Why the Fourth Industrial Revolution Requires More Supply Chain CEOs

businessman looking at hand drawn business concept sketch

By Wolfgang Lehmacher

CEOs need to transform businesses – an imperative which is increasingly relevant in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Apparently, as the supply chain stretches across the entire business operation, the flow and transformation of materials and parts into goods and value to customers brings CEOs to the test. How then can CEOs lead change in times of disruption and uncertainty brought about by rapid technological advancement?


The supply chain is the backbone of the economy and the lifeline of any business. Recently, several chief executive officers (CEOs) from larger players like John Deere, Tyson Foods, and General Mills stated that their financial performance was hurt by the inefficiency of supply chains. The chain has to deliver the value promised to customers and society – visibility is therefore a king. According to the Geodis 2017 Supply Chain Worldwide Survey, supply chain visibility is the third most important priority in 2017, up from the fifth place in 2015. However, only 6% of the 623 respondents said they had achieved full visibility across the chain.1 As the supply chain stretches across the entire business operation, the flow and transformation of materials and parts into goods and value to customers brings CEOs to the test. Furthermore, in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is the supply chain that is the ultimate strategic differentiator. Companies that fail to transform their supply-driven chains into intelligent customer-centric systems will struggle to succeed – sooner than later.

Times are volatile and uncertain in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. CEOs need operational knowledge and strategic insight to be able to balance short with mid to long-term interests and requirements. This balancing is the daily task and challenge of chief supply chain officers (CSCOs). They know what it takes to deliver value to customers, today and tomorrow, consistently over and over again. Supply chain professionals need to not only know the business but also what is happening along the chain. They gather this knowledge during their effort of integrating suppliers and collaborating with customers, which often are spread across multiple industries.

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About the Author

Wolfgang Lehmacher is a global executive, consultant and entrepreneur. His career stages include being Head of Supply Chain and Transport Industries at the World Economic Forum, Partner at the global strategy firm CVA, and President and CEO of GeoPost Intercontinental. He is a book author and member of award juries and think tanks.



1. Supply Chain Worldwide Survey, Geodis, 2017

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3. Optimizing Packaging for an E-commerce World, Ameripen, American Institute for Packaging and the Environment, 2017, https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.ameripen.org/resource/resmgr/PDFs/White-Paper-Optimizing-Packa.pdf.

4. O’Neill, P, 2017. NotPetya Ransomware Cost Merck More Than $310 million. cyberscoop, https://www.cyberscoop.com/notpetya-ransomware-cost-merck-310-million/.

5. Flood Risks and Impacts: A Case Study of Thailand’s Floods in 2011 And Research Questions for Supply Chain Decision Making, International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 2014, http://water.columbia.edu/files/2014/10/supply_chain_Thailand.pdf.

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