Though the threat of a major port strike was recently averted, retail executives continue to face mounting challenges in managing increasingly complex global supply chains.
To explore what’s next for the retail supply chain executive after a tense few months of port strike talk, we consulted with Larry Bergman, senior vice president of supply chain and operations for Boscov’s Department Stores. Bergman is chairman of the NRF Strategic Supply Chain Council, and will be opening the NRF Global Supply Chain Summit in Dallas, May 19-21.
Read on for Bergman’s take on the three biggest concerns for retail supply chains, the impact of emerging technologies, and how the retail supply chain business is evolving.
As we move further into 2013, what do you feel are the two or three top-of-mind issues for retail supply chain leaders right now?
While it appears that work issues at the nation’s ports have finally been resolved, volatile container fees and the overall security of the international supply chain continue to be concerns. Revised hours of service regulations for truck drivers will require many companies to reassess their turns, their staffing requirements and the expenses associated with the new rules. Lastly, appropriate funding to sustain the nation’s transportation infrastructure, particularly in light of sequestration, must be assured.
While customers have come to expect a seamless experience across all channels, delivering on that promise can be very complex. How has the role of a supply chain executive evolved in this new “omnichannel” world, and what are the keys to being successful?
Virtually all of our companies, regardless of their size, geographic location or customer base, are evolving into global entities. Supply chain executives must act globally as well. They’ve got to think outside of the norms of their company, considering the impact of such issues as supply chain traceability, social responsibility and sustainability in their decision making processes. These are factors many individuals would not have considered just a few years ago.
With the continuing potential for labor disruption at the ports, disruptions from natural disasters (Superstorm Sandy, etc.) and delays as a result from sequestration’s federal spending cuts, how important is contingency planning within your supply chain operation? What are the keys to an effective contingency plan?
Business continuity plans are critical and, of course, must be accessible outside of the office. They must not only address supply chain functions, but also encompass the impact which those plans have on other divisions within the company. Identifying critical employee and supplier contact numbers, alternate carriers and building sites, initiation of back-up systems and site recovery timeframes are basic requirements. Names and numbers should be verified semi-annually, and plans updated as new business challenges arise during the course of the year.
Emerging technologies are changing retail in both subtle and transformative ways. What technologies do you see advancing the retail supply chain in the next two to three years?
The systems which today monitor the progress of our import orders, consolidate and transit our domestic merchandise, and that expedite the movement of shipments through our facilities are becoming more cloud-based and fully integrated. Mobile technology linking many of the other retail systems which drive our stores and e-commerce will provide a portable and virtually seamless view of all components of a retailer’s operations.
What do you enjoy about working in the retail industry, and what advice do you have for those starting out in the retail supply chain field?
The retail industry is dynamic. Most retail supply chain executives work closely with their store, merchandising, operations, and finance counterparts on a daily basis – with timely communication an essential element. While a solid education has always established the most critical career base, additional exposures to accounting, industrial engineering and international trade would best prepare an individual for today’s supply chain demands.
You’ll be speaking at NRF’s Global Supply Chain Summit in May. What are you looking forward to about this event?
The supply chain summits have always featured a diverse group of industry leaders in their sessions. Equally important, our guest speakers have also remained accessible for one-on-one conversations after their presentations. I most look forward to the informal discussions among our attendees and speakers, which the summit’s format so easily accommodates.