I have understood how vital supply chain management is for a successful project execution.
When I started my career in the Automobile industry with Bajaj Auto Ltd - the world’s fourth-largest two-wheeler manufacturer, I was the only woman in the purchase department of the company’s Pantnagar Plant. My responsibilities included expediting purchase orders, overseeing logistics, material planning, vendor selection, and checking the quality of the products received. I gained substantial knowledge of the supply chain cycle and manufacturing processes, and also the confidence to lead in a male-led industry.
In Fluor as a Supply Chain professional, I have acquired a great deal of knowledge from an International Business and Trade perspective, including Strategic Sourcing, and Supply Chain Controlling Methodologies. Working on international joint venture projects has helped me understand how the global supply chain functions. I have developed an appreciation of the ‘big picture’, and consequently, an understanding of how vital supply chain management is for a successful project execution.
Executing timely shipments across the world and working with a multi-cultural team keeps me growing professionally.
In my 11 years of experience, I’ve been fortunate to have been through the grind of 4 important verticals of Supply Chain Management viz. Buyer, Expeditor, Quality Assurance, and Logistics. With these multiple roles I have acquired skills like agility, pro-activeness, and decision making, and the sense of accomplishment to have excelled in International projects as well.
Within the supply chain organization, Logistics is very important, and I took it on as yet another challenge. Today, as a specialist in commercial strategies, I am responsible for managing the logistics of a multi-billion EPC contract in one of the project located in Canada. I am responsible for planning and executing the shipping and other logistics activities for materials worth multi million dollars and their safe delivery from the various sourcing locations (approx. 20+ countries across the globe) to three destinations: Canada, Indonesia, and China. Executing timely shipments across the world and working with a multi-cultural team energizes me and keeps me growing professionally.
A supply chain requires multi-tasking, and while this inevitably requires teamwork, it also depends on leadership.
There is a general perception that women cannot be available many times, and an unspoken belief that they cannot handle more responsible tasks. There also exists a general opinion that women can't stretch themselves too much to complete the assigned tasks. To overcome such setbacks, women need to take charge of their career and make their performance consistent. I believe that with time, if you remain committed to your work and keep your manager informed, you will be seen as a most reliable employee.
A book that I read - Lean In Women, Work, and the Will to Lead - urges women to take credit where it’s due and assume leadership roles. From a supply chain perspective, this advice is vital since the function almost always depends on successfully delivering both high service levels and low cost. A supply chain requires multi-tasking, and while this inevitably requires teamwork, it also depends on leadership. Women can, and should, build on this advantage to make their operations more effective and get ahead professionally.
I believe that the best work policies in an organization are those that ensure that its women employees can feel safe – even in field work.
No doubt, this industry requires heavy lifting, shipping, and transportation – and a lot of physical work. However, before the actual and final job of lifting, transporting etc, there is a lot of other work that requires mental agility such as preparing feasibility reports, estimates, contracting and getting method statements; in fact, almost 70% of the work needs to be done in the boardroom, leaving 30% for field work.
The introduction of new technologies in process management or goods’ management, and use of automation and robotics has reduced the entry barriers for women seeking to set foot in this industry. Most of the manufacturing/fabrication companies now have excellent infrastructure.
I believe that the best work policies in an organization are those that ensure that its women employees can feel safe – even in field work. Today, many women are working on the field as supervisors. Seeing our plan getting realized on the ground gives us a great sense of accomplishment.
Workplace inclusion policies should be made in favor of women empowerment in the workplace.
The workforce of the future demands leaders who inspire confidence and recognize an individual’s unique value. Organizations should set the tone for diversity and inclusion at the top and drive accountability through the entire company to involve more women. The current landscape of women in the company’s supply chain function should be understood, and pain points for attraction and retention identified. A company can be empowered through team, talent, structure, and policies built on cognitive diversity and inclusion. Understand what actions and metrics will drive organizational alignment across all levels on inclusive culture.
Moreover, few other workplace inclusion policies should be made in favor of women empowerment in the workplace. For example, promoting work/life balance such that women do not have to compromise on either front and find themselves in an inclusive work environment, which would encourage them to be more committed; giving work flexibility and amending it based on genuine limitations of women; and giving them an equal opportunity with a guiding hand.
At Fluor Daniel, the vision is to leverage the complementary skill sets of men and women to drive innovation, engagement, and excellence in execution.
There is an excellent initiative called GROW (Growing Representation Of Women), which is chartered with women and men working men working together to cultivate opportunities to attract, retain and develop women. The vision is to leverage the complementary skill sets of men and women working together at all levels of the business, to drive innovation, engagement, and excellence in execution. I feel fortunate to be part of such a great organization that has a high-value system and a culture of inclusion.
My advice to women in supply chain is that they should shatter the glass ceiling and step forward to take up the roles in a supply chain career – be it transferring data from one company to another, a hospital, factory, or an over the road trucking company. The supply chain industry offers different career paths, which include Planning, Analysis, and Technical roles such as Demand and Supply Planners, Purchasing and Procurement, Vendor Management, Cost Analysts, IT Consultants in SCM, IT Enablement services such as ERP Implementation, analyzing performances of warehouses, plants, service providers at the back-end, and Customer Operations Services, etc. Such roles have no gender bias and have always been welcoming for women if they have the right skills, qualification and knowledge.
Then there are the executioner type of roles such as Logistics Managers, Transport Supervisors, Manufacturing Managers, etc. Historically, these have been dominated by males simply because they require extensive travel, working odd hours, remote locations, and a not-so-good working environment for women. But times have changed, and women are now doing all kinds of work - and pretty successfully too.
The second category of roles mentioned above constitute only about 30% of the positions in the supply chain, while the majority of the opportunities for women would lie in the first category. In my experience, there is not too much bias against women in the Supply Chain industry; they can work in this field if it suits their interest and career aspirations.
Domestic manufacturing will push the establishment of global value chains in India to serve export markets as well.
India’s supply chain will go through massive transformations in the next few years as the impact of Covid-19 continues to challenge our demand and supply frameworks. With widespread disruptions, supply chains are either broken or severely affected. As ongoing supply-side issues start getting aggravated, we will see demand contraction in several industry segments, creating further disorder. Organizations would need to adapt to this new reality and consider some of the following thoughts to build supply chain resilience:
The first and most important change will be the rise of domestic sourcing to make supply chains more local. As we have seen, India, though being a large exporter of pharmaceuticals, is still largely dependent on China for APIs. Government policies also promote domestic manufacturing, which will push the establishment of global value chains in India to not only serve domestic but also export markets.