Getting and keeping supply chain’s seat at the table

If supply chain professionals can secure a seat at the table, it becomes easier to share insights, challenge processes, support the business and be part of strategy creation – ultimately it becomes easier to deliver value.

“Supply chain functions act as an extension of the organisation as a whole”, says Laura Faulkner, CPO and Director: Supply Chain Management of financial institution Nationwide Building Society.

Faulkner leads a team that supports the delivery of Nationwide’s business strategy. This support is delivered in a collaborative way to all stakeholders and suppliers: “our suppliers and partners are simply an extension of our own firm. We have the ultimate responsibility and the actions of our suppliers reflect on us”.

To achieve this, supply chain must have a seat at the table. However, “this is easier said than done”, admits Faulkner.

“At all the firms I’ve worked with it’s been something we’ve pushed for. We really do need a seat at every relevant table, whether that be the investment boards or the strategy committees – you need to be part of the discussion, not someone brought in and brought up to speed outside of the meeting. It’s easier when you’re sitting round the table to give your insights, to challenge, to support and really be part of either the decision making or strategy creation.”

But, says Faulkner, getting that first invite to a meeting is easy – keeping the seat at the table is the real challenge.

“If you want to be kept at the table, you need to be able to add something and bring some unique and different types of thinking. [Supply chain management teams] are one of the strongest links to the outside world. Use it and you can bring insight and innovation.”

Events this year truly tested this resolve: the collapse of Carillion, one of Nationwide’s biggest suppliers, in January 2018, hit particularly hard.

“When [Carillion] collapsed on 15 January we really did have only two areas of focus. One was to secure the services, which included everything from security, reception to data centres and maintenance. But we also had to do the right thing by all of the Carillion staff that had served Nationwide for a number of years. Within six days of Carillion’s collapse we had insourced all 300 members of staff and directly contracted with the 160 sub-contractors.

Sharing this kind of story shows how supply chain can add value, not only to your own organisation but also in sharing it across other industries.

We’ve all got things we can learn from each other and it’s key that we play a pivotal role within our organisation. We are that link to the supply chain, we do not outsource the risk that the supply chain brings and we have to take full responsibility.”

Nationwide is investing £1.3-billion into its new strategy and supply chain is fully engaged in making that happen: “I’ve been working with the Chief Technology Officer – we’ve been holding meetings and strategy sessions with all of our key partners and investigating new possible supply chain partners. It is that engagement, and listening to what our suppliers have to say, that will really help us develop the strategy further and, ultimately, deliver it”.

Adapted from Procurious

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