Global supply chains require worldly managers who not only excel at outsourcing and other cost-cutting measures but have a broad enough base of experience to aid the company’s growth as economies recover, according to Jim Davis, a managing director at Russell Reynolds who conducts searches for top executives in industrial manufacturing and distribution industries and co-heads the recruiting firm’s supply chain practice.
“On the recruitment side, demand is pretty heavy” for executives to head integrated supply chains, Davis says, noting that a cadre of senior executives is approaching retirement and companies are finding “inadequate replacements.”
That’s partly because the push toward increased outsourcing and just-in-time inventories has made the business environment so complex that executives often specialize in vertical silos of the integrated supply chain, such as purchasing, manufacturing, distribution and logistics, Davis says. “It tends to limit the supply of people who have that broad experience.”
An expected pick-up in the growth of economies worldwide, after the recessionary lows of recent years, increases the need for another layer of skills.
“There are the executives that are astute at outsourcing and cutting costs, and then there’s the mentality of folks good at working with the sales and marketing departments to develop products they can make in the supply chain effectively and get to the shelves faster,” Davis says. “That’s a focus on growth rather than cost reduction.”
That requires collaboration skills, and global experience helps as well, since companies have outsourced their needs to suppliers across the planet. In fact, executives managing supply chain divisions at large corporations may also need the ability to adapt to new cultures and surroundings. Davis says a large U.S.-headquartered technology company recently moved its entire supply chain department to Southeast Asia.
“Many of the folks running the supply chain in the U.S. declined to go over,” he says.
To read about what some big companies are doing to control supply-chain risks, see So Long, Just-in-Time Inventory. And for a look at the factors involved in quantifying supply-chain risks, read Property Risk Blind Spot.