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Who keeps the engines of global commerce running?
No matter what industry they represent, supply chain professionals have played a key role in helping supply chain management become a visible force within the business community. Gaining that visibility has not been an easy task, however.
Achieving recognition for their contributions to overall company performance has been a long, slow journey. Although what supply chain professionals do every day—meeting challenges, solving problems, and creating revenue- generating opportunities—impacts commerce everywhere in the world, their role in corporate success and competitiveness generally has remained in the background.
For the most part, supply chain professionals have viewed this as merely another challenge to overcome. Together, they have continued to move forward, and with each step, they've come closer to the goal of visibility for the profession and its valuable contributions.
Today, at long last, supply chain management finally is being recognized as an area of critical business and economic growth—by Wall Street and by those who publicly measure company performance ... by governments that are beginning to realize that remaining globally competitive requires well-connected, reliable infrastructure … and by consumers who may not possess a professional's acumen but understand that, thanks to supply chain professionals, they have access to necessary goods and services.
But that's not the end of the story. Even though there are some signs of improvement for business and for the global economy, there is still a great deal of uncertainty, and supply chain professionals are facing unprecedented challenges. As Dr. Stephan Wagner noted in a recent article in CSCMP's Journal of Business Logistics, "Unforeseen or difficult-to-predict events happening within a firm, a supply chain, or the environment seem to occur more often and be more severe."
Certainly, the past year's catastrophes have seemed endless. And because the shock waves of a regional disaster ripple around the world, causing supply chain disruptions in disparate parts of the globe, such events have become more difficult to respond to than ever. Yet these challenges are set against an optimistic backdrop of futuristic technology, with palm-size smartphones that in reality are miniature computers; an expanding global marketplace with a copious selection of goods—from the necessary to the trendy to the luxurious; and an improving economic outlook, with more jobs and the promise of a better tomorrow.
When supply chain disruptions occur, the world counts on supply chain professionals to minimize their effects and move commerce forward by providing critical goods, services, and information. And as more regions of the world become accessible, supply chain professionals will be there to help establish and support these emerging markets, facilitating trade between them and other nations.
These are revolutionary times that demand leadership, dedication, and some creative thinking to meet society's and the global economy's needs. These are times that require supply chain professionals to keep the engines of global commerce running.
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We Want to Hear From You! We invite you to share your thoughts and opinions about this article by sending an e-mail to ?Subject=Letter to the Editor: Quarter 2011: Who keeps the engines of global commerce running?"> . We will publish selected readers' comments in future issues of CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly. Correspondence may be edited for clarity or for length.