01 November 2019

MAG45 Network event - Agility in the Supply Chain

MAG45, Integrated Supply specialist, held its 2019 Round Table networking event on October 31st , at Fort bij Vechten, Bunnik.

The event was chaired by Edwin Dekker, Branch Manager of NEVAT-FME. Guest speaker was Frank Rozemeijer, Professor of Purchasing and Supply Management at the University of Maastricht. The leadership team from MAG45 were joined around the table by invited supply chain professionals from Frencken, Johnson & Johnson, MSD AH, ThermoFisher, Van Aarsen, Vanderlande Industries, IVS Dosing Technology, NVS Combimetaal and TEGEMA.

The agenda covered supply chain agility – defined as speed, efficiency and flexibility – in a world of turbulent, uncertain and complex competitive markets that require continuous improvement, disruptive innovation and new perspectives: a world of ‘Wicked Problems’.

Prof Rozemeijer (Professor of Purchasing and Supply Management, University of Maastricht) spoke on ‘Supply chain agility in a wicked world,’ He remarked that value creation is so difficult in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world full of ‘wicked problems.’ In such an environment, multiple stakeholders with multiple views lead to low transparency of problems, their causes and solutions. He presented a top ten of ‘wicked problems,’ suggesting that the way through them is to ensure that supply networks are connected to business models. Leadership needs to be ‘ambidextrous’: able to execute today’s strategy while simultaneously developing tomorrow’s. Prof Rozemeijer then introduced the idea of a ‘value proposition canvas’. This is a way of exploring the value a supplier can offer customers by looking not just at products and services, but at jobs, pains and gains.

Thinking this way helps formulate the supplier’s value proposition. “Our [product or service] helps [customer] who wants to [do this job] by [reducing this customer pain] and [enabling this customer gain]”.

In a fast-moving world, pains and gains are constantly changing, emphasizing the need for agility on behalf of suppliers and customers alike.

How can MAG45 support the wish for on time in full? 

During this session I showed participants how MAG45 approaches the issue of supply chain agility. In MAG45’s primary task of taking responsibility for managing a challenging supply chain, close partnership with customers and suppliers is required to anticipate and react to fluctuations. I pointed out that many activities can be deployed to come as close as possible to this ideal scenario.

Illustrations of short customer cases showed three specific areas. MAG45 assists dynamic decision-making on the production footprint, whether that be in transferring lines around the world, tracking a customer’s changing footprint regionally and globally, or by securing the supply base and supporting the start-up of greenfield production.

MAG45 also acts to mitigate risk in the supply chain through systematic monitoring and communication with the supply base. Here I gave examples of how risks are – jointly with the customer – identified, evaluated and mitigated. These could be risks related to production or the supply base, or external risks such as regulatory changes. Their likelihood and possible impact are evaluated, and actions prioritized accordingly.

There is also the question of an agile response to customer ramp up (or, indeed, ramp down) in response to dynamic demand. There I emphasized that tailored services to support these dynamics are standard operating procedure for MAG45.

Break out sessions

We discussed in 2 groups different questions:

Prof Rozemeijer invited participants to start ‘painting the value proposition canvas’, firstly by identifying what is important to them in order to perform their jobs. A wide range of responses reflected the different industries represented but also the different roles of individuals, demonstrating that pains and gains are personal as well as corporate.

In Edwin Dekker’s breakout groups, participants were asked to consider three big questions around supply chain agility. The first was ‘How can digitalization support supply chain agility?’ The second question was ‘What does ramp up/ramp down mean for you?’ The final question addressed was ‘How do you empower your personnel to support supply chain agility and ensure they are fit for the future?

Ultimately, though, agility seems to be set fundamentally by company culture. Unfortunately, as one person said: ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’.


Next generation supply chain management professionals are increasingly tapping into the right side of their brains. This enables agility in the supply chain to be fostered through Creativity, Courage and Connectivity.

Creativity should be extended to procurement. How are companies igniting a creative spark in people? What action plans are in place to give priority to creativity in procurement processes?

This also involves displaying Courage to challenge the status quo. Courage can take various forms. It could involve pushing boundaries, challenging the business, rethinking paradigms, and expanding the role of procurement. It could involve encouraging people to counteract prejudices, take smart risks, and question actions.

It’s essential to stimulate people to be curious and more deeply connected with their colleagues and stakeholders. Connectivity involves a number of aspects. It could include social networks, stakeholder and supplier intimacy, and customer centricity. Connecting with people involves deep understanding through active listening, close personal relationships, collaboration, co-creation, and being service oriented.