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Habits of Effective Supply Chain Leaders in Electronic Manufacturing

Posted by Jan Hewitt on Tue, Nov 6, 2012 @ 16:11 PM

The supply chain relationships have become such an important part of any manufacturing business and especially that of a job shop that values keeping inventory at a minimum and On-Time-Deliveries at a maximum. I am sharing some habits that are a must for success.

Eye for Details

Supply Chain Leaders don’t go by perceptions or the superficial analysis. They are the ones who change perceptions by presenting in depth and unbiased analysis. However,  there is a difference between having an eye for details and getting lost in details. A superficial Supply Chain Leader will try to solve the problem of increasing backlog of customer orders by increasing safety stocks. Whereas the effective supply chain leader will get into root cause of the problem by forecast reliability or production reliability and attack the right cause.


Supply Chain Leaders are astute and inquisitive observers. They are not dependent only on reports and excel analysis to take decisions. They keep an eye on softer aspects, qualitative and informal information to blend it with the quantitative data. The superficial manager will always be satisfied with the sales forecast received from Sales or Marketing. Supply Chain Leaders are aware of the sensitivity in their factories or shops. They use it in making a decision on changing production schedules up or down.

Technology Friendly

Supply Chain Leaders are comfortable with technical developments in the area of Supply Chain. They don’t have to be a technology genius but they should continuously update themselves and evaluate the technology in their area.

Team Player

This is one habit without which no Supply Chain Leader can hope to survive. I have seen many Supply Chain leaders in my career become victim of their own politics. All supply chain processes require involvement of cross functional teams and making them agree for the “business cause” is the most challenging task. Supply Chain anchors the balance between demand and supply, cost and service. Taking sides or pleasing one section can be dangerous for supply chain performance. Also not involving a section of relevant people in a process may lead to a biased view of a situation and into wrong decision making. Whether it is demand planning, supply planning or customer service strategy, you cannot do without a cross functional team involvement.  


Supply Chain Leaders cannot afford to hold to a point of view. As the business and external conditions change, they need to adapt themselves to the change. They change their strategy and review their processes to align with the business. They are flexible enough to allow elbow room for any unforeseen deviations that may happen in the chain. It is essential in a job shop that you allow changes and respect the needs of the customers. One reason most of the business managers dislike supply chain people is for their lack of flexibility. In the adherence to processes, the supply chain people may overlook the business needs.The flexibility has to be built into the processes and performance management. The attitude has to change from “why it can’t be done” to “this is how it can be done”. This is where a good Master Scheduler is essential, pulling all of the team members together to focus on the customer and their needs.


A good Supply Chain Leader will always look for the risks involved. This does not mean that they are averse to risk taking but they should always have a back-up or mitigation plan in
place. The ability to generate “what-if” scenarios will help to minimize exposure to operational and financial risks. What if my most critical supplier would close or have a natural disaster strike? What if a commodity price rises beyond expectations? These things can happen and we should always have a good Plan B

ready. We should also have good, strong relationships with the supply chain, one that benefits both parties built on trust, honesty and ethics.


Jan joined RBB in 2010 and brings over twenty years of experience in Purchasing/Materials, along with several years in Accounting. Jan is responsible for all Materials, Purchasing, Planning and Receiving.

Topics: Small Batch Electronics

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