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Increasing recognition of the supply chain

Increasing recognition of the supply chain
Well, I’m the Chief Supply Chain Officer for Premier Farnell, and we’re a high service distribution company. I guess if you looked at my role, you could probably split it into three parts. The first part is actually keeping the day to day operations running, and I’m responsible for ensuring that our service levels are maintained. Also, we have a global distribution network, and it’s making sure that that works in the way it should, but also, within the cost and service parameters that we expect.
The second point is probably looking at the long term strategy of the business, and particularly in terms of the supply chain, how that fits in, how we actually structure our supply chain, and how we actually manage the footprint of our warehouses, operations, our systems, in order to meet our business objectives. And the third part of the job really is being a member of the executive team of the company as a whole. And it’s contributing a supply chain perspective to the decisions we make about the direction of the business, our proposition and where we actually want to take the business going forward. Did I know I wanted to work in supply chain?
No, I think I started actually in manufacturing and I did a physics degree, and then a master’s degree in manufacturing systems engineering. And I guess I really actually just liked making things and liked creating things. But by the time I got to my third or fourth job and I noticed that most of the factories that I worked in were now retail parks, I thought I’d probably better actually find another direction. And also, supply chain became both more technical, and physical operations became more like factories.
But also, being in supply chain, it gives you the ability to get really an end to end perspective on the operations side of the business, and that just seemed to be an interesting thing, so that’s why I took that direction. As I said, I was a graduate trainee in manufacturing and operations at Lucas, who sponsored me for my master’s degree, and then I guess I went through a range of things. I mean, there were a couple of sort of key points where you could see transitions. I built a factory in Holland and then stayed in Holland and set up a European planning organisation, which was really the beginning of a European supply chain part.
And that both gave me European experience and really moved me from manufacturing to supply chain. The experience I’ve had in manufacturing, of putting in MRP systems, was of real use there. And then I think there was a couple of other steps. So I worked in Asia for a time putting in a distribution joint venture, which gave me a lot more commerciality. And then a couple of jobs really putting together a supply chain strategy, and I think that was really useful in terms of giving you a perspective of what an end to end supply chain looks like. And then that enables you to bring those operational parts and the strategic parts together to be a chief supply chain officer.
Being a chief supply chain officer, I think in order to do that, it’s hard work, and you’ve really got to make sure that it’s something that you want to do. Probably going into finance is going to earn you more money. I think, as I said, one of the advantages of being in supply chain is that you get an end to end view of the business. And I think what you also need to do though, is be able to appreciate the issues you’ve got in the context of the whole business.
So take a wide view of what you’re doing, get as much experience as you can in different parts of the business that may be directly related to supply chain, or may be tangential to it but have an impact on it. Get a good grounding in the basics of problem solving and understanding the technologies. And probably most of all, deliver stuff, because I think one of the things that most companies look for are people who can actually make things happen. And that’s really what being in supply chain is about. You’ve got to be able to deliver things, whether it’s a physical parcel you’re delivering or actually change within an organisation.
So that’s probably the biggest thing that you’ve actually got to get under your belt.

Working in the supply chain is hard work, and you need to make sure it is something you really want to do. It enables you to get an end to end perspective of the business, develop a global career, but doesn’t pay as well as financial services!

Nick Wilkins was an early graduate from an Executive Masters Programme in Manufacturing Systems Engineering from WMG. He was sponsored by Lucas where he was employed as Manufacturing Systems Engineer having left University with a degree in Physics.

As Nick explains in the interview above his route into supply chain was through manufacturing as he saw factories in the UK being replaced by retail parks. He developed a global career with roles across key aspects of the supply chain (planning, manufacturing and logistics).

As Chief Supply Chain Officer (CSCO) at Premier Farnell he is one of a handful of CSCO around the globe as this role is a relatively new addition to the Executive suite. In 2000 when I joined academia, there were only around 6% of management boards that had a supply chain presence. By 2015 this had increased to around 50%, but still many of these roles are re-branded procurement or logistics directors, lacking the full breadth of SC activities. The Manufacturing Director is often a totally separate role.

The emergence of the CSCO is a positive step forward for getting the recognition for the supply chain that it deserves. Given the end-to-end and strategic nature of the supply chain to business, this is absolutely necessary to build strong and sustainable businesses.

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Supply Chains in Practice: How Things Get to You

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