3 Things Keeping Supply Chain Leaders Up at Night

Ryan Purcell
Ryan Purcell
Sr. Director, Engagement Management - Supply Chain, Coupa

Ryan is a Supply Chain leader with 14+ years of experience at the intersection of global public health, supply chains, sustainability and technology.

He has consulted on supply chain design in over 30 countries across six continents and myriad industries including customers in the commercial and public sectors, as well as the US Department of Defense. In the public health domain, he has advised the WHO, The Global Fund, World Bank, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, amongst other international organizations on programs ranging from HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, Maternal and Child Health, Family Planning, Malaria Prevention, and COVID-19 vaccination. Ryan completed his undergraduate and graduate studies in Industrial & Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan and is an En-ROADS Climate Ambassador.

Read time: 4 mins
3 Things Keeping Supply Chain Leaders Up at Night

Supply chain leaders continue to get increased exposure to C-level executives and Board members. This is due to the outstanding performance of supply chain teams over the past challenging years combined with a global spotlight on the critical role of supply chain management, which is making front page news everywhere. Some of the most common questions supply chain leaders are being asked inside the C-suite include:

  • How do we build sustainability into our supply chain decision-making process?
  • How do we monitor all the relevant aspects of our sourcing to identify critical bottlenecks, such as parts of our supply chain that are sole sourced?
  • How do we add flexibility into our supply chain that allows us to shift quickly when geopolitical or weather-related or other unexpected challenges emerge?

Are sustainability initiatives at odds with profitability and resilience, or is there a way to balance all three?

For decades supply chains have been designed with a primary focus on cost efficiency. However, as the role of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) rises in the corporate agenda, supply chain leaders are increasingly looking for ways to make their supply chains more sustainable. In addition, ongoing disruptions are forcing organizations to become more resilient and agile.

Coupa recently held an invitation-only small group discussion with supply chain leaders focused on purpose-driven supply chains to address these issues. I hosted the session with representatives from Bain & Company and Cisco participating along with a number of Coupa customers and prospects.

Contact us if you’d like to participate in our next supply chain leader group discussion.

Based on the discussion, here’s a list of three things keeping supply chain leaders up at night, along with some quick tips and relevant links that provide more details and solutions:

1. Designing a more resilient supply chain

As organizations strive to make their supply chains more resilient, building optionality with a continued focus on profitability is proving to be critical. For example, leading organizations are now developing options for nodes of the supply chain — including suppliers, production facilities, and distribution centers — as well as modes of transportation and flow paths into the market.

Keys to increase resiliency
Build optionality into your supply chain to build resilience. Build redundancy with dual footprint manufacturing and dual sourcing. Acquire the tools and skills needed to spring back from unexpected events.


Learn how continuous design can reduce risk, improve resilience, and turn supply chain challenges into a competitive advantage with our free ebook.

2. Building a sustainable supply chain

Changes in the global regulatory environment, such as Germany’s recent Act on Due Diligence Obligations for the Prevention of Human Rights Violations in Supply Chains, and the rise of sovereign supply chains, along with increased pressure from consumers and shareholders alike, are making ESG top of mind. The first key is to focus on greenhouse gas reduction through science-based targets. What will it take within your sector for you to do your part to attain science-based targets?

Keys to reduce supply chain emissions
Understand the baseline, which requires granular data from global sources. Find your biggest opportunities by leveraging carbon footprint optimization. Develop tools and processes to monitor, measure, and report on results.


Listen to our webinar on balancing profit and purpose in supply chains for a deep dive into how organizations can achieve this balance.

3. Scenario planning for crisis events

Scenario planning can happen within a Center of Excellence (COE), where a cross-functional team works together, collaboratively developing agreed-upon tactics and strategies for a variety of potential crisis events. This enables quicker responses and broader company-wide alignment when crisis events begin.

Keys to preparing for crisis events
Collaborate cross functionally to craft detailed and agreed-upon plans of action for numerous potential crisis event scenarios. Work with your government affairs team to understand the implications of new government policy on the supply chain. Review potential internal failures such as quality failures and single sourcing, as well as external factors like weather disruptions, and demand changes. Conduct business continuity planning exercises by stress testing your supply chain to a variety of simulated disruptions.


Learn how to integrate cross-functional collaboration into your operations by reading our blog post, Optimizing Supply Chain & Sourcing in Times of Disruption.

The key to accomplishing the dual objectives of profit and purpose requires very tight collaboration and alignment between procurement and supply chain teams. Working together to manage supplier relationships and risk — and actively designing supply chain networks to explicitly factor in these objectives — enables supply chain leaders to get a restful night’s sleep.