I’ve discussed supply chain development with hundreds of supply chain professionals. The most common remark I hear is: “Other sectors are much easier. Our supply chain is especially difficult.” Furniture sector companies highlight the challenges of low and lumpy demand, food sector companies the high volumes and spoilage risks, electronics companies lose sleep over short product life-cycles and the kind of rapid changes in trends and demand one might associate with the fashion industry. But, if it makes you feel any better, I can assure you that everyone has it tough.

The challenges vary, but the nature of competition means that in any industry where forecasting or supply chain management are a bit easier, the bar for accuracy rises accordingly. I’m not the first in the supply chain field to pick up on this fact of life. Marshall Fisher’s “What is the right supply chain for your product?” still gives the best overview of the various supply chain challenges faced by different business sectors (more on it here).

To be fair not everyone thinks they have it more difficult than their opposite numbers in other areas. One particular supply chain director once confided to me: “This retail supply chain is so easy; you order and deliver the same goods, you just have to do the planning right”. This guy had moved into retail from shipbuilding, and considered the challenges retail supply chain managers faced rather more straightforward than managing the network of hundreds of interlinked subcontractors delivering the one-of–a-kind projects he’d overseen before. You see, there’s always someone worse off than yourself!

Mikko Kärkkäinen

Mikko Kärkkäinen

Group CEO, D.Sc. (Tech.)


Phone+44 7802 658 237

Mikko Kärkkäinen is the Group CEO at RELEX and the author of more than thirty papers on logistics and supply chain issues delivered at conferences or published in leading magazines.

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