Home » SCMAP Perspective » “How Do You Make Supply Chain Cool?”

Magsaysay Shipping and Logistics CEO Ian Claxton posed this question at the 2018 SCMAP Supply Chain Conference two weeks back. The question was on attracting future supply chain leaders, particularly as the sector is in a better position to attract people now that its role in growing and sustaining a business is more prominent. But how do we bring in future leaders, which would most likely come from the ranks of younger people?


One of his ideas was to play up the role that technology plays in supply chain. Kids these days love technology.


Okay, full disclosure: at almost 30 I am one of those so-called millennials the press love to wonder about, those kids whose new attitude towards working is wreaking havoc on the status quo, supposedly. Yes, we love technology. It is liberating, in a way: Walkmans were cool but having access to virtually every song ever through streaming services like Spotify is cooler. The more enterprising and imaginative of us have even harnessed technology and made it move past “play thing” and towards “backbone”. The number of young people representing tech firms speaking at our event a fortnight back is proof.


Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corporation chairman Dennis Uy and SCMAP president Nestor Felicio formally open the 2018 SCMAP Supply Chain Conference. Photo courtesy of SCMAP.

But then there’s also the impression that supply chain is hard work. I certainly have the impression that it is a 24/7 job. Well, that’s an undeniable fact: serving customers does not end on weekends. We don’t take a break when everybody else does, because that’s when everybody else needs us the most. I also tend to agree with Ian’s co-panelist, Victory Group CEO Ike Castillo: millennials are already thinking about their bucket list at this point. We’re a generation with one eye fixed firmly on the next chance to recharge. This is why we love our seat sales, or at least most of us.


But then, the characterization that my generation are lazy and self-absorbed does not help. Again, these kids are now making an impact in supply chains across the world, whether on the production floor, in a corporate suite, or in front of a laptop at a third wave coffee shop somewhere in Makati. And they’re not out to take over the world for themselves: they recognize that they don’t know everything, and are keen to understand more about their field from the veterans they work with. The beauty of supply chain is that it compels everyone to consider each other’s viewpoint and work towards a common goal, and maybe break a few conventions along the way.


My main takeaway from the tech booth at the 2018 SCMAP Supply Chain Conference is that the future is already here. We always portray it as a revolution —suddenly we’re ordering everything from our phones; suddenly we’re getting our orders via drones—but it’s really more of an evolution. These fancy gadgets won’t work without the support from behind the scenes that allow them to work. Technology is changing things, yes, but so are people—old and new mindsets blending together, like your flat white at that third wave coffee shop.


We still have a long way to go when it comes to the latter, however. What I also realized is that the future has not arrived at the same time everywhere, and for many reasons. Sometimes the future as we know it is impractical in other places—and I don’t have the space right now to dive into factors like insufficient infrastructure and income inequality. Sometimes it’s a matter of mindset—how can these kids know what we have always done for years? I’m not saying the young ones are always right, but we can all stand to learn something from each other. This is how we empower future supply chain leaders: by recognizing what they have to offer, and ensuring they have the space and support to turn these strengths into critical parts of our networks, a new perspective on serving our customers.


Before her talk, the Asian Institute of Management’s Dr. Erika Legara told me she thought she might scare off our audience once she talks about complexity science and how it impacts on supply chain. I spoke to some delegates at the end of her talk and they were appreciative of the new viewpoint she presented. Come to think of it, complexity science is what we all call the “domino effect”, only backed up with more data and built into a simulation model to see just how one thing impacts everything else—and everything else beyond it.


I mention this because, as the people at the forefront of the economy—and the people that, come to think of it, defines whether it grows or shrinks—we can stand from seeing things in a different way, from treating new perspectives not as rival viewpoints that threaten the way we do things, but as new approaches that we can learn (and cherry-pick) from. Supply chain is no longer just a club of the same old men. The sector is dynamic, youthful, and one step ahead.


In the months leading up to the conference, when we were inviting speakers to take part, we often paused and thought, “but what will supply chain managers learn from this?” Our common answer: a new way of appreciating how our work impacts so many things. We hope those who took part left with a renewed vigor for the profession we call our own.


On behalf of SCMAP, I would like to thank our speakers, delegates and sponsors for making the 2018 SCMAP Supply Chain Conference another record-breaking one.


Upcoming events: We have two more events to round off 2018. Our final General Membership Meeting for the year will be on November 15 at the EDSA Shangri-la, including elections for next year’s Board of Directors. Then, on December 6, our annual Christmas fellowship at the Makati Sports Club will see the kick-off to our year-long 30th anniversary celebrations. More information soon at scmap.org. We hope to see you there.


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. More information about SCMAP is available at scmap.org.

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