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I wish I remembered the exact quote. It’s a shame I don’t, as I just heard this last night as of this writing, from Dr. Frankie Villanueva, the head of SCMAP’s newly-established Northern Luzon chapter and a member of the faculty of the Ateneo Graduate School of Business.

 

What he said was something along these lines: “Supply chain used to be a competitive advantage, but now it’s a necessary part of any company.”

 

We were meeting at the Ateneo campus in Rockwell – always a slightly awkward experience with this Lasallian —talking to the AGSB dean, Rodolfo Ang, about plans to launch a collaboration on certification programs on supply chain management. Those were initial conversations, but we — there were five of us from SCMAP, including president Nestor Felicio, vice president Christine Pardiñas; there were five of them from AGSB, including Ralph Ante of the operations department; there was Frankie, who sat on both chairs—ended up talking about the evolution of supply chain, both as a profession and as an important part of how we live.

 

It was in 2013 when we launched a similar certification program with the Ateneo. Former president Ike Castillo led it, but it only ran for less than a year. Back then the program was packaged as one about logistics management — back then “supply chain” as a term was just on the rise.

 

Back then all the elements of supply chain as we know it now—planning, procurement, production, inventory management, logistics, customer service —were seen as distinct disciplines. To an extent they still are, but they are much more integrated now. There is a recognition that each field is a cog in a machine; if one falters, everything else is affected. Fail to anticipate high demand and you’ll be out of supermarket shelves for a while. Same if your trucks can’t get to their destinations on time, or if customers decide your product is not worth buying because it doesn’t work as well as advertised. (You know how fast things like this spread on social media these days.)

 

It used to be that supply chain was just a sub-unit under another department within a company. Now, it is a department of its own, an essential part of any enterprise’s survival.

 

It used to be that people can look to any successful company and attribute their success to an ability to be available whenever the customer needs it, wherever he may be. Now, it’s the minimum requirement.

 

A good supply chain operation is no longer a plus, but the base. It’s no longer an advantage; it now just gets you on an equal playing field with the big guns.

 

A good supply chain operation is the backbone of your company.

 

Not just your company. Good supply chain is the backbone of any entity—a family, a city, a country. A good supply chain does not just ensure that we get our products to our customers in the best condition at the right cost at the time they need it. A good supply chain does not just contribute to the growth of the economy. A good supply chain plays an important role in ensuring a good quality of life for everybody.

 

The continuing evolution of supply chain as a profession stresses the importance of education. Right now, we are, more or less, pioneers in this field. We come from disparate backgrounds – some have an engineering background, others have experience in finance and management, others more from IT – but despite that we work together towards a common goal. But for supply chain to remain vital—for many to see our profession as vital—we must be able to pass down our knowledge to a new generation, who will then work to refine and adapt to changing needs and demands. In our own ways, we at SCMAP are doing that, working on national certification programs with TESDA, reaching out to MSMEs with GoNegosyo, our partnership with the University of the Philippines – and, hopefully, with AGSB, too.

 

Supply chain is no longer a competitive advantage, but the backbone of any successful company, of any successful country. We must ensure it remains that way for years to come.

 

Upcoming events: This year’s Supply Chain Immersion, happening on May 12-14 on board MV St. Michael the Archangel heading to Iloilo, is now open for registration. This year’s SCMAP Supply Chain Conference, happening on September 21-22, is also now open for sponsorship. More information is available at scmap.org.

 

Henrik Batallones is the marketing and communications executive of SCMAP. A former board director, he is also editor-in-chief of the organization’s official publication, Supply Chain Philippines.

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