Voice of Supply Chain – Feb. 2022
Featuring: Sneha Kumari
Welcome to the Voice of Supply Chain, brought to you by ISM New Jersey and SourceDay. This is a show that takes place the third or fourth Wednesday of each month. The purpose of our show is to tell stories of people in procurement and supply chain doing extraordinary things. I am your show host, Sarah Scudder. I oversee marketing here at SourceDay. You can see our new neon bling bling sign in the back. We’ve been decorating and kind of building out a media room, so more coolness to come in the background for the next show. We automate purchase order changes and enable supplier communication for manufacturers, distributors, consumer package goods brands, and retailers. If you want more women or more info about women in ERP or what’s happening in the manufacturing world, filming mine in the back, we’ve been decorating and kind of building out a media room, so more coolness to come. Or you can connect with my follow my hashtags or connect with me at Women in ERP and Manufacturing Maven. Today our guest is my friend Sneha. Her and I have been friends, gosh, I want to say almost three years now. Last time I was in Southern California at the end of last year, attending the Sourcing Industry Group conference, she was my hiking buddy for half a day. So really, really excited to have her on here, and she’s a little bit different in that she actually comes from direct spend and direct procurement. And I know a lot of our guests have been more on the indirect side. Our show is meant to be interactive, so do not be shy about sharing your thoughts in the chat and submitting questions anytime that you have for Sneha, and I’ll make sure that we make time to get to those. So I’d love to kick us off by having you tell us in the comments where in the world you are joining us from and a word or phrase to describe how you are feeling today. So Sneha, with that, I always like to start off the interviews going way, way back to childhood days because I think a lot of what happens to us as kids often shapes our career. So we’d like to have you start by sharing a favorite childhood memory. Thank you so much for having me today. Thank you for this platform. I’m really very honored and super excited to share my personal journey. Haven’t done that before, like have spoken a lot about work stuff, but not really personal. So yeah. So I lost my dad in 2017. So after, in the past few years, my childhood memories are a lot about thinking about my good times with him. And I still vividly remember. He used to have a bike and, you know, I used to literally cling along him as a child and go to the farmer’s market. And that was just me and my daddy moment. I have other brothers too, but that was just me with him and you know, going to that farmer’s market, and you know, that fresh smell of fruits and vegetables around that, like kind of that’s where my passion for this whole circular supply chain piece comes from, where you know, I just feel so connected with nature and things around. But that’s one of the memories that I still hold so close and so dear. I can literally sometimes like feel doing that some days in my dreams, yeah. What in your childhood shaped you to be the person that you are today? I would say a lot of things that I saw as growing up with both my parents. So my dad had a transferable job, so he used to, you know, move states and cities a lot. And so something that came along with that move was change, and that change that that actually ended up with us moving cities. I had to change my school, I had to change friends, and you know, of course, cities, the way you live there around. So that experience typically has always prepared me to be more open to change. And that’s exactly that I talk about a lot where you know, change, embrace change. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a personal level or a professional level, but embracing change is key. And especially like these days, things change enough in a blink of an eye, and so we can never be ready for anything like this pandemic. I don’t think our generation was ready for this, but the best part that we could do is actually be equipped to manage change. But you can never plan for things such as pandemic, but yeah, change, embracing change, and you know, you’re never underestimating the power of persevering and you know, focusing on your goal was something that stayed with me since childhood. What’s a tradition you learned from your parents that you’ve continued on now that you’re a mom? I have to say, being kind. So my mom has done a lot. She is a teacher, so she actually had she owns a school now, but then because we were moving cities, so it was hard, but then what she has taught me is literally being kind to people who need help, and it could come from diverse backgrounds. They could come. Their needs could be different, but if you are capable of either extending help or, you know, connecting people to help them in any way, big or small, it comes back. It comes back to you. So I guess I know I am a very kind person. I know that’s just innate to me, and I learned that a lot from my mom growing up by what, like, you know, her actions by whatever she did for people around her. Like teaching kids, for making time for them and also sponsoring some of them was something that I hold close. Who’s the most influential person in your childhood, and why? So I am biased, but I have to say, of course, like I’m speaking a lot about mom, but I’ve seen her being a strong lady that she is, and there were a lot of circumstances that were negative and still being able to thrive. Like back in the days, I grew up in India, and I come from a smaller town where not a lot of women work, and there’s a lot of prejudice about that divide, and I’ve seen her stand up. I’ve seen my father supporting her through and through, and that spoke a lot about, like, that gave me as a girl growing up the power to stand up, the confidence. Although I have to say that she is much stronger than I am, but I saw that. I saw that, and I have, I have, like, that gives me the confidence that, you know, there is no divide that that doesn’t have to, there that doesn’t have to be any. There has to be equity. You need to be inclusive, and I am so glad that I am here in the US, where we spoke about it so openly, and I am able to share my thoughts there. And also a little bit from my mom’s dad, who actually had this, I was, he, he taught me the importance of discipline in life, and he was a very accomplished man. He he has won a national award from the president of India, so I respect him. I look up to him. Coming from a small town himself, he achieved a lot, and these two people kind of opened my eyes and actually gave me this lesson that anything is possible with hard work.
What’s one thing you learned as an adult that you wish you knew as a kid? I I would say I could have had more fun and could not could have wished less to grow up and make my own money, so you know, as a kid, there was a lot of you know, pressure, I would say, or that I put on myself. Not necessarily my parents or family, that I need to grow up, I need to have my own job, I need to make my own money, and you know, just in the process somewhere, I lost that you know, miss, I missed that fun, and I was the older one, so just that, you know, the sense of responsibility came innate to me. So I think I think it, you know, just be, be, enjoy every phase of your life. So when you’re a kid, enjoy your childhood. It’s not gonna come back. It’s never gonna come back. We have enough time to be an adult and earn money and have all those important things in life. It’s good to be disciplined, but you know, don’t lose that fun. So fast forward a few years, you graduated from high school and went to college. Why did you choose to major in engineering? So I’ve, even as a kid, I’ve always had this inclination towards, you know, STEM-related subjects. So whether it was science or math or tech, I was super all in into see understanding what goes on behind say products or hardware, things like that, so I always knew kind of back of the mind when I was growing up, say, in the 10th grade or like I had to do do engineering, and then the internet, like I was still in school, was getting very popular, so I had an inclination towards computer engineering, although I ended up in electronics. That you know, I want to learn more about computers and all, all of this that’s going on. It was just evolving, and it was just starting, so was a very exciting space, but I ended up choosing electronics, and there’s a very funny reason on why I did that was because everyone was going for computers, and I was like, I want to do something different, like I want to do do something that not everyone is into, and electronics and instrumentation was something that was coming up. Like this is all about process input and output, and a closed-loop processes, and I was like that’s intriguing. I had nothing. I knew nothing about it, and I just did it because I didn’t see the crowd running after that, so I wanted to do something different. So that’s exactly how I ended up doing engineering and being in electronics. What’s the most important thing you learned during your undergraduate program? I would say that when I look back today, I would I actually want to say what I did not do, and I should have done. What I learned was a lot of good stuff, which is understanding how you know, all the great stuff, electrical engineering, electronics and electronics subjects, and a lot of math too. What I did miss out was actually spending a lot of time with companies. Like, you know, I was running after grades, and you know, learning a lot, putting my time a lot into books, but I could have done. I did some, but very few, like a couple, but in that four years of the bachelor’s degree that I was getting, I feel I should have gone out and done real-life projects with companies, and it would have been more fun, and I made up that gap in my MBA. What’s the perceived worst advice you received in college that has actually turned into useful advice? I don’t know if I if there was a worst advice, but but but but I would say, I mean, there was I would say that prioritizing is something that I’m still learning. I’ve not gotten great at it. There, this wasn’t any advice, but I tend to take up a lot on my plate, and I did that back then too, but it’s important to especially now that I’m working to learn to say no and prioritize and whatever projects I’m involved in, I want to make sure that it contributes to where I want to go in the future. You know, I can do a lot of other stuff, but then I have other roles to play in life too. So that’s that’s a life advice that I can constantly keep reminding myself of and can continuously improve upon.
And the other part also is we look for so much experience when hiring for procurement people. Like give people. I understand, you know, you build that whole negotiating skill and whatnot through experience, but there is room to bring in new minds, to people who are switching careers. Bring them in, make be, and you know, be more embracing about the fact, and then build a more diverse team. I think that’s lacking for sure. Now we haven’t done a lot in that space.
You mentioned careers and giving people an opportunity that maybe don’t have a lot of experience in supply chain or procurement to consider people from the outside when you’re going through the hiring process. What skills do you think are most important for somebody in procurement, and you can pull on some experiences maybe of things that you have found yourself that are really important?
For say for procurement, I would say it’s a mix of both soft and hard skills. So, when I started my career, someone took a chance on me too, right? I mean, it’s not that I came with a handbook and I knew everything, and so I’m grateful for that opportunity that my boss gave me, and then I worked my way up. But then constantly reading, being up to date with what’s going on, reading those articles, connecting with the right people.
And when I’m saying soft skills, it’s important how you manage your supplier relationship. It’s a partnership. It’s like a marriage. It’s not a date that will just end in a few hours. So, you have to put time in it, you have to understand them, understand their processes, ask the right questions. And it, what I’ve always said, you do not have to have a hundred years of experience in procurement to excel in procurement. No, you don’t. If you have the basic soft skills of building relationships with your vendors and being able to also do a little bit of data crunching and leverage data and see what kind of trends you’re seeing or whatever historically, spend time, do some work, and know your suppliers. That will be good for anyone to come in and also learn and grow in this field.
How did some of the skills that you just mentioned help you once you transitioned to tactical supply chain? I’m talking about things like demand planning and production.
Oh, that was, it was so, I mean, it’s so good that I have done. I started in procurement and then moved my way to tactical supply chain and then warehouse and logistics and things like that because when I wasn’t, you know, managing the strategic suppliers or the tail spend, it was, it was just about understanding, like looking at the data and the trends and things like that. Now, you actually get to see the real world. You pull your sleeves and see what’s going on on the ground. So, you’re looking at the day-to-day firefighting that your team is facing, like instead of just sitting behind the screens. So, that gave me, so it was pretty much seeing all that strategy that you build annually coming into action and how that impacted the day-to-day, your associates, your team, who actually work day-to-day in manufacturing and productions. And so, that helped me a lot.
And one thing that was so important that I moved from inventory, so when I was saying leading inventory, which was a tactical, too, I was constantly thinking about how do I manage my inventory? I’m talking to finance and accounting and managing that. Suddenly when you change your, you change your hats and go into operations, they, you hear that pain where they’re constantly complaining inventory is never enough because they are arduously every single second managing to get those orders out hours out for our customers. So, you see the gap and that’s, you know, it’s eye-opening.
Why you need shared metrics? Why, as an inventory manager, managing inventory cannot be my sole goal. Customer on-time delivery is a goal, not for just operations or supply chain, it’s for marketing, it’s for sales. It’s so important because they are our customers. So, I that this whole perspective would not have come if I wouldn’t have moved to different tenets of supply chain.
One of the other things that I know I’ve struggled with is misalignment of goals. How do you manage misalignment of goals when leading different teams? Yeah, kind of a little touched a little bit on that, which is, you know, managing through everyone, every role that you are in in supply chain, operations, wherever you are, you have some KPIs that you have to deliver to, I hope so, and if you don’t, you better get one. So, you know what you are actually working towards, which should be aligned with your strategic business goals. Like, what’s the goal of your business? Growth, sustaining, risk management, what is it? So, your KPIs should be aligned with your business goals. But at the same time, it should also look towards what your pain point is. So, trust me, if you go to your stand-up meeting, if you go to that gamma, and you are seeing your KPIs are green, you’re not measuring the right stuff. You want your boats to show you what’s not good, so you can go back and change it. It’s not just a fancy reporting tool. But how I manage that across teams is making sure that you, maybe you as a mid-level senior manager, understand that bridge between why you’re doing every day and how it aligns with your businesses, it’s important. Your team understands it too, so they are as passionate about it as you are. And then at the same time, as I said, shared metrics is very important. You do not just focus on where, you know, on your own goal. Always remember, we all together are orchestrating this flow to make sure we deliver to customers. So that customer service level goal has to fit in every KPI for every single role that you work on, and then it’s easier to talk the same language instead of actually putting your gloves on and ready to fight with each other.
I know something that you and I have spoken about a lot over the past couple years is sustainability and where this fits into supply chain procurement. So would like to have you talk about how you think tech is shaping the world of logistics and its impact on sustainability. So I have to, I have to say this, like in tech, it doesn’t have to be, you know, when we are talking tech, we are not just talking about AI or robots or things like that. It’s also about simple things like, you know, if you can use RPA to see to find things in your data or doing, you know, little things of automation. Like I, for example, like you speak a lot about automation, too, working for SourceDay. But tech is so important to be embraced right now, especially in logistics. So recently, I’ve been more involved in that world and I’m trying to understand why, and I’m actually learning more about why it’s important. And as your company grows, you cannot have to sit on manual systems to support your business. And that’s where it’s important that you bring in tech. And if you are seeing redundancy in tasks, you for sure can find a way to automate it. And with logistics, especially, especially, if, say, for example, you have your warehouse operations, find ways how you can actually automate some of these things that can reduce the burden on your associates. Or, like, just talk about cross-border compliance and there’s so much paperwork going on in there. Can we have a common for, or a portal where you can have all your documents together? Things like that. We are still very old school when it comes to logistics and compliance. We can do so much better there.
So one of the things we talked about a little bit earlier is leadership in managing teams, and I know as you’ve progressed in your career, you’re starting to manage people and become a leader yourself. So would like to have you share about your worst boss and why he or she was so bad. Yeah, I won’t say say, okay, yes. Yeah, I would say it was a boss I didn’t really like that much, not so far like no one is super super worst, but I would say that in my early stages of my career, I wasn’t able to draw a line between when I should stop working and have a life. I didn’t actually have a life for a couple of years. I was working non-stop. Of course, because I was super passionate, not that I’m not now, but I’m more mature now, so I, although, you know, the person was senior and had a lot of experiences. I wasn’t able to draw the line between my work hours, and that’s not good for anyone at any stage of your career because then you’re not, you know, you’re not getting a chance to enjoy what you do, and then you become sour, which is not good. It’s not good for your team, it’s not good for your company, it’s not good for you as well. So, that was something that wasn’t great, but since I was working so much, I kind of knew. I don’t know so much about the cross teams, like the fun, the team’s sister teams that I grew fast, so it ended up being nice for me. But it wasn’t like, you know, I was sour at the point. Like, it was hard for me.
On the flip side, tell me about your best boss. Oh yeah, I have to say, I have to, like, yeah, absolutely, my best boss was so good. I still know him, still friends with him, and why? Because he allowed me to make mistakes, to make my own decisions, gave me the power. Didn’t micromanage me at all. And that’s when you get the power to shape things around you the way you fail, which is fine. But then you learn, and then you learn so much more when you fail instead of, me, instead of you telling me exactly what to do, which road to take. I never got a chance to see what else could have happened if I failed. So that’s why I believe, like, you know, when I am troubleshooting something, as an engineer, when I used to do that a lot, I learned a lot because, you know, a lot of things failed, and we tried a lot of things, and this wouldn’t work, but maybe something else would. So being the best part of his leadership was allowing, giving us, and his team, everyone, the ownership and the freedom to make their own decisions and not micromanaging. And I believe everyone should do that because you will be so surprised with the kind of leadership leaders you will build, instead of managers.
So, one of the things that I think about when I think of Sneha is that you juggle a lot of stuff. You have a lot going on. How do you manage being a mom, wife, and a businesswoman and having lots of travel? I think there was an internet glitch there, so sorry about that, but for me, it’s… I am like, it’s a constant guilt that I live with that I’m not being great. I’m not being the best at everything. Like, I’m not the best employee, and you know, I live with that every day. And I have not perfected it, trust me, I have not. But then what I have learned is I’m enjoying being in the present. So, when I am with my kids, giving them their undivided attention. When I’m at work, I am working and trying to make the best of the time. I tend to talk to Decie a lot because I really admire her for her leadership, and she’s a mom too, and she’s great. Oh, she’s great at doing that. But one thing I will definitely share with moms out there is, since you’re working, you have the ability to outsource tasks that might not need you. Like simple things, you know, getting some help to keep your home organized or some of your daily chores. If you can outsource it, do not hesitate in doing that. It will give you so much more freedom, so much more time to either be a better mom or a better employer, whatever you want to do, or maybe actually carve out some time for your own self. Right, self-care, so important. So, that’s something that I didn’t do before. I am doing it so much more now, and it’s getting better. So, definitely something I would love to share. It was shared to me by one of the women leaders, and I want to give and share this with others too.
Do you have any scheduling calendar, calendar-type tips to share about how you structure and manage your days?
I love being organized. I am not the best, or I’m not the best-organized persons out there, but I love being organized. I think a lot of us know about the Pomodoro technique. A lot of people speak about it. It’s pretty much having focused time, times wherein you focus, say, 30 minutes or one hour, whatever that is, and just come, get that task done. And if you have a few things, do not procrastinate. I’m such a big procrastinator, and I’m getting better at it, I promise. You do not, if there is one thing that you can do quick, just do it. Don’t leave it for the end of the day or the end of the week. Just do it. It will take you a few seconds. It’ll get done. But then planning your days, like I try to get up early, also because of kids. But getting up early is the best part of your day because you get your time. And you know, getting up before your kids is even better. I try to do that. But I just feel that mornings are so productive. It’s slow, like time doesn’t run fast as the day progresses. I feel like the time is running, and I’m almost like, it’s already 8 p.m., and it’s bedtime. But in the morning, it’s quiet, nice, and you so you can get some time for your own self.
So I want to pivot the conversation a little bit to talk about the manufacturing industry. So, you’ve spent a lot of your career not only in the direct spend part of the industry but also in manufacturing. So what is the hardest part of being in supply chain working for a manufacturer?
Yes, I think I was talking about this in one more show, but this is about, it’s about firefighting. It’s about the churn that the team, not just you as a manager, as a leader, go through. It’s also the team that goes through that, not just day, it’s hours when you are in operations and production, manufacturing, every single minute counts, right? Because you’re direct, direct labor, and you’re working for your customers. And so often you will see that teams or leaders don’t take the time to stop, fix the root cause, and move. And then for the long term, do not just do your containment action and move on. Yes, have your containment, but then fix it for good, because I promise you that issue will come back next week again. I… it will come back, and you will be again firefighting. I think that’s the… that’s the most difficult part of working in, you know, in production, manufacturing. And a lot of leaders, and it should, it should come from your senior leadership, where this culture is encouraged. Yes, today, you… it might impact an order or two, but if you don’t fix it for good, like have your containment and don’t fix it for good, you will continue being in this vicious loop on and on, and it won’t stop.
What are some not so obvious trends that you’ve noticed in manufacturing in the last year or so?
I’m just trying to see if I can… if I’m getting this right, but automation and change management are some of the things that are hard in manufacturing. But I’m seeing that more and more companies are embracing it now, like, and when I’m saying automation, it’s not just about robots. As I said before, simple things, and they are more open to learning about the options and talking to people, getting help from outside. I’m seeing that they are open. It wasn’t the state five years back. It wasn’t like that. They… they were like people were more close. Leaders are more closed, and that also is driven by your customers. Because if you’re in manufacturing, say, for example, in oil and gas, and then if it’s not broken, why fix it? Kind of that mentality, and I get that. But then there are always opportunities where you can innovate and you can change stuff around, not necessarily impacting your customer, and maybe it does. Customers have to come together and be partners with their suppliers and then make things happen, which I think is improving now. It’s getting better now, especially with the lessons that the pandemic has taught us.
So, one of the things that I’ve noticed now that I’m in manufacturing is that there’s a lot of focus on the last mile, but very little talk about the first mile. So maybe you could describe for us what’s the difference between those, and why the first mile is ignored in manufacturing, and that’s why it’s so important for people. And it is because, of course, I mean, just to touch quickly about why last mile is important because it’s impacting your customers, right? You’re immediately always constantly thinking about ways to get it out the door and in the customer’s door, right? That’s the goal. That’s what the goal is. And I think the entire company is striving to get that. What we forget in the process is, if you did not start well, if you did not fix it at the first mile, you actually will be seeing those bottlenecks and that domino effect, which will end up being reflecting on your last mile. And that’s the gap which not many companies or leaders or organizations understand. And simply putting your focus on your last mile is… probably going to help you get your products out the door on time, but you’re always scrambling to get it done. If you focus on your first mile and you are trying to make sure that you’re starting from your vendor, your materials arriving on dock, to managing your whole flow to production and all of that, if you are able to manage those processes timely and proactively, you will very less see that impact in your last mile.
Why do you think digital transformation or implementing new technology is so hard in manufacturing?
Oh, I think pretty this is pretty close to what I was saying before because, if being, you know, being so risk-averse and change-averse is the culture that we have lived in for years now, and as I said, it’s changing, but we’re not there yet, right? Like the pace at which you see the tech growing, you know, those industries versus the pace that we have seen manufacturing companies growing is like a century apart. The growth, the pace that we have been… it will get better for sure, I promise. I’m seeing that. But it, we are still behind, and it is behind because, as I said, like, we don’t get that partnership from our customers too, like, as I said, our customers also need to become better partners to us as suppliers and then make this whole change happen, like, and encourage change management, be more like, if, say, I do… I should not be… if it’s not a life-threatening device or product that I am delivering to… I don’t understand why shouldn’t I look into, say, different methods of manufacturing it, or different materials to manufacture it. Like, can I look for off-the-shelf… like, things like these, these smaller things matter, and your… if you make this whole process change process so tedious for me, I would always be risk-averse and not open to changing things around or automating stuff. So, building that partnership with customers has to happen, too, and of course, has to come with your senior leadership’s efforts seen across the market and the customer base.
So when I was at the sourcing industry conference in October, there was another conference happening at the same time, and a group of them crashed our bonfire fire pit one night. They came over to join us, and the woman I was sitting next to was very high up at a, I would consider it to be a small to mid-size ice cream company in the Midwest. I asked her, ‘What is the number one supply chain challenge for your company today?’ and she said, ‘We have 25 open positions and we can’t fill them. Okay, I’m not surprised. What can manufacturers do to attract top talent?’
So I am very glad that supply chain has taken a seat at the table, and people are focusing more on all this. Before, we didn’t have that kind of attention that we needed, but I guess the lessons learned through the pandemic have opened a lot of eyes on why supply chain is important.
First, as a company, stop writing those job descriptions saying you need 10 plus years of experience for a planner, for a supply chain analyst. No, you don’t. So, we have to first start making sure that our job descriptions are really what we need. Like, make sure that you spend some effort instead of copying and pasting from what that job description looked like from five years ago. That will be important to attract new talent. A lot of people do not apply to jobs when they see that kind of job description. And of course, if you’re using ATS technologies, you might just have lost some of the potential candidates.
The other piece I would say is that you should look to build diversity. If I am given a chance to build a team, and when I’m given that chance, I look for building a diverse team. So, people from different cultures, different backgrounds, different levels of experience. And when you bring all these diverse people together in one room, the ideas that flow and the brainstorming that happens is amazing. It’s mind-blowing. So, if you have the opportunity to build a team, do that. Take that effort. Take that step. I guess most of us realize the importance of this. I don’t think it’s rocket science. If people don’t understand it, maybe they could take classes to learn more about how diversity helps teams. But doing that will really help the supply chain base grow.
I guess there’s enough publicity that we have gotten in the past two years. My supply chain is important, and it’s hot. And people still ask some stupid questions about supply chain, which I’m not too offended about, but I guess overall, our publicity has gone up. So, I’m happy about that.
Final manufacturing-related question is about inventory management. I know a few years ago, a company that I worked for was all about just-in-time, so no inventory at all. It was built or produced when a product or an order came in. I know that became really popular, and then the pandemic happened. Now we have clients that are stockpiling 18 months of parts and materials because they’re so paranoid that they’re not going to be able to get product, which causes big challenges, especially for small companies when you don’t have space or cash flow.
So, what advice do you have for manufacturers struggling with inventory management or people in supply chain figuring out how to help their companies? Yeah, that’s it. It’s one topic that we probably can just speak on and on. There are so many things that we can do. Just-in-time was so cool, such a cool topic, especially because this is part of the lean concept. We talk a lot about that. But what it does, it puts a lot of pressure on your suppliers too, which we are not very cognizant about, especially the big companies out there.
Yes, we are just-in-time, but that might not just be just-in-time for your downstream, your upstream supply chain. Not many are always cognizant of the fact. This is why when the whole talk about circular supply chains or sustainable supply chains came up, we talked a lot about near-shoring. Because then your impact on the overall supply chain, that whole domino effect goes down because you have predictable lead times. Even if you have some breakdowns or issues in the supply chain, you’re able to recover faster. And of course, overall, the impact on the globe goes down. So, it’s a win-win for everyone.
It is not and what is important is in this process, people are saying, ‘Oh, it’s very expensive.’ You know, I’m sourcing locally locally, but have the companies taken the effort to look at the total landed costs? I don’t think so. If you look at the total landed cost, if you really calculate the cost that you spend, it’s not just material costs. It’s about the logistics. Maybe you look at the tariffs that you pay for any kind of tooling that you purchase at your suppliers, anything outside. So, there are a lot of tariffs and logistics costs and material costs. And also, don’t forget your opportunity. Every time you lose your customer order, you lose that opportunity cost too. So, all of this together builds your total landed cost. So, look into that before you make your sourcing decisions.
It’s not just that. You have to think about all your options and all the risks that come with it. So, for inventory management, most of my inputs these days are looking into your near-shoring options and then trying to be lean if you can. But then, if you reduce your lead times from your suppliers, you reduce your lead times to your customers. So, both downstream and upstream get better in this process. So, it has to start with that overall strategy. Then you can look into the data and then understand what your replenishment model and whatnot can be.
You mentioned the word ‘near-shoring.’ What does that mean? Near-shoring could be some sourcing from suppliers closer to where your manufacturing facilities are. It doesn’t have to be in the same state, in the same city. It could be in a nearby country, instead of bringing your grapes from like making your grapes travel all around the world. You can actually try and see if you can find someone sourcing it locally. And of course, fruits are not the greatest example because they are seasonal. But if you can find suppliers closer to where your manufacturing base is, you reduce your variability in the process overall.
A couple more supply chain questions, and then we’ll close out with the spitfire round, where I’m going to ask you a few personal questions, and you’ll answer with a word or phrase. So, one of the things that I think makes you stand out amongst all the other supply chain people that I talk to and interact with every day is that you’re really strategic.
How can supply chain professionals become more strategic, like you? So, I have to say that when I started when we discussed this before also about procurement, we have to be so focused and cognizant about what our business goals are. So, when it doesn’t matter if you are in procurement, if you are in inventory, if you are doing manufacturing, you need to understand what’s important for your company. Is it delivering to your customers in short time? Is it delivering to your customer at lower cost? Or is quality your unique selling point? So, understanding that overall goal or your brand value and then aligning your goals with it is important.
Yes, you have tactical stuff going on day in, day out. But then in the end, you need to make sure that even for your own career and growth, you have to understand how do you bring those gaps together. And when you do that, you actually start delivering on a day-to-day basis. And then automatically, that fuels your growth and your understanding and your learning across the group as well. And you help your cross-functional teams bridge that gap. You are in your gemba walks and talking to them as well. So, keep bridging that your metrics to overall what the business goals are and bringing it together. And it doesn’t have to be just about your own team. It also is about including your suppliers in that conversation. Do not leave them out. They are your business partners.
How should supply chain professionals better leverage technology? If you see redundancy in your processes, look for tech to change it. If you see a process that is being done by someone again and again and there is no value, it’s like entering data, you need to start looking for options where you can automate it. It could be Excel, it could be Power BI, it could be Tableau, it could be RPA, or it could be robotics or AI or whatever that is. But trust me, not all automation using technology has to be complex. You can start small, and you can still see a lot of savings coming your way every day.
Alright, so I’m gonna throw five questions at you. I want you to respond with the first word or phrase that comes to mind for each. Accomplishment you are most proud of? Not many know, but I have a patent in my name. I filed a patent in India, so I’m really proud of it because I’ve been innovating constantly every day in my life, and I’m proud of that accomplishment.
Quality you admire most in yourself? Kindness. I know I’m very kind, and I am proud of it. Kindness is the new cool.
What’s your dream? Well, my dreams change, Sarah, like a lot, depending on where I am. But overall, you know, I am a good human being. And if I can see my kids become good human beings, I would say that would be a life well spent.
Biggest pet peeve? Oh, so many. But I will share two. Personally, not being punctual is my biggest.
So I’ve come across people, a lot of people who are not very punctual, who do not respect time. I do not like working with those people, and professionally, what I my biggest pet peeve is, of course, you know, people not being open to change, and, you know, that’s. I love working towards making changes, but then I see a lot of people very closed and not being open to changes, so yeah, favorite thing to do in your downtime? Well, I should say sleep because I don’t get enough sleep, but yeah, I mean just, you know, cuddling my kids. I love doing that’s the best part of the day. And favorite dish to cook? My god, if my husband is hearing this, he’s gonna throw me out because I do not cook. I do not cook at all, but I really don’t cook. I, I, I cannot like I love eating a lot of fair dishes that my husband makes, so I’m not gonna lie. I don’t cook, so I’m a bad cook. Even if I try making something for him, he’s very kind to say it’s okay because I barely cook, but yeah, so nothing. Well, Sneha, thank you very much for coming on the show today. If people want to connect with you, what’s the best way for them to do so? LinkedIn, absolutely. Drop me a note. I am always very, very active there. I might take a day to come back to you, but I promise I will. And I’m open to connecting with everyone and learning from everyone. Join our next show, March 23rd, at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. We’ll be coming to you live again from LinkedIn. Thank you.