using (3.9...

Global Supply Chains Prepare for Uncertain Economy
Recent strength in employment and income, solid gains in household net worth, and elevated consumer...
Current State: Supplier Relationship Management
APQC and Supply Chain Management Review asked supply chain professionals to answer five questions...