The global supply chain is now at the forefront of most people’s minds. Pandemic-driven shipping delays of common household products, medical supplies shortages and the unique challenges associated with the vaccine rollout have put the importance of supply chain operations and those who run them directly in the spotlight.
Procurement and supply chain professionals have significantly stepped up over the past two years to help their companies navigate the ongoing disruptions and reduce risk. These teams are also now tasked with leading their companies’ responses to global issues such as climate change, diversity and inclusion, and more by shifting the way their organizations source, purchase and sell.
Once considered a “backroom” function, the supply chain is now an extremely relevant, rewarding and strategic career. In fact, 99% of young professionals say the supply chain is a good career choice and 58% indicate they pursued a supply chain career because of its beneficial societal impact.
Here are just a few of the ways the work of supply chain and procurement teams makes a difference.
1. Ensures a steady flow of critical supplies.
From the Suez Canal blockage to the semiconductor chip issues, personal protection equipment (PPE) shortages and other challenges, supply disruptions have ruled the past two years. The pandemic exposed nearly every weakness in the global supply chain system and procurement and supply chain professionals have worked diligently to overcome those roadblocks and keep operations running.
Essential industries such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals continue to rely on procurement and supply chain teams to keep a steady supply of critical goods and safely get these materials where they need to be at the right time. Professionals in these sectors actively help their organizations identify and strengthen weak spots and proactively mitigate risk to boost the resiliency of these essential supply chains and ultimately protect people’s lives.
2. Gives new opportunities to minority-owned businesses.
We often think of the makeup of the workforce when considering diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). Internal diversity is an incredibly important factor, but it’s only half the story. Suppliers are an extension of your company and giving equal opportunity to these partners and promoting their perspectives through supplier diversity initiatives is another key component of true inclusiveness.
Minority-owned businesses face unique obstacles, such as social and cultural stigmas and economic disadvantages, that can hinder their success. Procurement and supply chain teams have the power to help diverse suppliers overcome these challenges through their spending power. In choosing to source from minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned and LGBTQ-owned businesses, SBA-defined small business vendors and others, procurement supports these suppliers’ businesses, creates socioeconomic impact and fosters inclusiveness. There are also clear business benefits of supplier diversity programs that can raise procurement’s visibility with senior executives, including supplier innovation (46%), organizational agility (38%) and lower costs (26%).
3. Moves the needle on sustainability and ESG factors.
Eighty-five percent of the world's population is affected by climate change, which makes it a critical societal issue to address. Supply chains produce 5.5 times more emissions than a company’s direct operations. In fact, 50-80% of a company's sustainability impact lies in its supply chain.
Procurement and supply chain leaders are in a prime position to drive change because they hold the relationships with suppliers. These teams collaborate with suppliers on new ways to make products and packaging more sustainable, ensure suppliers adopt sustainable practices and work with suppliers to drive environmental social governance (ESG) performance improvements. Procurement and supply chain professionals play a direct and important role in helping the world progress toward climate and other ESG goals in a way that other careers can’t.
4. Drives the business forward.
Technological advancements are empowering today’s supply chain professionals through enabling more strategic, creative and valuable work. Procurement and supply chain jobs used to involve countless hours of paperwork and manual processes. There was barely any time left in the day for professionals to get out of the spreadsheets, think bigger and drive new value for the business.
That’s changed. Technology is automating and eliminating tedious tasks so that procurement and supply chain teams can reallocate their time to more meaningful and higher-level work that has a strategic impact on the business. The time savings driven by the cutting-edge technology is also allowing professionals to realize where their passions and talents lie within the field. The supply chain and procurement functions are not immune to the impacts of the Great Resignation and automating low-value operations is helping companies retain workers while driving broader business success.
A bright career path
It’s truly an exciting time to work in this space. The work of supply chain and procurement professionals has never been more important or rewarding than they are today.
Technology innovation is taking off to help organizations address pressing business and societal issues. Moving forward, procurement and supply chain teams will have even more tools at their disposal to strategically and responsibly manage global supply chains.