Supply chains and find customers and develop products that’s what marketing and design do the supply
chains are when you would call the brain of the organization rather supply chains or the muscles and
bones of an organization world class supply chains are thus like extremely fit athletes.
Perhaps they’re like an Olympic gymnast.
These gymnasts are strong fast flexible and agile.
They can do nearly anything with their bodies.
Now suppose you had a world class gymnast perhaps only five feet tall but muscle from head to toe.
Imagine tomorrow morning they wake up from their sleep to find that they have grown to six feet tall.
Are they still a world class gymnast.
They’re probably having difficulties adjusting to this new body.
They’re probably in pain from the abnormal growth and very likely they are mentally traumatized from
this freakish event.
It’ll take time to adapt to their new body and develop new strengths.
This is sort of similar to what happens when supply chains are stretched globally.
Overnight employees are stressed as new employees and supply chain partners are brought on board.
The supply chain questions its own stability what used to be easy now becomes difficult as you adapt
to new supply chain partners in far off lands negotiating and managing tactics may need to be altered.
New laws culture and languages must be learned.
Trust must be developed with new partners so that vital information sharing can continue with the greater
distances may come greater challenges in delivering supplies and finished goods as well as in monitoring
factory and supplier behaviors.
With all of these stresses to the system you might ask why go global in the first place.
Well global supply chains offer many potential advantages.
Material energy and labor costs may be lower.
Perhaps there’s an opportunity to take advantage of better employees and technology.
In some cases supply chains move so they can be closer to customers.
In other cases they shift to be closer to suppliers.
These types of moves may bring opportunities to avoid excess tariffs expensive shipping fees and in
some cases they may even help control the chances of losses due to large currency fluctuations.
Therefore global supply chain managers need to have knowledge of global marketing.
International finance global trade agreements language culture and of course global purchasing operations
Look I know my story of freakish growth of the Olympic gymnast is far fetched but I hope the lesson
of that story is clear growing too quickly comes with its own consequences and learning curve just like
our gymnast would need physical coaching as well as mental support following her growth spurt.
So to do supply chains need extremely skilled supply chain managers to coach and support those in the
When it is time to expand globally think of all the cars electronic devices and clothing that are imported
into your country each year.
Now think of the effort required to bring that to you wherever you are when you want and at a reasonable
Imagine the number of countries companies and people involved.
Someone had to plan and coordinate their global supply chain.
Take a little time today and think about the very cool but very stressful job.
Supply chain managers have in trying to keep those global supply chains in world class shape.
The 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh woke up many to the reality of the dangers associated
with garment industries global supply chain over eleven hundred people died in that building collapse.
The event caused customers to wonder where their clothing is made and it caused some companies to take
a deeper look at their supply chain partners and their business practices.
The fact of the matter is though that even for the most well-intentioned companies developing and maintaining
ethical supply chains is a challenge.
Customers and investors are endlessly demanding more customers want lower prices and better products.
Investors demand better returns on their investment and there’s always the possibility that if you don’t
take dangerous risks perhaps your competitor will.
This may drive supply chain managers to demand too much from suppliers sometimes supply chain managers
may even boli their own suppliers thus implicitly pushing suppliers to consider cutting corners creating
unsafe work environments perhaps even hiring children to work long hours for slave wages how else might
these suppliers try to cut corners.
Well these suppliers might buy subpar or even dangerous materials from their suppliers toxic ingredients
and lead paint could then result in dangerous pet food baby formula or toys.
Still some manufacturers may make excellent and safe products but there are missions and waste may cause
great harm to the workers the community and the environment as a whole.
Supply chain managers are therefore challenged to keep workers and customers safe investors satisfied
and also work with their supply chain partners to get all of these things done right away.
How do they try and get this done.
By establishing internal and external codes of ethics by hiring auditors to monitor supply chain behavior
and even by using cell phone surveys to ask global employees about their job satisfaction and workplace
conditions still even when utilizing all of these tools and techniques.
Some companies find that some supply chain partners find ways around the rules.
Sometimes they get tip offs about auditor visits.
Some know how to cheat the system and still get passing evaluations.
Some even create 2 or more factory floors one clean and compliant area for the otter’s to see in a larger
more seedy factory floor hidden from public scrutiny.
Stay one step ahead.
The worst supply chain partners can be tough but let’s say you find you have a very unsavory supply
What do you do now.
Well the quick answer may be to say get rid of the supplier The Ethicist might ask Did that fix the
Very likely the poor behavior will continue long after you’ve dumped them.
In some cases perhaps the best thing a big powerful company could do is to keep their supplier.
It sounds strange doesn’t it.
But perhaps your company could use its leverage and power to force the supplier to change by saying
if this doesn’t change by next week we’ll stop payment.
If that doesn’t change by next month we’ll cut orders.
And finally if all of these things aren’t fixed in six months you will lose all your business.
Perhaps you can motivate big changes in your supplier.
They might even begin to understand that happy employees that work in clean environments tend to be
more productive and thus create better products that are bought by happy customers.
Look I know that sticking with bad suppliers will never make good press but no one said developing a
strong ethical supply chain was going to be easy.
So next time you hear about a major scandal instead of thinking about the evils of the business world
consider the challenges of the supply chain manager.
How could you have better communicated with that supply chain partner.
Could you have created a strong and reliable system to monitor supply chain partners actions and thus
avoid scandals like this.
How could you have motivated the supplier to change their business tactics.
In a world of cell phones social media and the 24 hour news cycle trying to hide bad business practices
it’s impossible whether companies do it for the right reasons or just to avoid negative headlines.
Developing ethical supply chains is no longer a choice it’s a requirement.