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Getting to true north in supply chain strategic planning


Abraham Lincoln November 1863 resized 600Looking out my window at 32,000 feet during my flight from Amsterdam to Mumbai gives me visibility to some interesting parts of the world.  From this height, everything looks peaceful and organized, even areas that I often read and hear experience conflict on a daily basis.  From my vantage point, I can see the big picture: deserts rising to become mountains, mountains leveling-off to become valleys, valleys flowing out into streams and large bodies of water.  Things appear to be in harmony, a goal often chased by supply chain professionals, but a race that is without a finish line.

Things would be much different if I were on the ground and didn’t have the luxury of an aerial view.  Challenges that disappear at this height would become significant obstacles to overcome without guidance and strategy.  Herein lies a challenge that each of us in the supply chain world face daily.  Without a clear picture of the geography that lies ahead—the end-to-end supply chain picture if you will—how are we best to navigate around unknown pitfalls?

Proper supply chain strategic planning is the compass that if calibrated accurately, points us in the right direction. But as Abraham Lincoln once said, a compass will point you true north from where you're standing, but has no advice about the swamps, deserts, and chasms that you'll encounter along the way.  If in pursuit of your destination, you plunge ahead heedless of obstacles to achieve nothing more than sink in a swamp, what's the use in knowing true north?

It is often said that failure is a more powerful teacher than success.  I believe this quote lines-up perfectly with President Lincoln’s point that without advice on where the swamps, deserts, and chasms are located, a compass, or to use our metaphor: supply chain strategic planning, will provide the 32,000 foot harmonious and organized view, but to effectively navigate we require the wisdom of those who have gone before us.

So why am I on a plane to Mumbai?  To give back to one of the best industry trade organizations in the world, The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, whose mission is to lead the evolving supply chain management profession by developing, advancing, and disseminating supply chain knowledge and research.  This year, I’m presenting on “Pitfalls and Best Practices in Supply Chain Strategic Planning.”  Rather than focusing solely on best practices and success stories, I will spend more of my presentation discussing what we can learn from those who struggled while “traversing those swamps, deserts, and chasms” of supply chain strategic planning.

If you can’t make it to this event, I hope to see you at our annual conference in Denver and hear about your latest successes, but will be equally excited to hear lessons learned when things didn’t go right.


It's a good time to innovate: a CSCMP take-away


describe the imageBrad Mackler is a director of client solutions at ModusLink.

Innovate, innovate, innovate and please be strategic! Look, the supply chain of the future is here, right this way! Don’t believe me? Just walk down to the basement and over 100 supply chain providers will try to make a compelling case that they are blazing a trail unlike any other vendor has ever done.

There seems to be three different reports and analysis on the “State of the 3PL Industry.” Some common themes:

  • Shippers want innovation but only believe that 3PLs are capable of being innovative less than 30% of the time.

  • Shippers want 3PLs to be proactive and deliver strategic solutions, but believe this happening at the same rate of around 30%.

  • Last, but not least, 3PL CEO’s believe that attracting and retaining top talent is the number one inhibitor of growth and success in the 3PL space.

In looking at the CSCMP conference guide for 2012 in Atlanta last week, I was struck by the notion that if I looked back several years at prior guides and removed the dates from the cover, anyone would be hard-pressed to see significant difference between what was being discussed and the vendors doing the discussing.

To succeed in this commoditized space, 3PLs must think strategically and deliver true innovation to their customers or they will fail to grow. A few providers in my mind have delivered unique and beneficial services and thus dominate their space. MecuryGate has developed an affordable web-based multimodal transportation management system (TMS) that now has over 270 customers.  They are pulling away from the pack of other TMS vendors to become the market leader in less than 5 years. CH Robinson has now eclipsed $10B in revenue with a simple model based on they will move all of your freight at a competitive price and combine it with world-class visibility. US Bank has developed the largest network of carriers in their space and is able to audit and pay your freight quicker and at a lower cost than any other vendor and at the same time offer the protection and security of one of the largest banks in the world.

Lastly, Amazon is one of the largest retailers in the world with arguably the best fulfillment system in place. Combine this with a growing network of fully automated 1mm+ square foot warehouses strategically placed all over North America and you have the recipe for domination. If they can figure it out, and I believe they will, they are going to be a dominant 3PL in the years to come. How do you compete with a value prop that says, “Give me your product and I manage everything from VMI all the way to ultimate delivery for 10%?” Someone asked if they had bigger plans for the automotive logistics space and the Amazon rep just smiled and said, “Stay tuned.” Can you say service and aftermarket parts?

These three companies in my view all have top-notch talent who all seem to be very satisfied with their jobs and employer. Conversely, I counted 6 recruiting companies who had exhibit booths. The most I have ever seen! They all said that business was booming. I also noticed that a lot of booths lacked staff—certainly not the best image!  (Might they be off talking to all those recruiters?) To bring this full circle, I believe the message here is most supply chain providers are not innovating and thinking strategically and thus are not able to attract and retain the talent that is required to do so. Those that are developing unique services and solutions clearly have an energized talent pool. It’s a great time to be a supply chain recruiter in this environment, but even better, it’s a great time to be thinking outside the cardboard box and finding new supply chain solutions for our clients.


Supply Chain Megatrends: Looking Ahead to 2025


describe the imageBlogger Jeff Elliott is Vice President of Americas Sales at ModusLink

How fitting that one of the final sessions at the 2012 CSCMP Global Conference would be a session that looked forward to 2025, and explored the mega trends predicted to shape our global supply chains over the coming years. For those of you were fortunate enough as I was to find a seat in this standing room only crowd, you were able to join a session that really needed a bigger room to accommodate the obvious interest in the topic. The panelists certainly didn’t disappoint, as I heard many people comment that this was their personal favorite session – quite the compliment given the number of quality sessions at this event.

The sessions panelists were selected not only to provide a depth of supply chain expertise, but also to provide a breadth of experience that ensured a variety of different perspectives.  Kevin O’Marah (Senior Research Fellow, Stanford Global Supply Chain Forum) did an excellent job moderating and providing his own insights into the topic.  The three panelists were Beth Ford (Executive Vice President, Chief Supply Chain and Operations Officer, Land O’Lakes), Frank B. Jones (Vice President, Technology and Manufacturing Group, General Manager, Customer Fulfillment Planning and Logistics Group, Intel Corporation), and John Lund (Senior Vice President, Disney Parks Supply Chain Management, Disney Destinations, LLC); and they were able to provide commentary from very divergent perspectives that somehow managed to converge on alignment on the issues that we face.

The session started with a thought-provoking video—a graphical perspective on individual health (lifespan) and wealth (income) in each of the world’s countries. It started with a rear-view mirror perspective, depicting the data from 1860 to the present, and then projected forward to predict how the various countries around the world would progress. Particularly interesting was the breakout of China into the individual provinces, showing the disparity between those that have benefited from their coastal position, versus those further inland that have not progressed at the same pace. Those of us that have spent time in China were not at all surprised by the data we saw, but it definitely helps to partially understand the dichotomy that exists in China today. The look forward was based largely on an extrapolation of the current improvement, and showed China catching the US within the next decade. However, it also recognized the reality of opposing forces that would slow this development. While none of us can definitively predict how China will react when their growth inevitably stalls, there does appear to be a view that this represents a risk to many of our existing supply chains.

I know that this introduction really set the stage for what was to come, as the panelists discussed a number of different topics that would influence our global supply chains. The discussion of environmental responsibility went beyond simple discussion around corporate responsibility to reduce green-house gas emissions, as Beth Ford presented data around the reality of water availability and how it would influence supply chains in the future. This was a bit sobering for the closing session, but framed this topic with more urgency than I have seen in the past. Having spent 14 years in environmental engineering consulting, I am not usually surprised in this area.

Probably my greatest take-away though was around the subject of automation. As a supply chain professional with a leading global provider of supply chain management solutions, I am well aware of the many factors that influence our decision-making regarding the optimal location for executing manufacturing and distribution activities. We are well aware of the trends in labor rates, raw material availability and costs, fuel prices, location of consumer demand, degree of localization, etc.; and we routinely consider these variables as we make recommendations regarding the optimal location for execution of these services for our clients’ supply chains.  The trends affecting costs provide an objective metric that is already beginning to point towards more manufacturing near the consumer. Risk management and requirements for increased differentiation in final product configuration are contributing to this trend as well, although in a less easily defined way (from a pure economic perspective). The increasing consumer demand in locations that were previously viewed as simply low-cost labor locations is a competing influence in this analysis. While we currently employ some automation in our sites, I had not previously seen the significance of this megatrend. 

I learned during this session that compared to the 5 billion mobile phones that have been sold globally, there have been only 700,000 robots. However, the capabilities and utilization of robots is expected to grow significantly, as they become more economically attractive solutions to manufacturing. The implications of this trend to our supply chains will be undoubtedly significant, as it shifts the impact of labor costs, and makes manufacturing closer to the point of consumption a much more attractive solution. 

I don’t think anyone is ready to predict an immediate shift, as major shifts in points for manufacturing do not generally occur overnight. However, it was interesting timing to return to my home outside of Raleigh, North Carolina and read that Lenovo had announced that they were planning to begin manufacturing computers in their fulfillment site down the road in Whitsett.  Maybe these panelists really do have a crystal ball?


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Nuggets of real value in a mountain of supply chain content


describe the imageWith 24 simultaneous learning and information tracks, each meeting eight times over a three day period, there is no shortage of information for attendees of CSCMP’s annual global conference. 

Within that much content and choice, it can be at times hard to find the sessions that provide real value and new insights. I would love to see the CSCMP consider taking a more aggressive approach in pruning the content—maybe by as much as half—and be more disciplined in the track themes and structure. There were many cases where competing sessions had similar themes and where attendance was sparse.

That said, I must take my hat off to all those that put the effort in, mostly on a voluntary basis, to pull together tracks, sessions and presentations. Having been responsible for the logistics of just one session I got a sense of the scale of the task of pulling together an event such as this.

This is an event that is closing in on its 50th year and still attracts 3,000 supply chain professionals, so they must be doing something right. I have found it worthwhile to attend for what is my sixth time (which still makes me a newbie in CSCMP circles) and each year I find sessions that shed new light on my perspective on supply chain and I add a few more people that I will try to follow up with in the future.

The learning from the event comes from a combination of seeing the themes that are trending in the sessions—to use a twitter analogy—and finding those sessions with real practitioners that have achieved amazing things in their supply chain and the visionaries that challenge your thinking on the future of supply chain.

Trending strongly this year were risk management and the impacts of e-Commerce in supply chain.

Risk management has always featured strongly at the conference and the events of Japan and Thailand are still fresh in the memory. Geo-tagging of supply base and extending visibility beyond the initial tier 1 suppliers are becoming accepted best practices, but there is recognition that just improving visibility is not enough. A prioritized approach to risk mitigation such as the Value at Risk metric developed by the Supply Chain Council is needed to quantify risk impact and inform risk mitigation decisions.  It was also interesting to see executives challenge the blunt instruments of additional inventory and dual sourcing as potentially effective but expensive tools in managing risk. It is no secret that we at ModusLink are strong proponents of the role of postponement in addressing risk and it was refreshing to hear senior supply chain executives echo that sentiment.

e-Commerce can no longer be dismissed as a complex but insignificant channel within the overall supply chain. The significant progress of on-line retailers in the overall retail mix now has the attention of major brands and traditional brick and mortar retailers. Projections see e-Commerce breaking through the single digit percentage of sales mark and companies are coming to terms with the implications for their business:

  • Distribution center footprint and configuration

  • Multi-channel distribution sites versus dedicated e-Commerce fulfilment centers

  • Shipping payment models

  • Consumer expectations for next day and same day delivery

  • International e-Commerce needs and requirements

  • Supporting finance and customer care processes

Top of my list for individual case studies at the event were The Home Depot’s retail distribution center transformation and Kraft’s commitment to and use of retail demand data in their supply chain. The use of retail data in this manner is an area where high tech and consumer electronics companies can really learn from the leaders in CPG. Look out for more detail on that in future posts on this blog.


Connecting CSCMP's Global Dots


cscmp logoToday, Georgia is not only on my mind, but on the minds of over 3,000 supply chain management professionals convening in Atlanta to kick off this year’s Annual Global Conference.  I always look forward to this conference as it is the single largest gathering each year of people from around the world who share a common interest in education and in the advancement of the global supply chain management discipline.  It’s not industry-specific, so my neighbor in an educational session on network optimization could be thinking about how the topic applies to his global apparel supply chain, and my other neighbor may be re-tooling her approach to how she manages perishability in her fresh food supply chain.

Personally, for me, Georgia has also been on my mind as it is a brief homecoming three-quarters of the way through my two-year expat assignment in The Netherlands.  My time overseas has afforded me some excellent opportunities, including serving in a leadership capacity on the Board of the CSCMP Benelux Roundtable.  Also, in June, I had the opportunity to attend CSCMP India’s first annual conference.  While I have had plenty of experience working with clients to innovate their global supply chains throughout my career, this time living abroad has taught me a lot of valuable lessons and given me new perspectives.

For the most part, we in the supply chain management world are having the same conversation around the world.  Cash flow, currency stability, environmental sustainability, disaster recovery, contingency planning, fuel sources and pricing – these challenges are on the minds of supply chain professionals everywhere.  So, let’s look for some differences in our conversations – in importance, urgency, or severity that may be spurring faster innovation than average. 

Japanese companies manufacturing in China are suddenly facing the very urgent need to shift to non-China supply sources to continue to satisfy global demand during this time when employee security is threatened by violent anti-Japan protests.  US-based providers to the defense industry are making plans A, B, and C in the event the expected sequestration spending cuts come to fruition, there is a change in the Oval Office, or Arab Spring continues to strengthen requiring stepped-up US involvement.  Companies in Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, Turkey, and New Zealand that have been impacted by deadly natural disasters recently, are re-examining their infrastructure and global footprint so they can re-gain pre-disaster market positions and be prepared for future risks.  Companies buying, selling, or operating in the European Union are looking for innovative solutions around supply chain financing, exchange rate fluctuation, and making smarter nearshoring decisions.  Indian companies continue to struggle to solve the challenge of developing their infrastructure proportionately with their growth in an environmentally sustainable way.  The list goes on and on.

While this annual conference offers our protégés the chance to attend a session on supply chain basics or hear for the first time how RFID adoption is right around the corner, it also provides a forum where seasoned professionals learn, share, and invent new solutions through dialogue.  Need more inventory turns?  Talk to someone who ships lettuce around the world.  Curious about your company’s risk management plans?  Learn what tools, processes, and approach your Japanese counterparts are using these days.  India’s ports particularly painful for your company?  Speak to a Dutch attendee knowledgeable about capacity improvements planned for the Port of Rotterdam and improve your ability to predict when and if India’s ports will catch up.  Losing your A players to your customers or competitors?  Learn what it takes to retain and develop tomorrow’s top talent by attending the many sessions on this topic.

So, this unique opportunity to come together each year with people from all over the globe and vastly different industries, is extremely valuable to me because of what we share – a thirst for deeper knowledge and accelerated advancement in how to most effectively, sustainably, profitably, and rapidly match supply and demand in our ever-changing world.  At this conference, we get a few days away from agendas driven by politics, profit, and even our own company’s priorities – it’s all about listening, learning, hypothesizing, debating, and creating new ideas and plans with the help of that narrow portion of the world’s population that prides themselves Supply Chain Management Professionals.

Which sessions or tracks will you be attending at the conference?  In the spirit of CSCMP’s mission of knowledge sharing, why not share a few supply chain topics or challenges that are on your mind that you hope this year’s conference will help you solve? 


Forty Shades of Green ... But Can Voluntary Codes of Conduct Really Tackle Sustainability?


I attended the CSCMP Taiwan roundtable's annual conference last week which was dedicated to the topic of supply chain sustainability.  The event was superbly organized and speakers covered a range of topics from the government framework, to academic research to practical approaches to sustainability efforts. Participants included Benq, HP, DHL and ourselves. It also extended to cover the good, the bad and the ugly of sustainability marketing.

It was again clear that there is a large amount of positive activity and the supply chain leaders in Asia are as passionate about the topic as their western counterparts.  I also remain convinced that there remains a large untapped opportunity for companies to take advantage of sustainability initiatives that also drive economic benefit.  Peer sharing of successful cases helps build the awareness of these opportunities and early successes can provide the momentum to commit to a more formal sustainability journey.

However, lest we become complacent on the topic, the conference also touched on some of the real challenges that will need to be addressed.

  • To make progress we need to be able to measure progress and for this we need globally acceptable standards.  Voluntary efforts can gain a level of consensus but will consensus measures alone provide a framework for some of the difficult decisions we need to make in the future?
  • Even with alignment on standards and product labeling there is a parallel need for consumer education.  Certain retailers and NGOs have been to the fore in this area - will this be sufficient to change consumer buying patterns in favor of more sustainable products?
  • Unless consumers can afford sustainable products, sustainability becomes a feel-good issue for the rich, while economic reality will dictate price for the bulk of the world's consumers.  How do we create an economic advantage for sustainable products?  We are already seeing early instances of carbon and other environmental taxes.  Is it inevitable that we will see this trend increase?

Some of this gets to the core issues of political leadership and the role of government.   While we must avoid a repeat of blanket environmental taxes, such as WEEE, there will be a need for a more active role in shaping the sustainability landscape in the future.

What does this mean for our product supply chains?

I thought that the DHL executive at the CSCMP conference put it well.  In looking at building the sustainability case for their business they evaluated the potential cost of a future carbon tax regime on their business.   While the costs are at this stage still theoretical, the scale of the potential impact was such that it could not be ignored from a risk management perspective.

Whatever your motivation, if your company has not already started a credible sustainability journey, then it is missing out on real economic, environmental and brand benefits.   Can you afford not to start?


CSCMP’s Supply Chain of the Future: A Step in the Right Direction


“Are you guys a 3PL?”

“Do you sell network design/package design software or services?”

“Do you have presence in Brazil? We could really use these solutions there.”

“Can you apply network optimization to wine/food/tobacco etc. products?”

“Do you still have warehouses in Utah?”

“How can we partner with ModusLink?”

These were some of the most common questions that I recently fielded while manning the ModusLink booth at the recently concluded first annual CSCMP Supply Chain of the Future lab in the beautiful city of San Diego.

ModusLink’s quadrilateral-shaped booth showcased our expertise in supply chain design, supply chain execution, aftermarket solutions including returns and repair and value recovery solutions.

This lab, spread over 100,000 square feet of the San Diego Convention Center, consisted of a cornucopia of approximately 100 organizations in the supply chain arena offering:

  • Software solutions (from strategic network design and decision making analytics  to transactional warehouse management systems)
  • Automated equipment solutions (mobile fulfillment systems, automated palletizing and high-speed case packing solutions to right-sized on-demand packaging solutions)
  • Value-added solutions (forward and reverse supply chain solutions)
  • “Next-generation” and sustainable products (pallets/packaging etc.)

While the CSCMP Annual Global Conference, which attracts close to 3,000 supply chain professionals, has traditionally been designed across various educational sessions, the Supply Chain of the Future was meant to depict a “real-time, fully integrated operating supply chain.”

Did this “lab” achieve the goal of depicting a real-time and fully integrated operating supply chain? Only partially; and I feel this way primarily because this was just the first year of the event.

While some of the participants did preview some “cool” innovations such as robotic picking and shipping systems, the majority of the exhibitors used this forum to demonstrate and market their current service offerings and network with potential clients and partners.

Also, as opposed to a fully integrated supply chain, as one walked into the exhibit hall the first impression was of a compartmentalized supply chain grouped by functional areas and separated by makeshift boundaries, each “compartment” trying to differentiate itself and its offerings from its neighbors.

In my opinion, adding an event like this to the educational conference is commendable and a step in the right direction. It adds the missing practical component to an otherwise largely academic and theoretical endeavour for a targeted gathering of supply chain professionals from across the globe.

In future years, I expect this event to only get better and become the preferred conduit for futuristic and economically feasible solutions for the supply chain space.

If you attended the Supply Chain of the Future, what were your thoughts?


Returning Profits to the Returns Process at CSCMP


Lorcan SheehanOn Monday I participated in a panel discussion on returning profits to the returns process. The panel was hosted by Michael Blumberg and I was joined by Tim Konrad from Genco and Dan Gardner from ATCLE.   In framing the topic, Michael described a $28 billion cost of returns in consumer electronics and computing alone. Returns cost 2.75 times more than forward shipments to process and can lead to a 30% erosion in potential profits. With no fault found (NFF) rates of up to 75% for some product, there is a belief that a portion of these costs are self-inflicted through disjointed returns practices - from consumer, to retailer, to OEM and service providers.

While the panel did not produce a single silver bullet to address this problem, it did identify plenty of scope to drive both cost and recovery improvements to the process. Some highlights of the opportunities discussed were as follows:

  • Clarity of service levels and objectives. Consider the needs of the customer and the operating models to meet these needs. Be wary of one-size fits all and consider segregating by customer or product category. Recognize the cost to serve – especially in markets with declining average selling price (ASP).
  • Supply chain design can play a critical role to reduce costs and increase the speed of recovery in an environment where products lose value on a daily basis.
    • Remove NFF product from the process quickly and as close to the customer as possible.
    • Seek to reduce hand-offs that add processing costs and increase queue time in the returns cycle.
    • Apply market intelligence to avoid over processing products with little potential for value recovery.
    • Network optimization can deliver similar percentage savings on reverse flows as it does on forward flows.
  • Extending the design of the returns process to include the retailer and channel processes presents further opportunities to collapse cost and lead time. It also provides more rapid feedback on channel returns processes that drive additional costs.
  • Accelerating the returns cycle can improve value recovery and should present an opportunity to reduce spares inventories that are essentially being replenished faster.
  • Value recovery is enhanced if it is addressed as an ongoing proactive process rather than a reaction to problems on a project basis. It should also extend to the harvesting of components and consider the ‘urban mining’ (thanks Dan) of the returns waste stream for valuable materials.

Given the construct of the panel, it was not surprising that outsourcing was also referenced as an opportunity to leverage visibility tools, footprint, scale and expertise. Alignment of outsourced provider objectives was seen as critical for success as was the need for integrated providers that can successfully deliver on the opportunities outlined above.

If you have comments or questions we would love to hear them.


Supply Chain Toys for Big Boys … and Girls!


CSCMP 2010 BoothYesterday, we had our first view of the future … the Supply Chain of the Future at CSCMP’s Annual Global Conference. At an event that has historically been dominated by classroom-style educational tracks, there was certainly a novelty factor as delegates toured the 100,000 square-foot interactive exhibit. 

If you want to simulate, automate, accelerate or remotely control any element of your supply chain, there is a good chance that you will find the tools to achieve this over the next two days in Section G of the San Diego Convention Center. Why let gravity or geography be an obstacle when there are cloud-based and location-based solutions available? There is even an opportunity to interact with a couple of highly social robots wandering through the exhibit engaging with the supply chain community in between posing for photos.

Luckily there is still room in the exhibit for human intelligence and supply chain experience to compliment the artificial intelligence capabilities at show.  

This combination of current and future capabilities is very healthy for the industry and CSCMP is an excellent showcase for supply chain innovation. In many respects, the principle could be considered a parallel to that of concept cars at automotive events. In the first year of the Supply Chain of the Future event (the next two years are already scheduled) it is certainly not that futuristic, but CSCMP and the Distribution Business Management Association are to be commended for pushing the technology, service and equipment providers to focus on cutting-edge rather than standard capabilities.

There is certainly a ‘cool factor’ to robots picking product and delivering them within your warehouse, but the question behind any of these investments is whether there will be an economic return. In an educational setting such as CSCMP there is a great opportunity to tease out new applications and provide inputs on what would be required to drive the answers to these economic questions.

For many attendees, the greatest opportunities will lie in the improved design and application of their current tools. With 4,000 professionals on hand to debate and learn from each other, these opportunities are well catered for at this event.  

If you are at the event, we would love to hear your views on what you have seen.  More to come …


An Inside Look: Supply Chain of the Future


An interview with Jack Thorn of the Distribution Business Management Association

If you are attending this year’s CSCMP Annual Global Conference, you will notice a new exhibit called the Supply Chain of the Future. It will be hard to miss the “100,000 square-foot, real-time, fully integrated functional supply chain” that CSCMP, the Distribution Business Management Association (DBMA) and Supply Chain Leaders in Action (SCLA) have organized for this year’s conference.

This is not your typical tradeshow: it is a unique, interactive and educational exhibit intended to bring together a myriad of companies, and give an inside look into the goings-on of the supply chain. Click here to learn more.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Jack Thorn, Chairman of the Distribution Business Management Association, to learn more about this new, game-changing exhibit. 

Question 1:  What guided the decision to add the Supply Chain of the Future exhibit to the CSCMP Conference this year?

For the past six years, CSCMP has included a Learning Exchange at the Annual Global Conference. As many as 60 to 70 companies participate; however, there is typically little or no interaction between the exhibitors.

The concept of adding the Supply Chain of the Future to the 2010 conference was to showcase the interaction between the vendors and suppliers in a functioning supply chain. Ultimately, the goal is to give more variety of interesting subject matter to the event, and foster interaction among participants.

Question 2: What can attendees expect to see in this exhibit? Can you name the top three takeaways attendees can expect from the exhibit?

We added a “kick the tire” format to the conference, mixing presentations with a live, hands-on exhibit. Attendees can talk to key people who perform specific supply chain functions. 

In addition to the exhibit portion of the Supply Chain of the Future, we put together conference sessions in the lab to encourage companies to interact with one another. We have had a great deal of success in preparing these sessions and getting the exhibitors, who are often competitors, to work together to talk about the concepts of their field in these informative sessions.

The Supply Chain of the Future is very pragmatic and hands-on. Instead of being strictly theoretical, you can go there and see things that will affect your supply chain. 

The top three takeaways attendees can expect from the exhibit are:

1. The latest in robotics in supply chain
2. The best reverse logistic ideas
3. The best new ideas in energy in the supply chain

Question 3: Can you tell us a little bit about DBMA and your involvement with CSCMP?

We are a 20-year-old academic association. The SCLA, our principal program, is a collection of the nation’s top executives in supply chain from the nation’s largest companies (see

Though our members in the SCLA are senior executives from very large corporations, our membership has often participated as key speakers at CSCMP over the years. We consider CSCMP as serving a vital function in supply chain education and fully support its many activities. In addition, our university members at DBMA have also supported CSCMP over the years, and consider the organization to be a contributor to education in supply chain. The alliance between both professional associations points a path to the future among professional associations. We are glad to help CSCMP in this creative project and fully realize that the hard work we have done this year will lay the foundation for a truly remarkable program in Philadelphia next year.


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