Hiring Supply Chain Management Professionals – The Montreal Challenge

June 23, 2023

When a client organization describes the increasingly critical challenges they currently face, the focus of attention invariably turns to the state of their supply chains and the supply chain management leadership skills needed to ensure a thriving and successful business. Supply chain management practices have undergone a quantum shift in recent times, not only from the impact of COVID-19 on demand and resource levels but also technologically, with a myriad of game-changing digital transformation tools and techniques. The extent of disruption in supply chains has been characterized by continuing delays in deliveries, a reduction in both quality control and customer service, and, most importantly, a loss of confidence in meeting commitments.

Many organizations have attempted to address these issues by undertaking initiatives designed to increase visibility, improve resilience, enhance flexibility and increased agility. Stumbling blocks to achieving these objectives remain. Increasing visibility is hampered by the complexities of supplier networks and the lack of integration across multiple management systems used by supply chain partners. Improving resilience is hampered by a lack of integrated risk management practices across supply chain partners. Enhancing flexibility is hampered by organizations underestimating the shortcomings of both distribution and supplier production capabilities in dealing with unexpected events. And increased agility, the quality of managing change in supply chains through effective sense and response capabilities, is most sought after. Finding the “right” supply chain management professionals in these new times requires a recruitment ability that is fine-tuned to each organization’s unique operating environment and the design and operations of their respective supply chain. Today’s new times, and tomorrow’s evolving times, require hiring organizations to engage a team of knowledgeable and effective search professionals.

Supply chain management has traditionally focused on the procurement function, ensuring that the required components of a fabricated product be available in the right quantities at the right location when needed to support a production plan. The principal skills and competencies needed to undertake these activities were focused on the purchasing process (supplier management), the transportation of both components from suppliers to designated production facilities as well as the transportation of finished goods from production to customer facilities (logistics). Over the last 20 years, the globalization of supply chains has elevated the complexity of both supplier and logistics management to functions critical to the firm’s success, wherein supply chain management now encompasses functions such as strategic sourcing, production planning, inventory, and transportation optimization. Supply chain management is now considered a business practice that transcends traditional corporate functions, requiring supply chain managers with a new set of competencies and skills.

What are some of these new competencies? The skills and competencies have been categorized using three major themes: foundational, integrative, and functional.

  • Foundational competencies are those that are centered around the behavioral characteristics of a successful supply chain professional. These include traits such as adaptability, creative thinking and innovation, customer-centricity, decisiveness, digital dexterity, diversity mindset, outcome-driven, ethical behavior, and systems thinking.
  • Integrative competencies are those centered on the ability to apply specific practices and processes related to the optimal design and operation of supply chains. These include traits such as demand management strategy, demand and supply balancing, data analytics, demand sensing and balancing, geo-political environment, negotiations and conflict resolution, performance metrics, risk management, supply chain disruption recovery and prevention, supply chain security, systems technology literacy, structure and change management, and social responsibility.
  • Functional competencies are those centered on the organization’s design and structure and how such functions interact with both the design and operation of the supply chain. These include traits such as supply planning, product design and planning, process optimization, materials handling, order management, strategic sourcing, supplier relationships and development, facilities operations management, inventory management and optimization, cost management, order management, operational transport management, and business process outsourcing.

It is important for an organization to prioritize which of these competencies are key to the success of a supply chain role. The purpose of identifying such competencies in this discussion is to demonstrate the variety and breadth of those at the forefront of today’s supply chain challenges and hire leaders to focus on the most needed skills within an organization. While I have identified competencies such as social responsibility, ethical behavior, and diversity mindset, I believe organizations must demonstrate very specific attention to key expectations from society’s stakeholders in domains such as sustainability, environmental, social and governance (ESG) as well as diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

Corporate sustainability aims to ensure that businesses operate in an ethical, responsible, and sustainable manner and contribute to the well-being of the communities in which they operate. It involves addressing a wide range of issues, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving working conditions, promoting human rights, and conserving natural resources.

Overall, corporate sustainability is an important concept that recognizes the need for businesses to operate in a way that is both profitable and socially responsible and to create value for all stakeholders over the long term. Given this context, a sustainable supply chain can best be defined as one that fully integrates ethical and environmentally responsible practices into a competitive and successful model. End-to-end supply chain transparency is critical; sustainability initiatives must extend from raw materials sourcing to last-mile logistics, and even to product returns and recycling processes.

ESG is a set of criteria used to evaluate environmental, social and governance. Typically, these criteria are a subset of sustainability which includes economic considerations. Its main purpose is to provide stakeholders and investors with a framework to assess an organization’s impact on society and the environment, as well as its corporate governance practices. ESG metrics and factors are considered alongside traditional financial metrics by investors for ESG investing. Applying ESG criteria within a supply chain framework, ESG is a specific tool used to measure the performance of a company, while sustainability is a broad principle that encompasses a range of responsible business practices. ESG metrics are used to evaluate your performance in specific areas, such as carbon emissions and executive pay.

Today, more than ever before, businesses are employing more groups that have historically been inadequately represented. This trend shows that there is a general effort by leading corporations to diversify their workforce and, as a result, reach out to a growing marketplace that is global and heterogeneous. Because supply chains are so diverse, crossing so many organizational and geographic boundaries, supply chain teams must reflect the diversity of the customers they serve. For a company to really see the benefits of diversifying its employee base, it must have leadership that buys into the objective and is willing and able to support the change that is required in the corporate culture and in constructing a new policy infrastructure. The end goal can’t be all about the profit potential of DEI; if it is, the vision is short-sighted and, ultimately, won’t achieve the goals. The overt discussion of DEI needs to be substantive, not just about optics. This is where it becomes more intangible to measure the ROI because DEI needs to be as focused on establishing a better reputation, higher community trust, and increased sustainability and longevity. 

The Montreal supply chain market has been at the forefront of the digital transformation currently being experienced in a variety of industry sectors. Firms have evolved their supply chain thinking from being cost centers to ones that focus on competitive differentiation. Supply chain design has grown into strategic supply network design based on continuous improvement. And innovative technologies enabling digital capabilities to have brought data-driven, connected, and integrated supply network practices to a wide spectrum of Montreal industries.

Whether it`s building resilience, agility, responsiveness, or robustness into Montreal`s supply networks or evolving new practices in the application of artificial intelligence or optimization methods or expanding the use of autonomous mobile robotics and automated warehouse systems, Montreal`s business community has demonstrated the ability to implement and operate transformative models successfully.

Montreal has a professional supply network labor pool that has the expertise and the experience to enhance the value of new investments requiring supply network competencies.

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