APICS is the premier professional association for supply chain management.

Notable Lessons and Discoveries

By Elizabeth Rennie | September/October 2013 | 23 | 5

Javier Zarazua, CSCP, has been in supply chain and operations management for 12 years at companies in both Mexico and the United States. Most recently, he was tasked with turning around three underperforming teams at Caterpillar.Sharing the strategic importance of supply chain

Javier Zarazua, CSCP, has been in supply chain and operations management for 12 years at companies in both Mexico and the United States. Most recently, he was tasked with turning around three underperforming teams at Caterpillar. “For the last several years, my job has consisted of going to different locations and fixing sites that have performance issues,” he says. “I have improved delivery performance from as low as within the 30th percentile up to 97-plus percent, while reducing inventory by 35 percent. I also have improved inventory record accuracy from a mid-30 percentage level to within the mid-80s—all this while forming supply chain teams from scratch.”

He says one of the ways he achieved these successes was to focus on accountability. “I have been fortunate to grow professionally in an environment where accountability is very high, and I am a firm believer that accountability starts with oneself. But what does accountability truly mean? Simply put: Deliver what you promise, what the business needs, what your supervisor requested from you, or all those things together. Be bold!” he says, adding, “I have seen a lot of people who set goals in a way that warrants results. That approach doesn’t drive a challenging mind-set or one that can trigger real creativity and significant improvement.”

Another discovery Zarazua made along the way is that the function of supply chain often is misunderstood, underdeveloped, and underestimated in the business world. “If commerce has been around in human history for centuries—and, therefore the need to manage supply chains has existed that long—why was the term ‘supply chain’ formed just a couple of decades ago?” he asks. “A lot of progress is being made, and I'm glad organizations like APICS exist to lead the way. APICS has done an excellent job raising the awareness of supply chain and helping businesses around the world recognize the strategic importance of managing the supply chain and the potential to turn it into a competitive advantage—if done well.”

Zarazua says he joined APICS in 2008 in order to learn more about supply chain, earn his APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) designation, and improve his marketability. “The most rewarding experience by far with APICS has been achieving my CSCP,” he says. “I believe professional certifications are very important. If a person doesn’t have experience in a particular field, having a certification declares that person has the desire to continue learning and educating, which is critical to everyone’s professional development. If a person does have experience in a particular field, a certification validates that experience. I also believe that certifications are an easy way to differentiate individuals … when it comes to being selected for a job. I’m definitely committed to maintaining my CSCP for the rest of my career.”

Attending APICS 2012 in Denver was another APICS high point for Zarazua. “The APICS annual conference is a great experience—the place to be if you are in supply chain and want to understand where the world is going. There were great general sessions, a variety of speakers to learn from, multiple vendors for products and services, and an excellent opportunity for networking.”

He adds that he looks forward to coming back this year in Orlando for APICS 2013, which is all about leveraging the power of the customer—something he is very passionate about. “Sometimes, we are the only chance that the customer has to be heard, to explain their issues and concerns. So, as a supply chain leader, I take this view very seriously,” he says. “I don’t just say it as a motto; I truly mean it.”

Elizabeth Rennie is managing editor for APICS magazine. She may be contacted at editorial@apics.org.

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