Transcript: Another Ducking Digest?! May 23rd, 2023

Another Ducking Digest?!
May 23rd, 2023: Supply Chain Burnout & Talent Shortages

Welcome to What the Duck?!, a podcast with real experts talking about Direct spend challenges and experiences. And now here’s your host, SourceDay’s very own Manufacturing Maven, Sarah Scudder.

Welcome to Another Ducking Digest. We are off our schedule this week. I took yesterday off to go hiking in Big Sur and have a no technology recharge day. So we are hosting this show a day later. This is a weekly 10-minute show hosted by myself and Lindsey Smith. He has 30 years’ experience in supply chain and in the manufacturing space and most recently served as the SVP of supply chain for a mid-market manufacturer. Each week, Lindsey and I share news relevant to supply chain professionals working for small or mid-size manufacturers. Our topic today is around supply chain burnout and the talent shortage that is being experienced and happening every single day right now in the manufacturing industry. Yeah, so Lindsey’s gonna talk about a couple things. He’s gonna talk about the why, why is there so much burnout, and how is this impacting the talent shortage? And then we’re gonna talk about what to do about it. If you’re an employer and an employee, how can you have resolution and work around this so there are not so many challenges for yourself and your company. So Lindsey, with that, I am gonna turn it over to you to talk about the why.

Thank you, Sarah. Good to be back. Big subject this week. Burnout and not one to address casually, right? Supply chain burnout. It’s that unpleasant physical, mental, emotional state of exhaustion just resulting from our supply chain industry, the current environment, being in the current environment for an extended period of time. And you know, I say I don’t wanna make light of it. You know, our friends at OSHA document 120,000 deaths a year in the US workforce from stress and burnout. So we want to certainly give it due consideration. Two big impacts. And there’s two, there’s the one that gets all the attention, which is to the company. And that’s the, of course, the decreased productivity, the increased absenteeism, the higher turnover. And then from the supply chain side, of course, there’s the fairly direct connection to lost sales. The second impact, of course, is to the individual. And that’s where we’re impacting the emotional, mental, and physical well-being of coworkers and our peers in the industry. So we, that’s obviously near and dear to our heart. Fundamentally.

I’m gonna pause there for one second. We’ve got some people putting emojis and comments in the chat. So please drop us a note. Tell us where in the world you are joining us from. And if you have a word or phrase to describe burnout that you are experiencing personally or something that your company has experienced or gone through, drop that in the comments as well.

Thank you, Sarah. So fundamental cause. Fundamental cause is where the supply chain role requirements don’t match resources, capabilities, and personal needs. And each of us should think about all three of these separately. You know, what resources does my supply chain group bring to the table? What capabilities do I have? Does the team have? And, of course, what are my personal needs? You know, what kind of life do I want to live? That’s a very real pertinent question. Generically, small manufacturers, the requirements of the role oftentimes quickly translate to a high workload, long working hours, tight deadlines, unfortunately stressful work conditions, and hopefully not an unhealthy lack of work-life balance. And then later on, the supply chain role requirements, you know, your service favorite, the late suppliers, the price getting cha approval for price changes, expedites, and reschedule.

So all these legacy common traits of supply chain that now unfortunately are increasingly common. So how do we stop it, right? How do we prevent burnout? Generically, we prioritize self-care, take breaks, get enough sleep, engage in stress-reducing activities. Easy to say. It requires discipline to follow through. If you don’t believe me, come and visit me in Southern California. We’ll go for a walk on the beach in the evening. It’s absolutely lovely. And there are very few people there. You know, it’s an easy win. It’s a low bar. Stress relief. Bigger organizations, Sarah, bigger organizations may promote work-life balance, provide support resources for mental health, perhaps even ensure that workloads and deadlines are manageable. My fear is in the small manufacturer environment that may be less common, therefore it falls on us, right? We have to be masters of our own destiny. I, in that regard, and not be victim to this.

And when you say it falls on us, I think it’s very important for buyers to realize that working at night and on your weekends is not sustainable long ongoing. And it’s easy to log onto your computer Saturday and Sunday. Four or five hours in, you’re trying to get caught up, and it becomes a never-ending cycle. So looking at your time management and setting boundaries is really important.

Absolutely. Well said. You know, the supply chain industry has always been fast-paced. It’s always been demanding. The thing to remember is the job never ends. So that temptation to work an extra hour or two or three or cut into family time at the weekend, that’s, you know, okay. You’ll make incremental progress, but unfortunately, you never get to the end of it all. And, you know, that can lead to a lack of fulfillment in a job that’s initially exciting. And the burnout, if we’re not careful, small manufacturers, they are struggling more in the current supply chain environment, oftentimes struggling more. So it’s not that it’s the same old stuff. A lot of small manufacturers have moved from perhaps more of an even keel to being at risk. What that translates to for us is that our past tools and behaviors may be less effective, may even not work at all.

So we have to, it behooves us to reassess what we need to do beyond prioritizing self-care, get support, find a mentor, find a mentor in the organization. I’ve talked before about the potential empathy with the finance team, with the CFO, the controller, because obviously it’s in their interest that supply chain is functional and communicate with the management team that this is the issue. Not in the issue that I’m not enjoying life or I’m stressed or I’m too busy, but craft the conversation in terms of the company pain points. You know, we’re not able to address all the reschedules due to the current staffing or the current volatility. We’re bringing in additional inventory that we don’t need. I’m fearful that we aren’t addressing all of our shortages in time and come at it with proposed solutions.

You know, I’ve seen great success with moving a quick learner from the production floor to maybe a job entry role where they’re not necessarily doing planning, but certainly entering the jobs. Or perhaps have a finance admin person come in and do purchase order confirmation and expediting. So parse off these roles. It’s great for a supply chain team member in the small company environment to go the extra mile, to be the hero on an occasional basis, but not for an extended basis. From the employer side, employers do, as you said, started off saying, you know, the employers care about the staff shortages. They care about raising awareness of the supply chain role. It’s not a new situation for them. You know, we hear a lot about employers saying, “Hey, we have a plan to grow sales.”

We haven’t, we can’t recruit enough pre-sales or outside sales team members and putting pressure on their own human resources team. So it’s not a unique supply chain team. The supply chain situation, this phenomena of missing tough-to-get supply chain roles, is common in other areas. So translating our situation into words that the management team can resonate with helps our cause. Obviously, the companies are reassessing compensation packages and they’re also looking at RPA (Robotic Process Automation) to automate workflows that include repetitive, tedious, and mundane tasks. These are great opportunities to come in with an automated solution, like, say, a SourceDay. I know we’re…

And I would argue, Lindsay, when we’re talking about it from the employer’s perspective, a big factor for employers is what they are doing to invest in technology to attract the right people and give their team the ability to do more within a standard workday.

Yeah. And how you make that decision is critical. Clearly, a lot of people out there are fast-talking folks, selling something. Use cases are critical in making that decision. Look for carving out niche solutions that complement the overall ERP system. You know, an app that goes after a specific thing like facilitating supplier communication and collaboration. So we’re at the top of the hour for our call, Sarah. Maybe if you like, we can break it into two and we can go over how to address it from a personal basis, maybe on next week’s call.

Okay. Yeah. So we are just about at time. If you want to drop us a topic suggestion that you have, again, each week we try to do a 10 or 15-minute segment on a specific topic. Feel free to put a note in the comments if there’s something that really stands out to you. So, Lindsay, in closing then, just to kind of, let’s have you do a one-minute recap about what we talked about today. What are the key takeaways from our conversation today?

Yeah, I think the key takeaways are that it’s a risk of the role. The role has clearly evolved. The world didn’t used to know how to spell supply chain, and now you can’t pick up a newspaper, if anyone picks up newspapers anymore, without reading about it. It’s not just us. It’s not just that Lindsay’s a bad planner or doesn’t work hard enough. The greatest supply chain teams in the world can’t get widgets to complete their products and are compromising sales of the biggest organizations. So it’s an issue. The companies are going to address it from their side, from recruitment, from retention, from compensation, maybe even from robotic process automation. But for our cohorts and for our listeners, there are steps we have to take on our side to be masters of our own destiny, to manage our personal care, to take care of ourselves.