Bjorn, International Supply Chain and Material Management Leader, Kansas City, U.S.
As the discussion clearly shows, Supply Chain Managers face a wide range of concerns. In my experience the top issues are:
1) Cost Savings -- Senior managers seem to make so much of driving down the "price" of materials and measuring the same year after year with little regard for finding the means to reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of those same materials. Between the demands for price reductions and material quality requirements, the challenge I see in this is one of removing ourselves from the role of "monkey in the middle" and elevating ourselves to that of a "champion" that brings together seemingly opposed priorities. In short, asserting ourselves as leaders and champions of TCO.
2) Resolving Internal Conflict -- Oddly enough, challenge 1 relates directly to challenge 2....overcoming the internal struggle to be all things to all customers. This become even more difficult when there is little support of the Supply Chain Management function at a company's highest levels of management (and hopefully, leadership)! All too often the concept of team play and teamwork is lost within a peer group resulting in internal power struggles. The intentions of each peer within the group may be good, but the execution of individual departmental plans without regard for the common good of the entire organization leads to this particular challenge leaving a materials group to serve competing needs.
3) Keeping Up With a Dynamic Global Economy -- China, Vietnam, India, Eastern Europe (to name but a few) all have economies that affect our profession and procurement strategies. The challenge I see is one of keeping current with changes in the world with respect to its dynamic economies, politics, and social implications. The devaluation of US currency relative to other economies, mixed with international and domestic politics, and interwoven with the impacts on jobs within our companies, communities, and country put a tremendous amount of pressure on our profession to remain in touch with the rest of the world and agile enough to quickly and efficiently overcome the impacts of changes in the same. Sometimes the marketplace seems more like a minefield!!!