3 Ways Supply Chain Mgrs Are Awesome Parents (& 3 Ways They’re Not)

Supplier Management, Inventory Control - Supply Chain Is All Over Parenting.

Dad and Kid
Multi-Tasking. Getty Images

Parenting.  So much has been written about it – by better writers and better parents than me.  I’ve described the fog of my parenting as “Bruce Banner transforming into the Hulk but isn’t quite indestructible yet”.  Confusion, anger, helplessness, pain and resignation – all shoved into a Vitamix 5200 Blender. Flip the switch to detonate.  That’s me, the Dad, on a good day. 

But maybe I’m giving parenting a bad rap because of my inability to pull it off.

  Parenting might be more accurately described as what happened to Jean Valjean early in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.  You’ll recall that Valjean stole a loaf a bread to feed his sister’s starving family and ended up spending about 20 years behind bars.  So that’s it, really.  As a parent you try to do what’s right for your family and you end up spending a generation in a brutal and unforgiving prison. 

Suffice to say that I find parenting extremely difficult.  (And, ultimately, rewarding.  Eventually Valjean allowed a smile to unfurl across his lips, even though it was on his deathbed.) 

The good news is that supply chain professionals have what it takes to be awesome parents.  Here are the top 3 ways all parents should emulate them.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – Customers can be demanding and inconsistent.  They may not always know what they want, and therefore change their mind frequently.

  Supply chain pro’s are experts at making customers feel like they’re getting what they want all the time, when really the supply chain pro is forging a win-win relationship.  I’m not calling all your customers children, but – hey, look Elmo’s on TV!

Re-Order Points – A seasoned supply chain pro has a preternatural ability to know when products need to be re-ordered.

  Leadtimes, safety stock levels and customer demand all whip around a supply chain mind like hidden patterns to John Nash in A Beautiful Mind.  A supply chain pro can walk through a warehouse and sense when components need to be purchased (although they have MRP systems to verify their intuition).  In that same way, a supply chain pro’s expertise keeps baby food, diapers, Cheerios and Folgers Dark Roast stocked and at the ready.

Inventory Control – Using cycle counting, physical inventories and inventory accuracy metrics, a supply chain pro can tell you exactly what you have on hand and when it can go into production or when it can ship.  That same precision and control allows the supply chain pro to have diaper bags packed and rooms maintained in an orderly and controlled fashion.  Relax, supply chain has this parenting thing down.

Ahem…  On the flipside, here are the top 3 reasons that supply chain pro’s make horrible parents (or, at least, parents who are perpetually exhausted, baffled and lost).

Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) – When a supply chain pro is engaged in SRM, the supply chain pro is the customer.  What some supply chain pro’s fail to realize is that, while the supply chain pro is SRM’ing, the supplier on the other side of the table is CRM’ing.

  (see above)  Ergo, the supplier is treating the supply chain pro like a child.  And children rarely make good parents.

Planning – Supply planning.  Production planning.  Demand planning.  A supply chain pro’s life revolves around planning.  Planning and parenting go together like sand castles and tsunamis. 

Inventory Control – There is no such thing as control.

Once Valjean got out of that prison, he stole from a bishop, fled from the law and carried his future son-in-law through the sewers of Paris.  So take heart parents – there is a reward out there if you can hang in there long enough.  Well, I mean, it was Paris.