A chat with Scott Phillips
Global Supply Chain & Sourcing Director for ECCO Global Shoe Production & Sourcing.
We are pleased to bring back in 2021 our fire-side chat column with key people in the supply chain industry. It is with particular pleasure to chat-up with Scott Phillips of ECCO shoes, who has for the last year been battling, like the rest of us, with the challenges in his supply chain and least by the recent Suez blockage.
“Scott welcome to 1st in our fire-side chats for 2021 & thank you for making the time to speak to us in what can imagine your very busy schedule”.
- Let me start off by asking you to tell us a little about your background and experience?
Whilst I am Australian born, I was fortunate to have had an educational background spanning 3 continents, Australia, Thailand/Singapore and Denmark. Starting out as a Marketing Intern in Adelaide, Australia for a Fielders Steel Roofing, my international studies lead to an opportunity to work in Singapore in 2005. I packed my (one) bag to start a considerable journey into becoming a Supply Chain Professional from the manufacturing floor up, with Detmold (Detpak) Packaging.
My projects in Malaysia, Philippines, China, Indonesia and eventually Vietnam, ranged from customer service and order fulfillment, shop-floor planning, inventory management, import/export and procurement. Being involved in starting new factories and closing one, the motivation to learn more of people management and furthermore talent development, also came to the fore. Family reasons relocated me to Bangkok in 2011.
I took up a role to develop and facilitate the regional S&OP program for BlueScope steel, spanning, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. Working directly with factory management teams to better serve their customers locally and regionally. This led to a bigger scope as a Regional Supply Chain role with an American Wire and Cable company, General Cable (now acquired by Prysmian). Integration of system, digitisation of the S&OP process and broader sourcing strategies were paramount to success of this role.
In 2014, I was appointed Global Supply Chain role with ECCO Shoes and relocated back to Singapore. It was a challenge to learn about retail and consumer driven supply chain strategies. Great to be able to utilise my B2B manufacturing supply chain management skillset.
Responsible for the global supply chain organisation and functions, spanning 6 ECCO factories, in 6 countries and 88 distribution locations. Covering supply planning, sourcing for materials, component and freight contract logistics, order fulfillment as a key stakeholder bringing ECCO’s vertically integrated value chain to a new digital level through its S&OP program.
Continuing my journey on a steep learning curve, motivated for continuous challenges in supply chain management and people management, I still see myself as a shy country-town raised, now big-city living, family man, who still enjoys taking every opportunity to experience life to its fullest, both professionally and personally.
- What are some of your greatest achievements in your career to date?
I believe in making most of the opportunities presented. Is about attitude, mindset and working hard for the experiences I have had to date. This is my guiding principle! There is an immense amount of learning opportunities that have added to my career in the last decade. But so much in your personal life can be directly correlated to your professional outcome. My sporting analogies are frequently used in my business settings, whilst personal values are also reflected in professional values.
I have been fortunate to be managed by and manage some extraordinary people, whom I would never had known without the exposures in my career opportunities. I have learnt that first impressions are really important, but not the be-all and end-all of a person. Getting to know and develop myself and others, is a truly satisfying achievement. This drives me to continue to seek exposures to new and varied experiences to enrich my outlook.
- How has Business and Supply Chain changed over the course of your career?
We are currently experiencing the most dynamic and intense paradigm shifts in business and supply chains. The speed at which consumers understand, adapt, change, and how brands, products and services are traditionally offered and presented, is at an all time high. The global interconnectivity, now matched with the complexity of physical trade has been brought to the fore with COVID. The next 5-10 years in business and supply chain management, will be like nothing we know today (or what we knew yesterday).
Past experiences can only guide us to know what is working or has not worked successfully. But the ability for businesses and supply chain operations to remain agile, opportunistic and fearless into the future, may define what success could look like. Naturally we cannot throw everything out and start again. In matured companies, solid underpinning of governance and values, with a growth mindset and positive attitude need to be bridged seamlessly to achieve success.
- What are some of the key learnings & formative experiences in your career that you could share for others to learn from?
You must learn from everyone, and anyone! From all levels in organisations and life – the good, bad and ugly. Some of the best learnings I have had, have come from guys who have spent 30 years on the shop floor – the lesson of loyalty and commitment. I have learnt from one ‘boss’ on who I do NOT want to copy as a manager of people – but the lessons learnt, that everyone can contribute in their own way if given the chance. Staying humble, but confident was maybe the best advice in general I have received.
Acquiring new skills from all angles is also important, especially in Supply Chain that constantly moves. Don’t just focus on academia, nor working experience, but try to blend them in balance. Learn by doing, not procrastinating. Frequently, you must take opportunities that make you uncomfortable – you have to find your own ‘edge of the cliff’, doing ‘comfortable’, or nothing will not develop your personal resilience.
Embrace and respect all cultures, and learn new values that can challenge your own bias, strive never to get complacent that you are ‘right all the time, never let your own bias’ set in where they make your decisions for you without thought.
- What challenges facing the world today are important to you?
How do we collectively build a sustainable legacy for our future generations that can prosper and grow more than our generation has? Business, governments, NGOs but also us as individuals need to assume responsibility. We need to focus on how we get balance into our world, from capitalism to environmental issues and across geographies, we need to understand better how to achieve this balance.
Implementing a digital footprint in ECCO, has been a rewarding experience. Consolidating the global sourcing activities is an ongoing challenge and reward. Positioning a group of developing people knowing what they need to achieve for the company is what I believe management is about.
I hope supply chains can play an important role, by generating efficiencies, sitting side-saddle with innovation both in products and services, and using less resources with creative thinking in how we serve our humanity.
We should not be underestimated the contribution impact, that effective supply chain can bring in this area.
- What is the role of Business and Change Leadership in addressing the ever complex & growing challenges in supply chain management ?
Supply chain management that sits in organisation’s back of house (the common traditional setup) cannot add value in business transformation. We can now see the real value and longer-term benefits of SCM professionals being at the Board Table or at front of house to compliment other business functions.
There are many reasons for this has. The level of true SCM professionals that can build platforms for successful are few and far between. Well-rounded senior SCM professionals takes time. We need to develop programs, educate and market the profession to attract the right people. Then go above and beyond to retain them.
Defining a SCM professional is also a grey are. I have heard so often, other business function leaders claim they are doing supply chain’s jobs every day. The true ‘integrator’ within a business is a real SCM professional – where versatility, agility and shifting gears from planning to negotiation, logistics to customer service, without taking a breath at high speed, is the order of daily challenges. Being financially savvy is a new basic. Being able to communicate well, are key parts of any professional, but more so with SCM professionals in change leadership.
- What are the priorities you are working on right now?
In ECCO, our raw materials sourcing structure, has moved from a technical shoe making philosophy to a professional sourcing philosophy over the years. To compliment highly technical and often IP laden materials in the industry, opening up souring network and profile helped through COVID-19 no end.
We were not/and have not/ been reliant on a single supplier, geography or contract commitments on volume. Thus our raw material supplies to our shoe making factories were impacted minimally. In fact, our suppliers benefited mostly with consistent ordering. Whilst others were pulling contracted volume commitments. Pushing ECCO to the front of the queue, of customers these suppliers want to work with – a WIN/WIN outcome.
- What advice would you give people who have a career in, or who are considering joining, Business and/or Supply Chain?
Get in and have a go! It does not matter how small the start is, break your own comfort zones in doing so. If you are on the journey already, then remember to continue to challenge your own bias and create the new opportunities towards growth. I started out as a Marketing professional, just taking every opportunity. Then found myself in SCM where the challenges are endless. The lesson here is not to pigeon hole oneself unless your are set on being a specialist.
Stay positive and get back up when knocked down or sideways, as it is not always up and up. But on the way up, enjoy the broadening horizons and never take them for granted.
Travel (when we can again) to learn from every culture and environment, and be kind to everyone you meet. Learn from them but trust yourself to know when the lesson is done. Stop and think – I use my travelling transit time, as good reflective downtime.
And most importantly, go and have some fun, have a passion outside of your everyday career in business or supply chain, whether it be sport, music, arts, family or friends, whatever…and make time for it. The values from this will fulfill your professional career also.