As the name implies, supply chain management or SCM follows manufactured products through a chain of steps from raw materials to the customer. Between the first and final steps in the process are – supplier, manufacturing of the product, distribution, retail, or wholesale location, which arrive at the point of sale to the client or customer (buyer).
Each one of the above has multiple facets. The purchase of raw materials must suit the manufacturing process and be at a price agreeable to the company. Frequently, this may involve negotiation between the seller of the raw materials and the buyer – the SC Manager. Overseeing the manufacture of the goods could be another duty of the supply chain manager. He/she may ensure that this phase meets quality control standards. Inventory and transportation are other responsibilities of the manager.
Success in the position requires planning, scheduling, analyzing data, arranging transportation, marketing, and strategizing. You could be the sole person in SCM or part of a department or division in a large corporation or organization. Whether one person is handling a company’s SCM or many, there is constant internal and external communication. As mentioned, in a production facility, the price of raw materials may require the manager to convene with different suppliers to negotiate the price and execute the purchase agreements.
It is a skill and a trait. One can develop oral communication skills by enrolling in public speaking classes or joining organizations like Toastmasters. This global organization has been instrumental in developing speaking and leadership skills. Founded in 1905 by Ralph Smedley, the international clubs provide a venue for individuals to overcome their fright of public speaking. Some of the graduates from Toastmasters have become politicians, actors, astronauts, and business owners. A sample of these is:
- Debbi Fields Rose – Founder of Mrs. Field Cookies
- Donald D. Lamm – Former President of Xerox Corporation’s Information Systems
- Leonard Nimoy – The actor, is known for his role as Mr. Spock in Star Trek series
- Walter Shirra – NASA Astronaut, test pilot
- Linda Lingle – Governor of Hawaii (2002-10)
Schools offering a Bachelor of Science in SCM typically emphasize this skill by naming effective communication as one of the vital competencies students learn. For this reason, a communication course is part of the General Requirements. The University of Arkansas includes Public Speaking in its SCM undergraduate degree. The class studies message strategies, audience analysis, speech criticism, listening, and presentation skills.
One could argue that oral communication is a skill, not a trait. The latter defines your personality, which you acquire through genetics and environmental influences. These influences involve culture, family, friends, and experiences in one’s early years of life. Some people have the gift of the gab – they are at ease speaking to a group without trepidation. Others, because of their personality traits, are terrified at the prospect of public speaking. These individuals need to overcome their fear if SCM is their career choice.
Another trait that usually goes hand-in-hand with public speaking is confidence. Again, the extroverts of the world gravitate to positions of leadership because of their self-confidence. From an early age, some children assume a dominant role in a school. They join clubs and attract a host of friends. This trait benefits the SC manager, who deals with different levels of the corporate structure from warehouse personnel to the executives.
Confidence is a common trait among extroverts, which propels them to greater heights of motivation. Coupled with positive emotions, the two make a dynamic duo for success in positions of leadership. Extroversion has also proved to be a buffer for stress and anxiety – two conditions not conducive to collaborating with different personality types.
However, not all leaders and successful people come from the ranks of the extroverts. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, Warren Buffet, investor guru, and actress Meryl Streep are introverts. These people may be introverts, but they have not shied from the limelight, or lack the confidence to excel in their respective vocation.
As an SC manager, you will undoubtedly encounter problems, which arise during any of the phases in the supply chain, as referenced above. The issue needs resolution quickly as the problem might interrupt the production or manufacture of the goods. Effective problem-solvers are good thinkers. Some experts opine that problem solvers use intuition and logic to arrive at a solution. Are intuition and logic traits or skills? You learn a skill. Intuition is something you develop from experience and, possibly, by genetics.
Beyond intuition is the ability to examine the problem systematically and calmly. Collaboration with your team or other departments may be part of the research process. Critical thinking comes into play as an effective problem-solver. There is also a link from extroversion to confidence to a positive attitude. The positivity trait may afford situations that are less prone to create problems!
SCM requires a creative person to keep the steps in the supply chain running smoothly. Managing warehouse inventory necessitates an innovative approach to make the best use of the available space and, at the same time, maximize inventory. Computer software programs might be limited in this regard. A creative mind can imagine the means to utilize warehouse space beneficially.
Businesses see creativity as imperative in a competitive global environment. Creativity breeds innovation – an admirable quality in SCM. The trait is also the catalyst to solving problems and developing new products and the most efficient means to supply them to customers.
Whether the above traits are the best in SCM is open to debate. However, there is no doubt that they are essential to one’s success in the profession.