A Quarter-Century in the Supply Chain and No Regrets

As a parent of two teenage children who will soon face a dizzying array of college and career choices, I often find myself reflecting on the best career advice I received when I was in their shoes many years ago: find something that helps you make a positive difference, and you will have found a career you’ll love for life. It wasn’t formal engineering or business education that introduced me to the challenges and joys of supply chain management, but work as a young manufacturing leader in an asset-intensive, complex semiconductor manufacturing environment in Northeast Pennsylvania that opened my eyes to the art and science of supply chains. In what appears to be a blink of an eye, a quarter century has gone by, but I’ve never stopped having fun.

Driving profitable growth, and maximizing factory throughput while minimizing inventory and operating expenses has been the mantra for manufacturers – and I was blessed to have learnt that directly from the master, Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt, the founder of the Theory of Constraints. Putting constraint management into real-life action in the 1990s was one of the most fulfilling accomplishments of my early career at Harris Semiconductor. Working with Self Directed Work Teams – where production associates worked without supervisors in a union environment — we were able to move mountains and deliver strong operational and business results. Together with other talented colleagues, I had the privilege to co-author a book, Leading the Way to Competitive Excellence: The Harris Mountaintop Case Study (Editor William Levinson; ASQ Quality Press 1997), outlining our approach and accomplishments. Suddenly, I had opportunities to speak at academic universities, contribute thought leading articles to business journals and trade publications, and become an active industry speaker on supply chain and manufacturing technology topics.

This early experience also made me aware that supply chains extended well beyond the four walls of a factory – deep into the realm of demand planning, inventory planning and order fulfillment. Supply Chain Management was becoming recognized as a formal discipline in the mid-1990s and rapid advances in technology were allowing best-of-breed software companies to take supply chain solutions to market more broadly. When the opportunity came to work at i2 Technologies, a leader in supply chain software solutions looking to create business value for global supply chains, it was an easy choice from my perspective. Working out of Dallas in the professional services team at i2, I had an opportunity to work hands-on with many leading supply chain companies across industries, including semiconductor, consumer electronics, automotive, chemicals, metals and industrial companies. Almost universally, I could see tremendous opportunity for companies to make better decisions, remove waste, reduce latency and improve their end-to-end supply chain performance. It was tremendously gratifying to help a wide range of companies, at different stages of supply chain maturity, with intelligent decision support software solutions to improve overall customer service levels while minimizing investments in working capital and others assets. I was able to help consumer products companies comprehend and plan for volatile demand better; automotive companies schedule assembly lines more effectively; semiconductor companies drive integrated business plans cross-functionally; and industrial companies utilize manufacturing assets more efficiently. In 2010, i2 became part of JDA Software Group, a leading provider of end-to-end supply chain solutions, and our horizons expanded to serve the Retail industry undergoing the massive Omni-channel transition. I was now able to see how further business value could be generated linking supply chain planning to downstream execution processes such as transportation and warehouse management. The more I learnt about supply chains, the more I recognized how they could drive business value and competitive differentiation for companies. In 2016, it was my distinct honor to be named amongst Supply & Demand Chain Executive’s Pros to Know – a recognition for professionals who have helped their supply chain clients, and the supply chain community at large, prepare to meet significant challenges ahead.

As it turns out, I continue to learn every day, which has truly been a blessing over my career. Currently, I am the vice president of solution strategy at JDA Software, where I am responsible for JDA’s manufacturing solution and marketing strategy for the global manufacturing business. Over the past 25 years, I’ve had the good fortune to work closely with global manufacturers and industry leaders to help solve their most complex supply chain challenges. I’ve helped companies deploy new and robust supply chain processes – from demand planning, master planning and inventory optimization to sales and operations planning, factory planning and supply chain segmentation – effectively enabling seamless supply chains across suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and, ultimately, end-customers. I have had the privilege of being associated with talented people at global companies that are ranked amongst the Top 25 supply chains in the world. I have helped make a positive difference to the world with supply chains in my own little way, and not surprisingly, I continue to love what I do. Hopefully, my teenagers will take notice as we enter the interesting world of digital supply chains next!