Kevin Burns Insights on Supply Chain Upheavel

Jan 10, 2022

Kevin Burns, partner at ON Partners and expert in the supply chain and manufacturing space, shares why 2022 and beyond will be eye-opening for the industry and consumers


Learn More About Kevin Burns

With 20 years of experience in the supply chain and manufacturing space, ON partner Kevin Burns is focused on executive-level placements in the procurement, supply chain, and operations functions, including manufacturing strategy, logistics, and supply chain management.

Burns points out that just 18 months ago, boards and C-suites were focused on topics like risk mitigation, triple sourcing, nearshoring, and how to bring more manufacturing to Mexico and Latin America. Turning the business world on its head, the pandemic has brought supply chain directly into the limelight like never before. The focus has dramatically shifted toward planning, as supply chains become more complex and port issues and container costs – which in some cases are up 400% from just months ago – move front and center. Who would have thought a year ago that chartering a plane to move product would ever be on par cost-wise with containers?

Following are key observations from Burns gleaned from his work over the past year placing senior supply chain executives with a wide range of organizations and predictions on what to expect as we kick off 2022.

Insight 01: The Need for Leadership in Planning

By giving shippers more runaway and better visibility, lower prices on containers are still possible, and that’s where the planning function becomes critical. To secure lower container prices, shippers need a runway of at least 50 days, and most companies simply don’t plan that far in advance. To compensate, companies are seeking senior sales and operations planning and integrated business planning executives.

Insight 02: Transportation Executives in Demand

Because we’re now seeing just how much relationships really matter in supply chain, there is also high demand for executive-level transportation executives that can cut across all facets of logistics. Executives who know air, ocean and parcel, and have deep relationships with all of those players will be able to deliver solutions faster. When COVID hit, one Fortune 10 client that had been beating up its suppliers for the past 10 years lost key capacity to a much smaller company that had a strong positive relationship.

Insight 03: Exposing Weak Links

The pandemic has exposed weak leaders across supply chain as well as many other functions, and many organizations are now focused on replacing those weak links. Leaders who are poised for success in the current environment can run toward a fire not away from it and face ambiguity with energy, optimism and inspiration. They must be functional experts who have built careers on relationships; ideally they have worked abroad and understand how Asian-based manufacturers work. They are familiar with current supply chain issues there and can anticipate future challenges ahead.

Insight 04: The Importance of AI

AI is increasingly important in the global supply chain, with sophisticated tools collecting and synthesizing data to drive productivity, predict demand and help companies improve delivery. Accordingly, executives with forecasting skills and sales and operations planning (SNOP) leaders who can integrate AI with collaboration and sales tools are in high demand.

Insight 05: The Bottleneck

While there is expected to be some congestion relief at the ports, where we’ll see the critical bottleneck is with trucking and warehousing: There simply aren’t enough truck drivers or hourly warehouse employees to staff at the level that is sorely needed.

Insight 06: Customer-Centric Mindset

With consumers expecting products on the shelf when they want it and delivery in 2-3 days if not sooner, supply chain executives who bring a customer-centric mentality to the table have never been more important.

Learn More About Kevin Burns

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