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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.



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