How to future proof your career in supply chain

Alex KaarFeatured How to future proof your career in supply chain

How to future proof your career in supply chain

Steve Kitto looks at the future state of the global supply chain and offers advice to senior executives on how to prepare yourself for the next economic cycle.


The supply chain market is experiencing an unprecedented level of disruption and change, driven by an ever-advancing shift towards reducing cost and improving efficiency. There’s never been a more critical time for senior supply chain leaders to step up and provide expert counsel on improving the operational health of the supply chain.


We believe that we have a responsibility to develop the leaders of the future as such, we act as career coaches and advisors to the most influential supply chain leaders in Australia and Asia.  It’s with this in mind, that we are able to share our insights and career advice with candidates and clients to help them carve a path forward in their careers and play an active role in developing the talent of the future.


As the market shifts from operational leadership to visionary leadership, supply chain executives are currently developing long term strategies and are executing broader visions, rather than focusing on simple day to day execution. As such, the expectations of the leaders of this function have never been greater.


When looking for a new role, it’s important to identify what kind of orgnaisation you are potentially entering into.  The most important factors when considering a new role are;


  1. At what stage is the organisation with their short and long-term objectives. Are they mid-way through an implementation, or at the beginning and require complete design?
  2. Does the business have a burning platform for change? Is there a requirement for it to move quickly, or is there limited scope to roll out initiatives?


It’s important to develop professionally, study formally and attend regular courses (either short course or up to MBA level) and stay up to date with industry trends, technology and leadership approaches.  I attend regular Supply Chain and Logistics Association of Australia events, as they host regular monthly meetings and I have found them to provide excellent insights into best practice and an opportunity to build my network.


Supply chain leaders are becoming more customer centric than ever before.  As more sophisticated international organisations, with powerful global supply chains enter the local market, there’s a faster, more agile benchmark being set on customer expectations. Local businesses who have let their systems and processes fall into a state of disrepair and inefficiency are feeling intense pressure to keep pace.


Presently, many predominant Australian organisations are focusing their strategy on the consumer in order to deliver an exceptional experience. To maintain your relevance in this market, as a candidate, you need to demonstrate that you understand the customer, the direct befit of which, will be to fortify the operational execution and strategic focus of the business you are entering.  Although AI supply chain technology is disrupting the industry, there also remains a need to make decisions and humanise at least part of the process to ensure delivery.  We cannot assume that technology is going to be the complete and entire solution to the supply chain challenge. For many organisations, the cost to automate is not immediately practical, so an interim solution that includes people, at both a leadership and ground level is a trend that we are likely to see play out for several decades until businesses can move towards a model of higher-level autonomy.


However, in spite of need of a human element in supply chain, there’s no denying that technology is a major disruptor. Autonomous robots and vehicles are targeting controlled environments such as warehouses, driving productivity, accuracy and execution. There is less room for inefficiency in the current, competitive market.  Today, customers expect not only what they want, but also when and where they want it.  If your organisation makes bold claims that exceed your capability and you don’t deliver on that promise, another brand inevitably will.  To be a market leader, technology must play a pivotal role in the supply strategy. Technology advances provide visibility within supply chain, control inventory, reducing operating costs, the result of which, is to allow an organisation to outpace the competition.  But these transformations must be implemented with minimal disruption, which is easier said than done.


With these advances in technology, we now have access to real time, actionable and accurate data at our fingertips.  This data provides instant access to important information such as order tracking, GPS location, parts location availability, products or parts closest to customer and tracking field support. This emphasizes the importance of the short- and long-term decisions required to be made by SC leaders. Automation in warehousing, live coding, tracking and of parcels and auto generated reports are creating significant savings in both time and money.


The key skill we seek to identify in a contemporary supply chain professional is the ability to demonstrate both design and execution.  Organisations will not accept a candidate that can simply deliver a project or operational model.  With technological advances disrupting the industry, the skill of designing a strategy, innovating, planning and executing is more important than ever before.  Along with ensuring immediate accessibility of the product, companies want to understand where the function of the supply chain will be in the future (12 months, 3 years, 5 years and 10 years) and how the customer and the P&L will be affected.  It’s this long-term outlook and ability to foresee future planning requirements across people, process and technology that adds tremendous value to a candidate’s marketability.


Today, leaders need to communicate their influence on innovation and strategy and highlight outcomes that are left behind as their legacy. The ‘shopping list’ of results and measurable outcomes will compliment this legacy, as it demonstrates the ability to both design and execute. A strong focus on commercial outcomes, cost savings and reduction in time to deliver are all key metrics that should be highlighted and explained in detail.


Before attending an interview, you need to ensure that you have conducted extensive research on the business and highlight your motivation for wanting to join the.  What excites you about the role?  What are the challenges you foresee?  You need to demonstrate your understanding of what ERP, WMS, TMS system has been implemented and what advancements have been made around its implementation.  You need to share your experience in implementing, utilizing and delivering operational and reporting mechanisms that optimize product access and reduce costs.


When articulating your experience, I strongly suggest focusing on your ability to harness, adopt and optimize technology and outsourcing some or all functions, IT integration and stakeholder management, all underpinned with a deep understanding the customer, the way they behave and the expectations that they hold.  You also need to demonstrate your understanding of the impact of every supply function, from sourcing/manufacturing to consumer purchase and provide examples of operational efficiencies and cost optimisations associated.  It’s imperative that you demonstrate your understanding of the practical application of data via powerful business cases, which succinctly outline the opportunities and threats to optimize the supply chain and effectively “future proof” the function.


If you are a senior supply chain leader who’s looking to further your career, or if you are currently running a supply chain business and are in need of high performing talent, then please feel free to Steve Kitto for a confidential discussion.



Steve Kitto
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