A Conversation with Stuart Whiting, Schneider Electric

We are pleased to continue our 2021 fire-side chat series with key people in the supply chain industry, and it is with particular pleasure to catch up with Stuart Whiting, Senior Vice President, Global Supply Chain, Logistics & Planning at Schneider Electric, based in Singapore but with a global functional responsibility.

Stuart is a British national, married with three children. Holds a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and holds a Global MSc. in Logistics and Supply Chain Management from Cranfield University’s School of Management. He is very passionate about developments in the Supply Chain arena and is always seeking excellence in his drive for efficiency & innovation in Supply Chain operations” – a quality that is very relevant to face up to the many Supply Chain challenges in our path!

Would you tell our readers a little about your background and experience?

“I joined Schneider Electric Schneider Electric in Singapore with Global responsibility for Logistics and Network Design in 2013. Throughout my time in Schneider the scope and responsibilities undertaken in both day-to-day operations and transformation has grown. In 2017 I also assumed responsibility for Field Services and in 2019 Data Excellence & Analytics embracing digital transformation driving our Tailored, Sustainable and Connected 4.0 Supply Chain Strategy through greater visibility, traceability & automation of standardized, (re-engineered), end-2-end processes.

From 2020 I also took responsibility for Planning, end to end across the Supply Chain, further optimizing the adoption of SIOP, SO&E and Executive Alignment with our Chief Financial Officer and ExCom, Upstream Planning and collaboration with Procurement and Suppliers – all with the focus on achieving the utopia of the “Perfect Order” by extending the Functionality of our Logistics Control Towers to end to end Order Orchestration and “ACT” capabilities across all functions and steps in the supply chain – ensuring proactive real time visibility, efficiency and planning to all activities to ensuring fulfillment in full of demand and driving greater customer centricity and satisfaction in delivery”.

“Before joining Schneider Electric, I was at DPDHL holding multiple positions over a 14-year career. Spanning Global, Regional, Country Operational/Commercial Roles and General Management in Asia Pacific and Europe. Prior to that, I was with TNT for 6 years. Based in the USA and later North Asia, I specialized in “Supply Chain Solutions” for North American / European Corporations with Asia Pacific manufacturing/sourcing operations”.

“My passion for Logistics and Supply Chain is founded from my very structured upbringing. It was heavily influenced by my Father’s career, which saw him traveling all over the world and the opportunity of an excellent education afforded to me by the British Public-School System – Boarding school was disciplined, indeed regimented in many ways. It really gave me an excellent grounding in self-discipline, confidence, resilience, and focus – embodying the principles of Agile and embracing Change”.

“Those schooling experiences, coupled with a Rugby culture, really taught me the importance of teamwork, respect, and an appreciation for your opposition/competition. The foundations again centered on discipline, training, and information relative to the games and seasons This culture allowed us to mentally and physically prepare for what was before us, one game at a time – without losing focus on our end objective”.

“Boarding school culture helps you to build relationships, self-confidence, and self-reliance, it teaches you how to focus and to be ambitious, to have faith and belief – preparing one well for the trials and tribulations of our business life…importantly it teaches you that by paying attention and carefully managing the inputs, (being mindful of contingency), the outputs will invariably take care of themselves!”

What are some of your greatest achievements in your career to date?

“One can speak of many material successes, be it transformation, business turnarounds, and approaches to change management. One’s greatest achievement must be People, through the influence on adapting and forming winning cultures, to delivering competitive advantage and the winning edge”.

“Today after over 30 years in Supply Chain, it is so rewarding to see the success of those that you have coached and supported – but critically the relationships that have stayed the test of time…these can only be built on trust, mutual respect, and benefit”.

“Working with Dr. John Gattorna to deploy the Dynamic Alignment model in Japan, Taiwan and to DHL’s Strategic Account/Global Account Management Front and Back Office Operations, was a great experience.”

“More recently this learning and application has evolved into the Tailored, Sustainable, Connected Transformation initiatives at Schneider Electric. In conjunction with other Global Supply Chain domains we seek to deliver the Perfect Order and End-to-End Delivery Experience for Schneider Electric’s Customers. Our focus is to create a robust End-2-End Control Tower and Orchestration for Schneider Electric Supply Chain”.

How has Business and Supply Chain changed over the course of your career?

“Over the last 30 years, I have seen Supply Chains evolve from being a back-office “Cost Center Function” to the ‘spearhead’ of many Corporate Strategies. Orchestrated and positioned appropriately, Supply Chains can be the winning edge – the true differentiator that delights Customers and delivers absolute efficiency and leverage to the P&L/Balance Sheet”. “As everything begins with the Customer – from the need to understand their buying behaviors, to the attributes that drive these behaviors, it is essential for an organization to understand these before re-engineering any Supply Chain”.

“Done properly, it will significantly change the Culture of an organization for the better too – one that thinks horizontally and vertically but learns to collaborate cross-functionally with agility and purpose to manage all kinds of challenges and opportunities”.

“With the power of DATA, real-time Visibility to Monitor Sense, Detect and Predict – we have evolved from a Just-in-Time to Just-in-Case Supply Chain with resiliency embedded in its Operating Processes to deliver the “Perfect Order” with sustainability top of mind most of the time”.

“Hindsight is not the new Foresight, but for those who share the most information, wins !”

What are some of the key learnings & formative experiences of your career, that you could share for others to learn from?

“The silo mentality of traditional organizations must be broken. Given that Customers buy horizontally through the Supply Chain, our focus must now be on how best to collaborate and integrate an organization and culture horizontally to respond to these Buying Behaviors”.

“In understanding the customer interdependencies, re-engineering / creating / standardizing your end to end supply chain processes and the systematization of tools and applications can truly build a competitive advantage, improve operating results and unite teams to common causes. Causes where every member of the team understands their role to ensuring the “Perfect Order” whilst delivering optimal efficiency in planning and execution”.

“The role that data, automation, and analytics play, is just accelerating these benefits and further demonstrating that Logisticians are by nature the true Supply Chain collaborators. Supply Chain Logistics requires strong coordination between upstream and downstream flows and the Supply Chain domains driving transparency and openness in terms of sharing information and data, to enable and execute a perfect delivery experience – the synchronization of Outside-in Demand with Inside-out Capabilities is a new dynamic in managing supply chains.

What challenges facing the world today are important to you?

“Sustainability is at the core of our purpose: to empower all to make the most of our energy and resources bridging progress and sustainability for all”. Sustainability in Supply Chain Logistics is at the heart of our company’s operations and values”.

“For Schneider Electric to be more sustainable, developing a sustainability strategy for Supply chain Logistics is critical. It’s how we help our customers and partners every day in buildings, data centres, infrastructure, industry, and homes. 128,000+ employees serve customers in more than 100 countries, enabling them to manage their energy and processes in ways that are safe, secure, reliable, efficient, and sustainable”.

“Climate Change is the biggest existential crisis of our generation. The technologies to face this huge challenge rely on two disruptions (Smart and Green):

• Digital – the foundation of a more desirable future, key to more efficiency in our energy

• Electrification – energy transition, renewable, microgrids, solar, wind. The world will invest more in electricity in the coming 20 years than in the creation of electricity.

Businesses have an important part to play. Schneider believes we must lead by this example, thus ensuring our own operations and those of our critical partners are clean and sustainable”.

“This year, we were recognized by Corporate Knights as the world’s most sustainable company. Last year was ranked 4th in The Gartner Supply Chain Top 25, even this year #1 in Europe’s Top 15 Supply Chains for 2021”.

“These recognitions add to our brand value, for our investors and customers, which we must strive to improve upon this performance every year to fulfill our commitment to them also”.

“For me personally, my values are absolutely aligned with Schneider Electrics mission. I find a meaningful purpose in my role every day. Sustainability is incredibly important to me. Continually working towards a more sustainable future, is incredibly rewarding”.

“The sustainability journey is one of strong collaboration with our Customers, Supplier, Busines Partners, and Employees – an eco-system of our Stakeholders, I believe will create that resilience, sustainability, and responsible behaviour, required for the next generation of sustainable industrial development”.

What is the role of Business and Change Leadership in addressing the ever-complex & growing challenges in supply chain management?

“The change leadership role is more important today than ever before, changing the status quo of the way we do things today – to the way we need to do our jobs tomorrow”.

“Leadership has first to embrace the Strategic Transformation, change management and impact that lies ahead and work with our employees to adopt and sustain. Leaders today must grow, from managing multi-cultural teams to multi-generational teams – each has its value. It is imperative that all feel safe and have a sense of belonging whilst continually learning from each other within a culture of inclusivity and respect”.

“Similarly, teams need to adapt to new ways of working. Becoming more autonomous / virtual and more digital / data-focused are increasing the demands and needs for our supply chain employees to change. Developing core competencies and skills, whilst embracing the fast pace of change, without compromising Quality is fundamental”.

What are the priorities you are working on right now?

“Whilst I have outlined the ambitions and goals in the Schneider Electric roadmap, the last 18 months have indeed been very difficult. To ensure continued success, we need to look after our employees – their safety, mental and physical wellbeing and support for the eventual transition back to the office environments is crucial.”

“We are faced with continued supply chain constraints, i.e. electronics and plastics – in the upstream supply chain. Whilst we must manage the operational challenges of today, we must embrace bi-modal management ability to continue to transform – we must stay on track as we Strive for the Perfect Order.   To achieve superior and sustainable performances, we must continue our program of connecting and digitizing our upstream supply chain linkages to compliment that which has already been achieved downstream”.

Our Team and Peer groups, with the support of our management, are focused on “Sustainability at Core”. This involves improving data excellence and analytical capabilities at all levels, as we strive towards Autonomous Supply Chains. These clear priorities are fundamental, but Developing our People, our competencies for the Future is one of the most important priorities to me in this journey,

What advice would you give people who have a career in, or who are considering joining, Business and/or Supply Chain management?

“A career in Supply Chain Management goes way beyond the movement and storage of goods. Supply chain management is the heartbeat of any organization – it is the differentiator in the eyes of the customer; hence it can delight or significantly disappoint – quality with excellence in execution is pivotal to a continually evolving and changing supply chain as it responds to ever-changing markets and customer dynamics”. “It has also become a very technical function to work in, with data-driven processes, that enable predictive decision making, as we progress to becoming more digital with our ultimate destination in the transformation journey of being autonomous and self-healing. However human networks and relationships are and will continue to be very relevant in ensuring the success of these Supply Chains”.

“Supply Chain Management demands strong people skills but is not inflexible in mindset. Demands global collaboration and networking, with agility and speed in execution. It requires a sensitivity to environmental issues, with sustainability at the heart of all decisions. It is about growing and staying relevant as a business enabler that is deeply interconnected in local, regional, and global networks of interdependencies”.

“It really is a dynamic industry that attracts strategic thinkers. “Always thinking Ahead’ and that is why I respect and promote the profession of Supply Chain Management – I am really enjoying this journey, tough as it may be it is very exhilarating and one which I highly recommend to new generations.”

Joe Lombardo
Founder of ESP Consult

Joe Lombardo has advised CEOs on change management through a supply chain focus.
The need for change is a very likely and necessary step for their business development and sustainability. However, starting a journey of transformation within their organisation can be hugely daunting. This introduction to a transformational journey illustrates that it is not as complicated or as expensive as it may seem. But the rewards and benefits will be significant. ESP Consult advises on structuring the model to facilitate and successfully implement Adaptive Supply Chain driven organisation. For those involved, it has been an enlightening and motivating experience.