Evolving and Exciting!

India is growing supply chains from both domestic demand and export interest. This combination will require advanced and capable supply chain management professionals now and into the future, says Tom Linton, Chief Procurement & Supply Chain Officer, Flex.


What are some of the hottest trends in Supply Chain Management currently at the global level?


Global supply chains are optimized by speed and agility. To gain competitive advantage companies are constantly looking for ways to accelerate and reduce costs. Often this comes from improved visibility and network optimization. In net: speed wins in supply chains as it improves customer satisfaction, lowers costs and reduces material liabilities.


Where do you see the Indian supply chain scenario in the context of what is happening globally?


The ‘Make in India’ strategy helps increase manufacturing in India. The next important step is to ‘Buy in India’ as that shift reduces imports which add costs in logistics speed and duties.


Would you agree that Indian manufacturing companies today understand the significance of having the right kind of supply chain to enhance their competitiveness? Or are there big gaps?


I see a great amount of eagerness and capability. What is needed is the investment to match that desire. Infrastructure improvements are also needed to match other competitive economies, so logistics are not constrained by the movement of materials.


Is the big boom in the e-commerce sector affecting the supply chain management in other industries? In what way?


E-commerce on the Business to Consumer side has been firmly established and is growing globally. What is needed now is increased Business to Business investment to optimize supply chains inter-company, in the same way B2C e-commerce has driven consumer interest.


Did you have to make any drastic changes to Flex’s SCM after taking over?


Flex is a supply chain driven company. To help optimize supply chains for over 1,000 customers operating in 30 countries and over 100 factories we created Flex Pulse, which is a real time system for visualizing the material in motion around the world. Most supply chain improvements come from seeing what needs to be improved. From that visibility, things like agility and speed can be derived. This system has been globally recognized as one of the very best at improving supply chain performance.


Flex is a kind of one-stop shop for the connected world providing wide-ranging solutions from design to engineering and from manufacturing to logistics. What kind of supply chain does Flex rely upon to support such diverse functions?


At the core of Flex is a mission to design, build and deliver products around the world. Flex has the added competitive advantage of being able to do that in factories spread across the globe. This allows companies to quickly expand capacity in markets they want to win.


In the book “The LIVING Supply Chain: The Evolving Imperative of Operating in Real Time” that you have co-authored with Robert Handfield, you have spoken about the ‘LIVING era of supply chain management’. What exactly is it and why is it important?


Supply chains are different than other business functions. They are evolving constantly. In our book we refer to LIVING as Live, Intelligent, Velocity, Interactive, Networked and Good to outline the imperatives driving the modern supply chain. Each of these descriptions outline how supply chains adapt to changing market conditions, locations and requirements. India is growing supply chains from both domestic demand and export interest. This combination will require advanced and capable supply chain management professionals now and into the future.


Is there really a “secret ingredient” to leveraging the power of a well-managed supply chain – particularly in the VUCA business environment? If yes, then, what is it?


Volatility is and should be expected. The modern supply chain demands visibility so that uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity can be overcome. That is the competitive advantage of Flex Pulse, our tool for reducing these issues in supply chain management.


How do you see technologies like IoT and AI impacting the supply chains?


Supply chains in the future will be increasingly autonomous as applications from various supply chain nodes talk to one another. They are transforming the world and are going to drive supply chains as devices in trucks, trains, planes and ships leverage new ways of communicating content, locations and destinations in the same way mobile mapping apps changed the way we navigate.


As a supply chain professional, what is it that drives you to continue working in this field?


The “scope of practice” in supply chain is not static. It is constantly changing. Supply chains adjust to their environment in the same way the biological world adjusts and evolves to conditions. That’s exactly what makes it exciting. No day is the same and next year will be a step further different than this year.


This article originally appeared in The Machinist in April 2019.