Well it’s finally here… I think we have officially entered the Supply Chain Management era.

As with most shifts in thinking in the business world, our profession started out as a new “buzz word” that people began to throw around, not really understanding what is was or what it meant. What is Supply Chain Management anyway?

Well, like most new concepts, it meant different things to different people. When it became apparent that this terminology might be just the thing to differentiate a group of professionals in the marketplace, the race was on. The purchasing people used Supply Chain Management as a term to replace old titles such as Purchasing, or Procurement. The logistics folks talked about Supply Chain Management really being all about logistics, and so the story goes.

In fact, it has only been recently that the term Supply Chain Management is getting regular use in publications, and even then there was still mass confusion as to what the term actually meant.

Our profession, of course, refers to all of the activities required to bring a product from one end of the value chain to the other… from the supplier’s supplier to the customer’s customer. It is about looking at the overall strategic relationship between the individual pieces, and not just within the individual pieces themselves.

Although until recently, I have often seen this terminology used in the wrong context, I am starting to see a shift in awareness, and there is a definite momentum building towards what Supply Chain Management is, and why it is so critical to an organization’s effectiveness.

For many years, the Purchasing and Logistics people have had a difficult time being heard, and getting their rightful place in the boardroom. They were often seen as a tactical contributor, who reported into Finance, or Operations, and the strategic value of their contribution was not recognized. My sense is that this is starting to change, and our profession is picking up rapid momentum.

Organizations are starting to realize, similar to the manufacturing revolution that has happened in the Lean/Continuous Improvement world, that there is more to be gained by analyzing and maximizing how the interdependent parts work with each other, as opposed to looking at point improvements within each interdependent part. They are simultaneously starting to understand the major impact that these activities have on the bottom line.

It seems likely that the Supply Chain Management profession will get increased attention over the coming months and years, and that we may in fact have finally arrived at an era where we will gain access to our rightful place around the boardroom table. As more and more companies begin to realize what they have to gain, and start to share SCM success stories, Supply Chain Management Professionals will become more and more highly sought in the marketplace.