“There is a tool for every task, and a task for every tool,” says the doomed patriarch Tywin Lannister in George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy A Song of Ice and Fire. Admittedly, he wasn’t talking about supply-chain management, but I’m comfortable appropriating his words to make a point about that particular discipline. Because executing on every step in the arduous course of getting product to market requires the right tool, wielded by properly skilled individuals. Access to resources is what it’s all about.
How, though, is the embattled supply-chain manager to choose? The world teems with attractive options: carriers, warehousers, logistics service providers, and vendors of hardware and software for every imaginable task (as well as some that no one imagined). Every one of them claims to be the perfect fit for your organization, and every one represents a substantial investment. Yet forging a successful supply chain depends on your consistently making the right choices.
At SupplyChainBrain, we’re out to shine a spotlight on as many of those options as we can. That’s the express purpose of this special annual issue, our Supply Chain Management Resource Guide. In these pages, we offer dozens of experts with insight into industry trends, wisdom, innovative thinking and, of course, tools. They cover a broad spectrum of verticals — retail, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, chemicals, and packaging, to name but a few. They clue us in on the latest technology, including artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things. They address such critical concerns as economics, global trade policy, sustainability, supply-chain education and professional development. And they offer their best guesses as to how all these issues will play out in the coming year and beyond.
It has never been a more exciting — should I say terrifying? — time for supply-chain executives and front-line workers. Top management is coming to realize just how important these individuals are to the organization. Long gone are the days when the supply-chain was viewed solely as a cost center — a series of painful if necessary steps toward reaching the point where the money was actually made. Today, these activities lie at the very heart of an organization’s ability to compete. That increasingly finicky (one might say spoiled) beast known as the consumer wants it now, and woe to the traditional retailer that can’t match the feared Amazon.com’s capability to make good on that demand. Again, it all comes down to the effectiveness of one’s supply chain, as it shepherds goods from planning and design through procurement, manufacturing, distribution and sale.
What follows, then, is an assortment of resources — or, if you like, tools — for guiding the actions of decision makers. No one, of course, can forecast with total accuracy how the economy will perform in the months ahead, let alone predict the tastes and behavior of individual buyers. But we believe the experts represented in these pages stand to play an important role in shaping your decisions about selecting the right suppliers, systems and people for meeting the needs of the future — and, in the process, achieving true and lasting supply-chain excellence. So read on.
Bob Bowman is editor-in-chief of SupplyChainBrain.