Supply Chain through the lens of Douglas Kent

Supply Chain through the lens of Douglas Kent

It is not every day that we get to have a (virtual) coffee with Douglas Kent, Executive Vice President of ASCM. But for CIMCIL (Part of Moore), he was happy to make time to highlight his vision of the Supply Chain of the future. 

Douglas Kent’s view of the future of Supply Chains.

Douglas Kent has been Executive Vice President of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), including the North American division and its international partners, for the past six months. He is also responsible for its business intelligence and solutions architecture, particularly for corporate customers. This makes him the perfect person for a revealing discussion about Supply Chain developments and the importance of ASCM certification in the current environment.

How has the Coronavirus crisis changed the Supply Chain landscape?

Douglas Kent: “The crisis has had both good and bad sides. The advantage of the pandemic is that everyone now knows that Supply Chains exist and are important. The hoarding of consumer goods made people realize that Supply Chains are the beating heart of industry. At the same time, the crisis has made it painfully clear that most of our Supply Chains are not strong or flexible enough to cope with such a series of continuing disruptions. We are currently seeing this reflected in the persistent shortage of certain goods and skyrocketing transportation costs.”

What are – according to ASCM – the biggest challenges for companies after the crisis?

“The biggest challenge is to make Supply Chains sufficiently resilient. A recent study sponsored by ASCM found that a lack of understanding of the Supply Chain weakened both strategic and operational resilience. Looking at the different levels of the Supply Chain within the SCOR [Supply Chain operations reference] model, we find that in level 1 visibility isn’t too bad, but from level 2 onwards it deteriorates to the point of being nonexistent. The relationship with the supplier is therefore an area that needs attention. A sense of sustainability is also still too often lacking in the Supply Chain.”

Does that mean that companies are now looking at their Supply Chains differently?

“Before COVID-19 struck, companies were often only focused on cost savings. They were mainly concerned with their bottom line. Today we notice that companies are focusing more and more on their top line. The C-suite is clearly taking the Supply Chain more into account. Resilience in the Supply Chain is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have.”

What role do ASCM and, more specifically, the APICS certifications play within that evolution?

“ASCM wants to show Supply Chain professionals the way to success within their organizations. We also try to set up conversations between companies and academics, resulting in more successful employee development.”

What exactly are the skills people need to thrive in the Supply Chain. And how does ASCM certification help with that?

“At ASCM, we believe the best Supply Chain professional is a T-shaped individual. The crossbar of the T consists of a broad knowledge of the entire Supply Chain. ASCM offers the Principles program or the CPIM Part 1 to help professionals gain a complete understanding of the Supply Chain in its entirety. The depth of the T is formed by an in-depth knowledge of a specific area. You can achieve that through APICS certifications. Within ASCM, we continue to focus on the formation of this T-shaped individual. Becoming a member of the ASCM community also helps Supply Chain professionals to properly develop the crossbar in the long run.”

When should Supply Chain professionals consider becoming certified?

“Obviously, the answer to that question varies. ASCM aims to be a ‘home’ for life. From the time people start college to the end of their careers. We also strive to make the Supply Chain a viable and interesting career path. But people also see an APICS certification as a feather in their cap. Supply Chain professionals often view certification as an important step forward in their career. That’s also reflected in their salaries, as our annual study of certified professionals’ salaries found.”

How does ASCM – and its members – stay abreast of the latest Supply Chain trends and developments in the Supply Chain field?

“We do that by organizing the Research Innovation and Sensing Committee. Members and academics discuss the latest trends in Supply Chain. We use that input to inform our community, but also for our own learning development. We also organize the JTAs [job task analysis]. These help to give us a clear understanding of the daily activities of a Supply Chain professional in the field.”

Do you have any advice for people who want to step into a Supply Chain role?

“This rapidly changing environment has a high turnover rate. Yet the Supply Chain profession is becoming more attractive as companies now realize they need a resilient and strong Supply Chain. Supply Chain professionals are now part of the C-suite. That alone should be enough to make you want to pursue a Supply Chain career. There is also a huge need for talent right now. The demand is far greater than the supply. That, of course, creates opportunities for people to get into the business. And as already mentioned, we firmly believe that a T-shaped individual will operate excellently in a Supply Chain function and can achieve their career goals there.”