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End-to-end supply chain: call for content

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Is it just me or is anybody else bamboozled or even mildly puzzled by the absence in project management literature of any helpful information on dealing with the challenges of achieving an integrated end-to-end supply chain?

Some of the problem is undoubtedly down to language.

All too often I come across people using terms that confuse procurement with supply chain management; and very rarely do I find a supply chain expert using PM terminology or a project manager using SCM terminology.      

My 36 years working in the aerospace & defence sector has taught me that you ignore at your peril the important task of consciously designing a x-functional, end-end, through-life supply solution early enough in a project’s lifecycle to stand a chance of reaping the cost and service advantages that are often on offer. And it’s not just a matter of on-cost and on-schedule performance; how many project managers give any serious thought in the planning stage of their project as to the surge capacity, the speed of response, or the degree of flexibility for future change that is needed from their end-end supply chain?

It’s high time that the PM and supply chain communities got closer together to understand each other’s world, language and thinking. I believe the prize is worth it – an optimised supply chain will often bring win-win-win to customers, suppliers and partners alike.

Does this resonate?

Please let me know your views or where I can find some literature on the subject... or alternatively suggest some useful medical prescription for my ongoing puzzlement.   

Editors' note: Should any specialists in this area be willing to write an article or further blog on this topic, please contact me on


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  1. Ruth Moyes
    Ruth Moyes 13 July 2017, 04:28 PM

    Stephen, your comments resonate with me as a seasoned PM working in Supply Chain! Ruth

  2. Jon Broome
    Jon Broome 13 July 2017, 04:30 PM

    Much to surprise when I had a year odd assignment in the aerospace sector, I found it really backward (compared with my home sector of construction) in terms of collaboration, trust and hence the smoothness/hassle with which interactions between companies are done. Providing an organisation has a Prime's e.g. Boeing, Airbus etc accreditation to do work of that sort, it was lowest cost under contracts where if you parped out of line, the party above you could do you over commercially via both the contract and what is nicely called 'supply chain leverage'. So while I absolutely agree with your aims, I saw no evidence of any Supply Chain Mapping in that year ! Best of luck.

  3. Jon Broome
    Jon Broome 13 July 2017, 04:32 PM

    Having got my rant out of the way, the recently launched Contracts & Procurement Guide might be of help.

  4. Gary Coleman
    Gary Coleman 20 November 2017, 01:06 PM

    When attending Supply Chain events it seems to me that the majority of those in senior roles do have some form of project management qualification and experience. I draw from commercial management, project management, change management and supply chain management literature amongst others to find models and best practise to take supply projects from inception of need through to delivery to the end customer. My reading list would be extensive. I also attend Jon's workshops from time to time and take along colleagues, which I have also found very useful.

  5. Ian Heptinstall
    Ian Heptinstall 07 March 2018, 08:25 AM

    Hi Stephen, I can span these three groups - projects, procurement & SCM. I see two main needs for PM's to understand the basics of SCM. Firstly for the project itself, especially in my field of capex/construction. You have high volume commodities that if you are not careful will casue more hassle than their cost migth suggest. It is a field where VMI and less formal call off arrangements can add significant value. The control of major manufactured items is also a key risk area, where the techniques of expediting and progress management come into the fore. The common habit of separating materials purchase from services doesnt help where good practice involves a mix of both! - I've seen this in construcition & oil & gas. The second need is where the project makes decisions that commit the operations teams. I'm thinking new product development, R&D, and construciton of manufacting and distribution assets. Here a narrowly focused project team could hamper the organistion with outdated processes, or suppliers who were great at helping the R&D teams in low volumes and flexibility, but no-one assessed their capability to ramp up volumes, cope with market-driven variability, or to deliver reliably. A good project would have involved the right operations experts...but as we know too many dont! Just to complicate matters, the field of supply-chain best practice is also changing. Innovations like those coming out of the Demand Driven Institite are allowing supply chains to deliver much higher service levels at much lower inventory levels, and with shorter lead-times. This is changing how supply chains are configured, where inventory is held, and how much is needed, and the best technology to support operations. this could even impact on the need for a project itself - I know some manufacturers who have been able to scrap new warehouse projects by changing how it operates.