Many of us in supply chain find that the latter days of the year bring with them a quieter period of reduced workload, time with family, friends, colleagues, and often reflection on the past year.
This reflection is often focused in part on our professional lives, the headwinds we faced over the past year, what worked, what didn’t, and opportunities that are on the horizon for us to execute in the new year. Below are 18 tips for supply chain professionals to hit the ground running and “Crush It” in 2018!
18 Tips for Supply Chain Professionals in 2018
1. Invest in Your Health
As with pre-flight safety tips that advise you to “apply your own mask before assisting others”, supply chain professionals should invest in themselves to ensure they’re in an optimal position to be the best employee, team member, and leader possible. Studies show that investing in your health, lifestyle, nutrition, and exercise leads to better professional performance.
2. Type Your Goals Out and Post them at Your Desk
As busy supply chain professionals, we simply don’t accomplish sizable strategic initiatives that aren’t written down, as the daily course of business typically gets in the way. Write down your goals for the first 30, 60, and 90 days of 2018, and revisit them once each week. You’ll be amazed by the progress and self-fulfillment you realize because of this beacon guiding your daily tasks toward big-picture initiatives.
3. Get Outside Your Building
Ground-breaking ideas for optimizing your supply chain likely won’t come from your office, i.e. colleagues you converse with daily, attending the same industry events each year, or rubbing elbows with senior executives that started working at your company out of college. Truly disruptive ideas will likely come from other industries, trade associations that cast a wider net than your specific industry, and colleagues that work outside your industry. Break out of norms and seek fresh new perspectives that will drive your business forward.
4. Touch Base with Your Network
Those former colleagues and suppliers you don’t work with directly anymore? Yea, give them a call, shoot them an email, and send them a letter. In a hyper-connected, always-on, big streaming-data supply chain world that’s the new normal, simply taking an extra five to ten minutes here and there to maintain relationships will pay big dividends five to ten years into your professional career. When you need a new job or supplier, don’t wait until you need something to reach out to your network, but instead, find ways to provide value to your relationships in 2018.
5. Improve Your Relationships with Cross-Functional Colleagues
Whether you’re in procurement, supplier quality, production control, or logistics, supply chain is only one ingredient in the pie of successfully bringing a product to market. Thus, developing robust personal and professional relationships with your colleagues in product development, engineering, manufacturing, and finance will allow you and your team to be more effective. Take time each week to improve your cross-functional relationships in 2018, even if it’s just a short conversation.
6. Measure Twice, Cut Once
Too often, we as supply chain professionals fall victim to day-to-day “firefighting”, resulting in having to make suboptimal, “shoot from the hip” decisions in what may feel like a never-ending cycle of catch up. Buck this trend in the new year by taking the time, 5 minutes at the start of each day, for example, to plan for major daily decisions and gather the appropriate level of information that’ll put you and your organization in the best position to make better decisions.
7. Become a Mentor
Research supports that the best way for many of us to learn or master a skill is by teaching others. Consider your unique supply chain, knowledge, skills, and tools you possess that you could share with others on your team in the new year. Train and encourage others to do the same to raise your team’s collective performance.
8. Become a Mentee
The opposite of the above, as our discipline continuously advances forward in expectations, more c-suite opportunities, new software technologies, and more on-demand customer expectations, seek out peer and senior mentors that’ll help you navigate the ever-changing space of supply chain. Take it a step further and bring value to your mentor(s) by finding ways to increase communication in the relationship(s), like co-writing thought leadership on industry trends or new ideas.
9. Map Out a Plan for All Your Parts
In supply chain having a plan and executing on it is the name of the game. Go deeper in 2018 to unlock hidden product cost reduction, quality improvements, and operational enhancements by mapping out a Plan for Every Part (PFEP). Focus on ideal inventory, packaging, and lead times and impressed by the results that follow.
10. Craft Supply Backup Plans
Every well-laid plan can fail, and statistically, a certain percentage will. Looking ahead, prepare for this to further mitigate supply disruption. As you look at your PFEP, rank your suppliers by criticality of supply and prioritize outlining a backup supplier for your most critical suppliers in Q1 to reduce ongoing supply risk, along with potential headaches, in 2018.
11. Review Your Processes, Refine & Repeat
You don’t need to be a VP or Chief Supply Chain Officer to work on strategic initiatives. Set aside time, even if it’s one hour per week, to improve your day-to-day processes. Over the course of a year, that adds up to more than one business week’s worth of time. Your personal day-to-day job satisfaction and company’s operations will both directly benefit from this.
12. Attain an Industry Certification
Continuously investing in our professional education ensures we put ourselves in the best position to drive value for our employers and maintain employability. Here’s a quick list of the supply chain certifications every professional needs. In addition to certifications, ensure you’re a continuous learner. Explore post-graduate degrees and industry technical training to put yourself and your company in a position to succeed.
13. Read More (Audio Books are a Great Secret Weapon)
We all need to read more. Stop what you’re doing and buy a book on a supply chain topic that you want to focus on more in next year. Here are a few ideas to start. Audible is a wonderful tool for squeezing in a few additional books via audio, listening during your travels or on the way into work, for instance. It’s amazing the amount of material you can cover in a 10-minute drive to work every day. At the end of the year, this adds up to 2,500 minutes.
14. Make Time to Invest in Continuous Improvement
Impactful change projects usually take time, cross-functional collaboration, and resources. Proactively block off time from your day-to-day tasks to work on longer-term continuous improvement objectives. Scheduling an hour each week, even if it’s only you at the start, can plant the seeds of change to accomplish colossal results in 2018.
15. Get Organized
This is a constant struggle for most of us and there are a million books on the organization, but one of the better ones I’ve read is “Getting Things Done,” offering as many methods. Find a system that works for you and follow it. Everyone’s different, so the key is to use a repeatable system, whether it’s a task list on paper, in Excel, or in an app. One of the simplest ways to know if your new organization process is helpful is that it should enable you to give a brief report on all of your current tasks/initiatives, and their corresponding statuses, in less than 60 seconds.
16. Get a Handle on Your Total Spend
Many companies have an excellent focus on production module and component spending, but do they have a good comprehension of tooling, gauges, and services spend? There are often large untapped cost reduction opportunities in these lower priority areas. Further, what impact does poor supplier quality, delivery, and engagement have on your production spend? Reviewing the true cost of sourcing for production modules and components could unlock further module and component cost savings.
17. Track Your Impact
Businesses are fueled by cash. Ensure you’re documenting the cost reductions and avoidances, time saved (in dollars), and risk reduction (quantified in dollars) in all projects you support and manage. The beautiful thing about supply chain is that one dollar saved translates into one dollar of additional profit, straight to your company’s bottom line. Provide upper management with concreate numbers to receive improved executive sponsorship and resources to boost future project outcomes.
18. Think for a Moment
This may seem like an odd thing to add to a supply chain professional tips list, but then again, maybe not. Chances are, you likely self-selected a college major that brought you into supply chain. A simple pause and reflection on why you chose this field could bring new possibilities to light with projects you wish to lead, functional experience you want to gain, and career paths you desire to pursue, for the 2018 and beyond.
We hope the above tips aid you and your team’s efforts over the holiday season to quickly gain traction and “Crush It” in 2018!