Dear Supply Chain

How enamored are you by your supply chain?

Supply Chain Letter
Dear Supply Chain. Getty Images

Dear Supply Chain,

From the moment I started assigning part numbers to my dad’s tube socks and cycle counting the 64-count crayon box in my kindergarten classroom, I knew one thing was real. I fell in love with you, dearest supply chain. Well, okay, I was five. How could I possibly separate what I thought was love from the exhilaration I felt when my cycle count program prevented Robby Lambert from walking out of the classroom with a burnt umber Crayola squeezed in his sticky little fist.

Right, anyway, back to you, supply chain.  That feeling that I interpreted as love was so deep that I gave you my all — from my mind & body, to my RF scanner & my landed cost model.

As a six-year-old boy, deeply in love with you (or so I thought – again, optimized supply chain brings with it a deceptively exhilarating high), I never saw the end of the warehouse. I only saw myself running one – a climate-controlled third party logistics facility, with a homegrown WMS and bar code readers as far as the eye could see.

And so I ran.

But it wasn’t a warehouse I was running. I was running out of product. It seems that you, dearest supply chain, are a part of almost everyone’s life. But optimized supply chain can be an elusive thing. It’s like, sure, anyone can chuck a basketball at a peach basket – but only those in the rarified air are going to lace ‘em up for the Association.

Yes, I might have fantasized about getting my customers what they want, when they want it – just like another kid might have fantasized about draining a jumper at the buzzer.

But the key to optimizing you, my dear supply chain, is getting my customers what they want, when they want it – and doing that by spending as little money as possible. Otherwise, that fantasized jumper might as well have been drained at the end of the first quarter. Without optimizing you, supply chain, I was only part of the way to truly finding the beauty in you.

I ran up and down every warehouse aisle, spreadsheet column, and low-cost manufacturing country – searching for you. You asked for tactical procurement and I gave you strategic sourcing. Because strategic sourcing came with so much more – like driving assurance of supply, consistent quality, and year-over-year savings.

I responded to MRP messages through the sweat and hurt, not because the challenge called me, but because YOU called me. I did everything for YOU, supply chain, because you’re a business function that makes me feel alive.

You gave a six-year-old boy his optimized supply chain dream. And I’ll always love you (at least I think it’s love) for it. But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer. This fiscal year might be all I have left to give. My ERP can take the pounding. My 3PL can handle the grind. But my cost of goods knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK. I’m ready to let you go. I want you to know now so we both can savor every moment we have left together. The good and the bad. We have given each other all that we have.

Unless, of course, you and I can continue to drive savings, and deliver to our customers on-time, and reduce total cost of quality.

Then, I’d be nuts to quit you.

And as for you, Kobe Bean Bryant, I’ve rooted against the Lakers since they beat the Sixers in the 1982 championship. But for the past 20 years, most of my anti-Laker rooting has been in vain. You were money with the ball in your hand late in games. I feared your last second heroics as much as I knew the result was inevitable.  5 chips, 2 Finals MVP’s, 17 All-Star games. Much respect.