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Time-Tested Supply Chains Respond at Times of Crisis

Many companies put over half their spending into the hands of supply chain leaders, and many of Chief Supply Chain Officers – a title that didn’t exist 25 years ago – are stepping into the role of CEO.

By ·
By ·

The recent spate of hurricane disruptions highlights how big box retailers like Wal-mart and Home Depot have supply chains which are nimble enough to respond to crises successfully. The retailers have processes for how to deploy product and people before, during, and after a major storm event, and a strict policy against price gouging, so that their stores can serve as vital support centers. In fact, they have served as best practices for several states to model their crisis response after.

Many companies put over half their spending into the hands of supply chain leaders, and many of Chief Supply Chain Officers – a title that didn’t exist 25 years ago – are stepping into the role of CEO. The examples are inspirational, such as Tim Cook of Apple and Mary Barra of General Motors. The new reality of interdependence and close operational working relationships, along with an outlook focused on finding equitable solutions, make supply chains the new ultimate testing ground for successful leaders.

In a world of increasing automation and artificial intelligence, supply chain managers reflect the physical blurring of lines between the physical and virtual worlds in their unique leadership skills. To build on a thought by Carl Sagan, we live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology – except supply chain managers, who must perfectly match technology’s potential to meet people’s needs. Expect to see more supply chain leaders in the headlines in the near future.


About the Author

Michael Gravier
Michael Gravier is an Associate Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at Bryant University with a focus on logistics, supply chain management and strategy and international trade. Follow Bryant University on Facebook and Twitter.

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From the September-October 2017
Additive manufacturing and 3D printing promise to simplify manufacturing, reduce inventories, and streamline operations. But, to determine when and how to apply additive manufacturing, organizations need a decision model that assesses it’s market strategy, supply chain performance, and complexity.
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Risk and Resiliency 2.0:  Three New Keys to Managing Supply Chain Risk
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