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The Future of Supply Chain Management

By Barb Schwarzentraub, Divisional CFO and Director, Caterpillar Inc. [NYSE:CAT]

Barb Schwarzentraub, Divisional CFO and Director, Caterpillar Inc. [NYSE:CAT]

With the ever-changing demands of the millennial customer in the marketplace, I see the landscape of supply chain management having an immense and spatial potential to excel in the global trade network. Especially, with the advent of neoteric technologies, there is a tremendous opportunity to harness the power of information for making a considerable difference in the supply chain landscape.

Recent Market Trends

The speed of information has continued to grow, and the impact in our supply chain has become much more global at a rapid pace. It has considerably increased our ability to react with the speed of change in the market sphere to cope up with the ever-increasing customer demand. This puts a lot of pressure on traditional OEMs and on new individuals emerging in the marketplace for achieving customer satisfaction, as the end-users have other alternatives to meet their demands. I think one of the crucial factors for start-up companies and individuals to understand in order to make a difference in the marketplace is doing something that we have never done before. It is exciting for individuals but also very challenging, because the supply chain is very capital-intensive, where disruption can occur through information and analytics.

"We pull out the right ideas and encourage innovation for operating more nimbly in a large company, but also emphasize on collaborating and building along with the partners"

Methodologies and Approaches

We look through the customers’ perspective and what they are trying to achieve, and what value can be added to drive the customer needs before it arises as a demand. Using analytics and market research to predict and foresee the needs through suggestive selling, we can assemble and position the supply chain to deliver to the anticipated sales. I think the best methodology is using analytics to shorten the supply chain.

Achieving Efficient Management Aligned with Newer Technologies

The focus should be on the ability to predict and make our customers as efficient and effective as possible with analytics. As a Divisional CFO, my role includes looking at the challenges to cut down the cost of IT and how to use it to address the ever-changing needs and demands. The prime objective is to stay ahead in the competition in the most cost-effective and efficient manner. It is essential to harness the value for customers to ensure that we are bringing the innovations they need to establish their leadership through OEMs. To balance and act in a very agile fashion, it is critical to adapt and thrive on changes in a personalized manner through smart leadership in order to cope up with the dynamic world.

Evaluating the Right Partnership

As we are evaluating partnerships, we have found that the need to understand the value of what we are trying to bring to our end-customers is critical, and this can be done by figuring out how to nurture the things at the edges. We pull out the right ideas and encourage innovation for operating more nimbly in a large company, but also emphasize on collaborating and building along with the partners. Therefore, it is very important for being comfortable with some substantial failures at the beginning, but at the same time, we should focus extensively on the more considerable achievements in the future, with more open organizational principles and objectives.

Gender Equality and Women in Leadership Roles

One of the main points that we discussed was about women in leadership roles. As we know women have entered every spectrum, whether it is heavy industry or the automotive industry and continue to indulge themselves more in excelling at it. We focussed on attracting new and eligible talents to the supply chain industry irrespective of the gender. We emphasized on hunting down talents by encouraging them from the school and university level by making them aware of the dynamic market arena. The challenges for gender disparity are still prevailing, but it is important to infuse the prospective of supply chain management much earlier in someone’s career perspective.

Managing and Harnessing New Talents

If you want to strive forward in the industry, you have to think about the talent pool that you need to have in the pipeline and how to bring it into the organization in order to grow and take you to the next level. It is mainly about managing talent, continuing to develop the talent that you have from the perspective of one’s career. As a senior leader, it is important to focus more on collaboration with multiple personnel to get the solutions that you need in the most efficient manner possible.

Leadership Skills and Principles

I think some of the key drivers of success are the willingness to learn and be inquisitive. I rely on a tremendous amount of research whether through networking or by industry involvement. I think you have to be careful about the status quo and continuously challenge yourself to push the limits. This is how I encourage my team to recreate themselves and their capabilities in order to move forward. I focus on the development of the organization and most importantly, my team, and continuously strive for personal knowledge through informal networking, where I think one can gain the ability to look at things differently. Collaboration and the desire to work cross-functionally are key aspects for achieving success in one’s career.