The supply chain director in 2040


How will the supply chain director’s job profile change over the next 25 years? That’s what Omera Khan from the University of London asked me in a recent interview for a white paper. My reply: rather than just concentrating on specific skills like data analytics, the focus should be on the three broad topics of strategic thinking, commercial skills and digital innovation.

Supply chain directors need to gain a better understanding of business strategies, step outside of their supply chain bubble and study real-world developments. They must learn to be like a chess player, thinking strategically and recognizing patterns. They should master scenario planning, play business wargames with a wide range of colleagues and practice dealing with unexpected scenarios.

Secondly, supply chain directors must become more in tune with crucial changes in the market – a kind of commercial trendwatchers. For example, Brexit is a major political and economic event that could have been planned for. Meanwhile, business megatrends and countertrends are emerging that can be predicted and extrapolated: globalization and regionalization, consumerism and sustainability, protectionism and free trade agreements, digitalization and manual labour, and so on. It is possible to predict where these trends may lead and to understand the drivers behind them. In fact, this is an essential skill for supply chain directors of the future.

Digital innovation

The third topic is innovation, and in particular digital innovation. Supply chain directors need to be able to convince their internal colleagues why product innovation, process innovation or service innovation should be the top priority and will create a real competitive edge. In addition, many companies are still failing on the implementation of innovations. Change management, project visualization and storytelling are crucial in enabling supply chain professionals to implement change quickly and successfully – whether in the factory, in the warehouse or in the IT systems the various supply chains require. With their practical usage of the Business Model Canvas, scrum methodology and sprint-based thinking, start-ups are an important source of inspiration when it comes to innovation.

Broader perspective

In my view, the future job profile of the supply chain director will look fundamentally different from the current one. Universities will soon have to drastically change their master’s-degree curriculums for supply chain management. And when recruiting new talent, companies should already be screening candidates for a broader perspective than supply chain alone.

Martijn Lofvers, Chief Trendwatcher Supply Chain Media