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  Nov. 30 , 2006 - Supply Chain Digest Newsletter
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Featured Report

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First Thoughts by Dan Gilmore, Editor

Annual No Blah, Blah, Blah Issue

Yes, it’s time again. In December 2004, we wrote our first (and infamous) piece on “Let’s Stop the Blah, Blah, Blah,” which suggested too many presentations at various conferences and other events said very little of real value. The jibe was aimed primarily at speakers from the consulting, solution vendors, authors, and sometime even the analyst community, who as we’ve noted before too often tend to be focused on sound bites and restating the obvious, rather than delivering any real insight.


“End user” presentations  - those from true practioners - at least generally have some basis in a real life situation, and while not always delivering a lot of value, are much less likely to fall into true blah, blah, blah territory.


As always, I include myself in the category of those speakers who risk blah, blah, blah-ness, and recognize how hard it is, especially if you speak frequently on different topics, to keep totally clear of this terrain. I fully admit venturing there myself on occasion.


That said, I offer again here our presentation Audience Bill of Rights, which offers some reasonably guidelines for what you should expect and demand, and below our best of 2006 list.


A couple of presentation trends worth noting: First, as we suggested here a few weeks ago, the recitation of the same usual challenges in transportation (fuel, drivers, capacity, etc.) has fallen in my view into blah, blah blah land. I think we all now get it, even if not everyone has done much about it. (Note: still a few days to enter our Transportation Challenges Acronym contest – nice prize. Winner announced next week. As we should have stated originally, in the even of several entries with the same idea, we’ll draw a winner from that group.).


Second, there seem to be more and more (mostly very large) companies that have permission to present, but apparently only if they move through the slides so fast no one would have a chance to really grasp what the real points were. I know this may be looking a gift horse in the mouth to an extent, but geez, we should at least be able to read through the whole slide before it vanishes forever.


I attended many conferences again this year as both speaker and attendee, but find upon review that I focused more than ever this year on end user presentations, so my list of distinguished efforts is a little shy this year from the consulting/vendor/ academic/analyst group. That said, here we go. In rough chronological order, I really enjoyed (links where we wrote on the presentation material) these sessions:


Jim Gilmore (no relation) at the Spring Georgia Tech Supply Chain Executive forum, who introduce me to the concept of customer sacrifice, which is quite different than just thinking about customer satisfaction, and convinced us we were moving to an “experience” economy (think Starbucks), with implications for business and the supply chain.


Kareen Habib and a colleague from Deloitte Consulting Canada, at the Catalyst user conference, who did one of the best jobs I have seen providing insight into how to manage a large DC automation project, using an excellent case study of the new DC built in Montreal by shoe retailer Aldo. Really showed the discipline required to do it right, from someone who clearly understood every detail of the project.


Well-known technology author Geoffrey Moore, who was a key note speaker at the Manhattan Associates user conference. Summarizing his new book, Dealing with Darwin, Moore made a convincing argument about the inevitable progression of corporate and supply chain activities from being differentiated to more commodity oriented, and how those need to be outsourced. But he added an attractive approach to continually shifting personnel back into innovation initiatives. And it’s innovate or die.


Michael Aguilar, Sr. VP of Strategic Supply Chain Initiatives for Panasonic, who told a great story of how the consumer products company had transformed its supply chain by becoming much more demand-driven, and focused on sell through at retail, not just stuffing the channel. Especially interesting is that he came to supply chain from sales.


Dan Woychik of Ashley Shoes, who told a fantastic story at the HighJump user conference of how this mid-sized furniture retailer and manufacturer is managing to run a “long” supply chain on a very lean basis, doing things many much larger companies probably haven’t even thought of yet. More on this soon


Dave MacEachern at the fall G-Tech Supply Chain Exec Forum, who gave just an outstanding overview of where the market is right now for supply chain executive talent. Let’s just say you are in a good field right at the moment. Consider the total comp package of $2.4 million for a new Chief Supply Chain Officer one company is dangling. Unheard of a few years ago.


Michael Clark from Caterpillar (with the great title of “Velocity Manager”), who while not exactly delivering a presentation, had some fascinating things to say about the industrial giant’s evolution from a push mentality to building a pull-based supply chain, and what a challenge that really is,  at a Demand Management roundtable sponsored by MIT university.


Steve Hagan, Kevin Thornberry, and Matt Greene on the Logistics Team at Toyota Motors USA, who in a panel style presentation at CSCMP 2006 showed how major logistics improvements can be made with comparatively few resources and modest technology support through focus, collaboration internally and with logistics partners, and a passion for really understanding the metrics and their drivers. Outstanding - presentation of the year runner-up.


Mike Brooks of Chevron, presenting at CSCMP 2006, on building a real-time supply chain dashboard. If you want to know how to do it, here is the guide book. It was among the most “real” presentations I have seen.


Dr. John Gattorna, also at CSCMP, who presented a very interesting perspective on supply chain collaboration and segmenting customers by supply chain service needs, which we’ve recently summarized in SCDigest.


If you get a chance to hear any of these presenters/ stories at some other venue, I recommend them highly.


Finally, my award for presentation of the year goes to Paul Mathews of The Limited Brands for his speech on aligning supply chain and the corporate boardroom at this year’s North American Material Handling Show. While Mathews has been delivering versions of this presentation for a couple of years, it keeps getting better, and is focused on a topic of large interest for supply chain execs. I admit to having used a few of the points he made in some of the things I have done since.


If I blah, blah, blahed anyone this year, my apologies. I’d welcome your thoughts on the state of supply chain presentations, and any you saw that were especially good this year.


What outstanding presentations did you see this year, and where? How could these presentations, by either practitioners or vendors/consultants, be improved at a general level? Did you see/like any of those on Dan’s list? What would you add to the Bill of Rights?
Let us know your thoughts.

Dan Gilmore


Driving Operational and Bottom Line Benefits in Beverage Distribution

Beverage distributors across multiple segments (beer, wine, sprits, soft drinks) are facing multiple challenges and competitive pressures. The approach to operational strategy and suppy chain and distribution technology that were enough in the past are giving way to new models that help beverage distributors increase sales, reduce costs, and become more integrated in the total supply chain.

Read this excellent report to learn how these improvements are possible, and what it takes to get there.

How Beverage Distribution Companies Can Use Technology to Increase Efficiency and Profits

Supply Chain Videocast Series

On-Demand Broadcasts

Low Cost Country Sourcing Revisited

Understanding the Total Cost Impact

More information and to view it right now


The EQ Factor: Navigating through the Emotions around LEAN Changes

by Scott Barrella (MS CPIM), Supply Chain Manager, Nestle USA

How you manage the change is critical to both the project's success and your career, and its often more "EQ" than "IQ" that matters. Part 1 of a series.

What’s Driving Interest in On-Demand TMS?

By Stephen Craig and Erik Market, CP Consulting

For some, a simple answer is better, and the impact on connectivity and infrastructure requirements must be considered. But users must balanced short term and longer term considerations


Nov. 30, 2006

This Week’s Supply Chain News Bites – Only from SCDigest

Caterpillar Signs Parts Re-Manufacturing Deal in China, Opens parts Plant;Trucking Volumes Decline, as Supply-Demand Balance Continues to Move in Shippers' Favor;

Is a New Retail Era Coming? Wal-Mart Sales Continue to Slow;

Showing New Strategy, Coca-Cola Enterprises to Begin Distributing Arizona Ice Tea; UPS Rate Increases Announced

Nov. 30, 2006

Supply Chain Best Practice Tip:  Implementing “Voice of the Supplier” Programs

Suppliers can offer suggestions that can offer significant supply chain improvements – but you have to ask

Nov. 30, 2006

Bear Sterns Shipper’s Report Finds Swing Towards Overcapacity in Truckload Market, Concern over Dimensional Rating by UPS and FexEx


Respondents also say rail service is improving, as more move cargo to rail providers; where are fuel surcharges and shipper compliance with them going?

Nov. 16, 2006

2006 Cannondale PowerRank Study Identifies Perceived Supply Chain Leaders among Consumer Goods Manufacturers, Retailers

Who’s up, who’s down? Pepsi, Unilever, Public, Kroger make big strides; CPG rankings chart



Q. How many cars are imported by Japanese manufacturers to the U.S.?

A. Click to find the answer below


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Feedback is coming in at a rate greater than we can publish it - thanks for your response.

We're still behind - be patient if your letter has not yet been published

First, we thank the several readers who pointed out in our most recent trivia question that Las Vegas is not a state. We of course meant Nevada in the list of the only three states to increase manaufacturing employment in the last three years (North Dakota and Alaska are the other two).

We are publishing a few more letters on our First Thoughts piece on Time for New Supply Chain Icons? That includes our feedback of the week from an supply chain executive who, for understandable reasons, has asked to remain anonymous He offers a number of suggestions for new icons. We have several more letters on this topic as well.

Keep the dialog going! Give us your thoughts on this week's Supply Chain topics. As always, we’ll keep your name anonymous if required.

Feedback of the Week - on Time for New Supply Chain Icons?

I found the article on the need for new icons of supply chain interesting.  You make good points throughout.  Dell and Wal*Mart have been over exposed and frankly they are less concerned about supply chain efficiencies outside their internal network. Both tend to throw their volume around and make rules that, while they support their S/C goals and objectives, often times wreak havoc with suppliers.  Nothing new here, really.  Most big retailers do the same thing.

I've see a number of companies take big steps to move their supply chains toward becoming "world class" only to have their aspirations dashed on the warehouse floor because of a lack of commitment in the executive suite (short-term decision making, too expensive, impatient for results, management shake-ups and so on).  So, the base case for making the leap to icon status isn't so easy.  Nevertheless, there are companies who have overcome the obstacles and arrived at the other end of the rainbow.  The examples you site have demonstrated their commitment and patience to create their own definition of excellence and then realize it.  I would add several companies to your list.

First, Goodyear.  Over the last decade, Goodyear has methodically, defined, developed and prioritized significant changes to it's supply chain activities.  They have improved service, reduced inventories, become more flexible and reduced their supply chain costs dramatically.

Second, Chrysler.  Chrysler has continually improved its parts distribution supply chain by challenging its 3PL partners and being open to adopting recommended changes.

Third, Home Depot.  The big box retailer has taken control of its inbound supply chain and made big strides toward eliminating out of stock issues and lowering their costs at the same time.  The can now orchestrate seasonal and promotional items flowing them into their stores in an organized fashion.  They continue to refine the systems and only bypass their inbound network when it makes sense.


Finally, Toys R Us.  Despite having their troubles in the market place, TRU sees the supply chain as a competitive advantage and hasn't been afraid to implement well thought out innovations to improve their service.  They are doing some very impressive things with their supply chain.  Not without risk, but they are committed and patient for results.

I don't believe any of the companies above would tell you they are satisfied with where they are at in their evolution.  Most would tell you they have much more to do before they achieve their goals.  Nevertheless, I think they have come a long way on their journey and achieved a large measure of success.

Name withheld by request


More on Time for New Supply Chain Icons?:

You are absolutely right about needing some new icons. I am sick of hearing Dell and Wal-Mart cited at every conference, and as you noted, often without the speakers being able to say what makes these supply chains so great.

You are also perhaps right that the comparative business challenges these companies have had lately will force the pundits into new icons.

Name withheld by request


I agree with your point in the First Thoughts column that we need examples of “new blood” supply chains. And thank you for your compliments regarding the value that Gillette’s expertise has added to P&G. I was a Director in Gillette’s Global Value Chain Center of Excellence in downtown Boston, traveling the globe and forming global teams, helping Gillette’s 5 international regions improve our processes and systems.

Keep feeding us great articles!!

Tim Haynes

Boston, MA



Q. How many cars are imported by Japanese manufacturers to the U.S.?

A. Despite opening a number of plants in the U.S., Japanese producers will import about 2.3 million vehicles for sales in 2006

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