Supply chain management has figured prominently in organisational priorities since Keith Oliver in a reported conversation with a Philips manager, Mr. Van t’Hof, coined the term in the 1970’s, and it has become even more so at the onset of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.
Supply chains are operational relationships made up of activities that transform and carry merchandise from their sources to their final point of use. Supply chain operations cross borders and through enterprises, making it a requisite for managers to deal with counterparts from other places and firms as they strive to productively fulfil the demand of products and services.
Despite just about everyone’s familiarity with supply chains, it has become a challenge managing them. This is because supply chains are very comprehensive in scope and as such, it covers all functions that have anything to do with the procurement, manufacture, and logistics of products & services. From the mining of materials, the harvest of fruits, grains, & vegetables, to the manufacture of metals, consumer goods, & appliances, to the purchase of merchandise plus the logistics of storage, handling, transport, and delivery, supply chains intertwine through industries.
Management is about the exercise of stewardship of activities and operations in a facility, department, and an organisation for the purpose of meeting strategic visions, missions, and objectives of stakeholders. Managers work with systems and structures as they bring forth value for the enterprises they work for.
The design and construction of said systems and structures, however, are not the jobs of managers. Much as they may be charged to initiate and oversee their set-ups, they’re not the ones who build and fix them.
That job goes to the engineer.
Both supply chain managers and engineers have one common purpose: deliver productivity.
Productivity is how much is accomplished versus of how much is put in. It’s output over input where the higher the ratio, the more ‘productive’ one is.
Supply chain managers plan, organise, control, and direct the operations they oversee towards higher productivity in the delivery of merchandise and services for the enterprises they work for. Supply chain managers have the added task of establishing interdependency between their employers and the vendors, service-providers, & customers that are the links in the supply chain.
Supply chain engineers plan and build the systems and structures the supply chain managers work in and with. Supply chain engineers study, design, plan, build, set up, buy, install, and fix facilities, networks, methods, equipment, vehicles, workplaces, and flow patterns of activities, resources, services, and merchandise that underlie supply chain operations.
Whereas supply chain management has become a high-profile profession given the growing challenges of scope, complexity, and disruption in the global, regional, and local exchange of goods and services, supply chain engineering remains as an unrecognised, if not ignored, field.
It is my aim to promote Supply Chain Engineering as a very much needed discipline that goes hand-in-hand with Supply Chain Management. This is in line with my vocation to boost the productivity of the operations of organisations.
One cannot achieve optimal productivity if supply chain managers have shoddy systems and structures to work with. It’s hard enough that supply chain managers have to negotiate with other organisations given the over-reaching scopes of operations. They could use the help of engineers in ensuring they have the optimal systems and structures that support the strategic productivity goals of enterprises.