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Supply Chain Pivot
Supply Chain Pivot

with Rob Shirley

Supply Chain Pivot with Rob Shirley Recalculating As we move towards the speed of thought becoming


As we move towards the speed of thought becoming the deliv- ery metric, it is worth reflecting on how we got here, what the customer is looking for and what skills are required to excel. Before we begin, it is important to realize that most people you will ever meet will believe that they could easily do this dif- ficult job well and, therefore, you should be great at it. Skill sets oscillate from the person who just started on the dock to someone with decades of experience and advanced degrees. A very short summary: the wheel was invented in Iraq in 3500 BC, Christopher Columbus discovered America, Isaac Newton observed gravity, William Waddell founded Pony Express, Alexander Bell invented the phone, the Wright Brothers invented the airplane, Henry Ford mass-produced the first vehicles, Albert Einstein explained that energy and matter are different forms of the same thing, and Frederick Smith started FedEx. When a customer calls you to ask why their package wasn’t delivered from Taiwan to Tupelo on time, your answer needs to be explained more easily than, but just as quickly as, E=mc 2 because the customer is in a hurry. It is estimated that a total spend of $3.5 trillion a year is made on transportation, warehousing, inventory obsolescence, customer service, and associated costs to power the global supply chain. This is what capitalism and free enterprise are all about on a hyper-competitive worldwide scale

With that much money involved, you can imagine how much is at stake. Your challenge as vP, Director or Manager is pivotal:

  • 1. Institute superb employee recruiting to find, get and keep the best talent – balance between full time, part time and temps.

  • 2. Formalize training and leadership with all employees and independent contractors.

  • 3. Keep costs competitive and profitable for products, services, solutions, labor, technology, and real estate.

  • 4. Have as few suppliers as possible, but beware of natural calamities because they are sometimes not recoverable.

  • 5. Always have inventory accessible.

  • 6. Create and maintain vendor relations and outsourcing at a high level.

  • 7. Provide packaging:

    • a. That weather, trucks, and handlers can’t harm

    • b. That is green and reusable

    • c. That is easy for the final customer to open

      • 8. Offer money back guarantees and free returns

      • 9. Think local and act global

10. Have great customer service that upsells orders without being a nuisance. 11. Select your transportation modes to balance order cycle with costs and customer satisfaction. 12. You can’t manage what you don’t measure — create metrics that drive performance on everything.

To accomplish this mission, you will need a wide array of skills that include: Analysis, Arbitration, Geography, Global Strategy, Leadership, Logistics, Marketing, Negotiation, Process, Purchasing, Supply Chain Management, and Technology. Some schools with great curriculums for these skills are MIT, Michigan State, U of Penn, Carnegie Mellon, Penn State, Arizona State, Ohio State, Stanford, Northwestern, U of Tennessee, Thunderbird, and Georgia Tech.

looking foR

SuPPlY Chain PRofeSSionalS?

Great people are the bedrock key to your suc- cess. The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals has a good recruiting site. Visit for more information.

You may

remember that I previously wrote the Regional

Alternatives column, so where did I come up with this new name? Well, Supply Chain Pivot was coined because a pivot is: any person upon whom something or someone functions or depends on vitally. It seemed fitting for this subject matter. We invite you to use this column to teach, challenge and explore the intricacies of the journey ahead. Feel free to rec- ommend who, what, why or where you want to hear about. p

Rob ShiRleY is president of ExpresShip, inc. a strategic partner in the global supply chain. Email him at

february 2012 |