The present of Supply Chain

This week we had the pleasure of chatting with three rockstars in the world of Supply Chain and we had an interesting chat about the challenges and changes that managers in Supply Chain are facing and working on every day.
Here’s what Roeland Van Den Berg, Programme Manager of Operational Excellence & Innovation at Wallgreens Boots Alliance, Willemijn Potjer, Global SC Head of Consumer Solution at Danone Nutricia and Angel Caja, Operations and Supply Chain Director at Jotun Iberica, told us!

The world is changing fast – demanding customers, rapid digitalisation… What do these macro trends mean for supply chain, and how are you stepping up to the challenges?


Roeland: “The only constant is change” – this is moving at a more rapid pace than before, but there have always been risks and opportunities. For me it’s very important to be open to these risks, opportunities and threats, and tackle them proactively to turn them into competitive advantages. For example, we have all worked with demanding customers with certain market-power – but we used their requirements to improve internal processes and increase services to all customers. I have many more examples, when a shipping company went bankrupt or when legally we were forced to put barcodes on every single unit. It’s very important to focus and be pragmatic, to achieve the best results.

Angel: The explosion of eCommerce and new players like Amazon are changing he behaviour of the customer rapidly. This is impacting especially the B2B supply chains, which usually have a more traditional approach than B2C. It means more focus internally than externally. The B2B supply chains need to have a more customer-centric approach and adapt to the new needs, which basically are, “I want this, and I want it now”. In most cases, it represents a transformation of the supply chain, with the added complexity that in many regions, such as Europe, the pressure on costs is very great.

Combining the change to rapid response with cost control is the main challenge for supply chain organisations. Fortunately, digitalisation and big data are offering many tools and opportunities to manage this effectively. The key is to choose, between a sea of data and solutions, the right data and the right solution that match your company’s needs, which is not easy.

Willemijn: Supply Chain has to quickly bring together what it says; Supply and Chain. Supply in the sense that the requested products need to be supplied on time, in the right location and in the right customer format like it was. But now with sustainable sourcing as an extra dynamic. Chain in the sense that it should be flawless and, more importantly, completely transparent and traceable. At Danone, we bring our chain up to speed with technology. Building forecasts with smart analytics, creating traceability with state of the art technologies and providing service to our end consumers – mums and their babies – via online social platforms.

What part of your role as a supply chain manager keeps you awake at night?

Roeland: No worries, this role is not keeping me awake at night . We live in very interesting times in general – that makes me enthusiastic and ambitious. In the end it’s “just” a profession. I am enjoying it and trying to make a difference.

WillemijnThe pace of technological advancement and deciding on the right technology and moment to implement new technologies to benefit competitively by ensuring you are not too early, but certainly also not too late.

And how to attract and keep young people/starters in our company. The new generation has a different view on their work ethos and on their work/life balance. When a job turns into routine or when there is too much constant pressure, they tend to move (sorry for the generalisation, as I am very much aware this is not the case for all young people!). However, to become skilled you need some repetition, and you have to realise that in all jobs there is a boring part.

In general I sleep well, so much to dream about!

Angel: How to manage the increasing complexity, how to keep a high customer service level at the same time as controlling or even reducing costs, because the pressure on costs is huge. This challenge is putting a lot of pressure on people, which is a risk. My main focus is to take care of my people, to keep them engaged, motivated and happy, so we can face this challenge in the best way.

Willemijn, Angel and Roeland will be speaking at our Savant Supply Chain Congress this May in Amsterdam. For more info about the agenda, tickets and other speakers check the event page. Looking forward to meeting you!


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