Automotive Supply Chain Leaders: Winning In Supply Chain During A Time Of Industry Disruption

William Newman

Today’s automotive business is vast and complex. Particularly for supply chain leaders, these industry complexities represent several challenges unique to the complexities of the automotive industry:

  • Visibility so that you have clarity across a multi-tier international supply chain, across multiple plants and DC locations.
  • Responsiveness so that your supply chain can adapt more quickly to small lot sizes and increase profitability.
  • Upstream decision-making based on data and insights across the supply chain to help decision making and sensitivity analysis
  • Managing collaborative supply networks for sales and operation planning (S&OP) comprehension and collaboration across business leaders

While these are not necessarily new capabilities, the speed and accuracy of the necessary capabilities are unlike anything supply chain leaders have ever seen before. Supply chain leaders need to be able to deliver these capabilities in a timely and accurate manner.

The move to digital impacts supply chain leaders

But being a successful supply chain leader isn’t about simply delivering on operational excellence capabilities. To be a digital supply chain leader, executives also need to manage risk across a number of dimensions. There is a need to acquire the right skills and talent to create and manage a supply chain risk program. There is a need to provide the right level of agility and responsiveness in a timely and accurate manner.

Supply chain teams need to collect, collaborate, and exchange information across multiple internal and external systems to manage performance and meet regulatory requirements. Supply chain leaders need to have the right level of exposure and importance to supply chain dynamics inside of the organization. Finally, supply chain leaders need to be able to securely and accurately deliver product traceability across all trading partners whether they be suppliers, brokers, carriers, customers. Many companies address these new capabilities in different ways, with varying success.

digital supply chain capabilities

What is at stake?

What is at stake is nothing short of business success. For an automotive business to be successful, it needs to consider many of the dynamic shifts occurring in the industry today. From consolidation and vertical integration to the changing dynamic of connected vehicles to the hyper-connected consumer landscape to the full integration of sales and operations, and planning…. Each step provides an opportunity to mitigate risk and reduce working capital leakage, but also affords many landmines in the way of doing so. The old spreadsheet-based legacy system way of operating a supply chain is simply no longer viable to you and your team.

The need to be a digital supply chain leader creates an opportunity to re-evaluate all personal traits and learnings to create a culture of innovation inside the supply chain organization. From continual learning to greater speeds and agility, today’s supply chain leader can create and shape how the automotive company can compete and win in the industry. As James McQuivey from Forrester Research says, “The only way to compete is to evolve.”

Nothing could be more true for today’s supply chain leaders.

For more on this topic, see Four Essential Technologies Powering The Digital Supply Chain.


William Newman

About William Newman

William Newman is a Strategic Industry Advisor, providing industry perspective, strategic solution advice, and thought leadership to support SAP automotive and discrete industry customers and their co-innovation programs. He helps build and maintain SAP's leadership position in the automotive industry and associated industry segments. He manages SAP’s annual digital aftermarket survey program and serves as the ASUG Point of Contact for the NA Automotive SIG. He is the author of two SAP Press books and a LinkedIn Editor’s Choice contributor.