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December 6, 2007 - Supply Chain Digest Newsletter
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ILOG delivers software and services that empower customers to make better decisions faster and manage change and complexity. Over 3,000 corporations and more than 465 leading software vendors rely on ILOG’s market-leading business rule management system (BRMS), supply chain planning and scheduling applications, and optimization and visualization software components to achieve dramatic returns on investment, create market-defining products and services, and sharpen their competitive edge. ILOG was founded in 1987 and employs more than 850 people worldwide.

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First Thoughts by Dan Gilmore, Editor

Annual No Blah, Blah, Blah Issue

Yes, it’s time again. Three years ago, we wrote our first (and infamous) piece on “Let’s Stop the Blah, Blah, Blah.”  I argued at the time that too many presentations at various conferences and other events say very little of real value. The poke was aimed primarily at speakers from the consulting, solution vendors, authors, and sometimes even the analyst community. This group, as we’ve noted before, too often tend to be focused on sound bites and restating the obvious, rather than delivering any real insight.

Gilmore Says:

"Our presentation of the year award goes to Michael Schofer of Coats North America, describing his company’s supply chain transformation, which literally saved it from perhaps business disaster, at the i2 User Conference."

What do you say?

Send us your comments here

“End user” presentations - those from true practitioners - 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 to venturing to this territory myself on occasion.

Each year, some readers tell me I am being too hard on speakers. As a frequent speaker, I recognize the challenges of delivering quality material. But in the end, it seems to me that if you don’t have something interesting and valuable to say, you just shouldn’t present it.

That said, I offer again our Audience Bill of Rights, which offers some reasonable guidelines for what you should expect and demand from presenters.

Below you will find my totally subjective list of the best presentations I saw in 2007. As usual, I attended many events, but certainly there are dozens of other venues I don’t get to. I especially wish I made it to more of the conferences sponsored by universities, which can offer some excellent material, as the Georgia Tech Supply Chain Executive Forum I regularly attend always does.

As I prepared for this column, one thing that struck me was that, while I saw many fine presentations, I didn’t recall any that really struck me as visionary or highly motivational. I suppose a WERC conference keynote by Keith Harrison of Procter & Gamble came close (in terms of supply chain motivation), but I had seen versions of this before, which reduced the impact. I heard the presentation by Colin Powell at the Spring AMR Executive conference was excellent, to no one’s surprise, but I missed that event (though our Gene Tyndall wrote a review).

I don’t know if this was just a factor of what I happened to see, it was an off year, or even perhaps a sign of some maturity in the evolution of supply chain thinking – would love your perspective on this.

Just FYI, previous SCDigest Best Presentation of the Year award Winners were:

  • 2006: Paul Mathews of The Limited Brands for his speech on aligning supply chain and the corporate boardroom at the North American Material Handling Show. This was motivational.
  • 2005: Glenn Wegryn of Procter & Gamble, who presented at CSCMP 2005 on how P&G has developed a methodology and set of tools to drive supply chain strategy and planning into overall business strategy and planning – wonderful.

Relatively few presentations by non-practitioners really stand out. A few that did:

  • Omer Rashid of KOM International at the WERC conference did a very nice job of explaining the potential improvement in space utilization and labor cost savings that companies can achieve from digging into their data and reslotting their warehouses. Right to the point, with no blah, blah, blah overhead.
  • John Cutler, a transportation law attorney who does work for several industry associations as well as private clients, gave a very succinct and useful overview of key legal and legislative issues at the Georgia Tech Supply Chain Executive forum. There’s more going on here than most of us know.
  • Barry Conlon, president of Freightwatch International USA, gave an excellent, if at times scary, presentation on the perilous state of logistics security around the globe at the Fall session of the Health and Personal Care Logistics Conference.
  • Panelist Kevin McCarthy of CH Robinson and moderator Gary Girotti of Chainalytics, both of whom demonstrated deep knowledge on a session on transportation procurement at the CSCMP conference.

On the practitioner side, these stood out:

  • Laurie Copeland, at the time of Home Depot (someone told me she took a spot elsewhere recently – not sure) gave an excellent presentation at WERC on the use of metrics to drive and improve 3PL performance.
  • Brittain Ladd of Dell, at the i2 User Conference, who gave a great presentation on practical and “visionary” strategies for making logistics a lot more “green.”
  • Tom Dadmun of Adtran, also at the i2 conference, on the differences between supply chain “scorecards” and “dashboards.” The last session of the day, down at the lowest level of the hotel, not easy to find – the relatively few of us who made it there saw a good one.
  • Fanny Chen of Abbott Labs, also at the Health and Personal Care Logistics Conference, who delivered an outstanding session on global sourcing best practices. Nominee for best of year.
  • John Enderko of Kimberly Clark for an excellent tutorial at RFID Journal Live in May on how to select RFID tag printers and readers. Much note taking going on.
  • Andrew Lewis of Honeywell’s Aerospace and Automation division, who did a great job describing the journey they made to Sales, Inventory and Operations Planning (SIOP) excellence, at the Logility user conference.
  • Tracy Rosser of Wal-Mart at the Manhattan Associates user conference, who “opened the veil” a lot more than the company usually does on its strategies for transportation success and improvement.
  • David Kaduke of The Limited Brands, with an excellent CSCMP session on how the Limited is using continuous network planning and applying fresh strategies for its supply chain after shedding some business units. He couldn’t make it through the material because it was so interesting it generated tons of questions.

Our presentation of the year award goes to Michael Schofer of Coats North America, describing his company’s supply chain transformation, which literally saved it from perhaps business disaster, at the i2 User Conference.  It’s a great story, but it is my top pick because there was just something very real about the presentation, and it provided more detail than an executive (he’s VP of supply chain and CIO) presentation typically offers. This one was from the heart.

There was a lot I missed, of course. I welcome your nominees for any outstanding presentations you had a chance to see in 2007.

Did you see any outstanding presentations, especially any that were highly visionary or motivational? In general, are you happy with the quality of presentations you see at conferences? What can vendors and consultants do to improve make their presentations better? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button below.

Let us know your thoughts.

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Dan Gilmore


Workforce Management in the Supply Chain Videocast Series

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

December 6, 2007
Supply Chain Graphic of the Week: Transportation Management System (TMS) Technology Support

December 5 , 2007 Supply Chain by the Numbers: Dec. 5, 2007


Last week brought a bit of good news on Wall Street as the major averages finished the week on an up note.

Our Supply Chain and Logistics stock index reflected the overall market’s upward trend.  Descartes led the software group with a gain of 10%, followed by Ariba (up 6%).  In the hardware group, Intermec and Zebra were both up (2.7% and 4.8%, respectively). In the transportation group, Ryder recovered all of last week’s losses (up 8.7%), as did JB Hunt (up 8.1%).  Yellow Roadway finished the week up 6.4%.             

See stock report.


Weekly On-Target Newsletter
December 4, 2007

Supply Chain InView

by: Tom Wallace

S&OP and Lean Manu-facturing - Can They Work Together?

Lean Strategies are Great - but Sometimes They Need Help


Q. How much of pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer's current production is through contract manufacturers?

A. Click to find the answer below


Reader Question: Can Bucket Brigades Work with Mechanized Order Picking?

Reader Question: Is there a True Global RFID Standard?

See our expert answers at the links above. Share your knowledge or perspective.

Or, ask your question


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We're really behind again - bear with us. But keep the letters coming! In the next few weeks, we'll start adding feedback right on specific story pages, so you can see what others are saying.

As always, catching up this week. We received a handful of letters on our piece on “Supply Chain Careers: The Future is Procurement,” mostly from procurement professional saying “Right on!”, as Rola Lopez of JM Family Enterprises does below.

But our Feedback of the Week is from Corbin Fowler of MeadWestvaco, who says this can be taken too far – that procurement is a subset of supply chain, and that overly expanding the role can cause issues.

Damon McDaniel of Alcon liked our supply chain graphic of the week comparing the revenue source mix of UPS and FedEx (See Sources of Fed Ex and UPS Revenues), and adds some interesting thoughts. As a note, we also received a letter from UPS on this topic suggesting the raw percentages by global region should have been offered in the context of each company’s total revenue. In other words, UPS’ total business in a specific region could be larger than FedEx’s in absolute terms, but show up as a smaller percentage of its own total business because of the huge UPS revenue in terms of US domestic ground. Fair enough, and something we should have noted.

Jon Kirkegaard of DCRA Inc. saw something interesting about “Green” and the supply chain on business TV channel CNBC that he shares with SCDigest readers, and Tom Miralia Distribution Technology Inc. wasn’t wild about our summary of some research on “import warehousing” suggesting their was more agenda to the sponsorship than we saw.

We like them all, pro or con – keep the feedback coming!

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 “Future is Procurement:"

The final few lines of this article indicate that the title is in appropriate.

From the article: “CPO's often need to be well rounded supply chain executives, MacEachern noted.

“Its not all about price; it is about total landed cost, managing inventory levels, logistics, customer service, supplier quality, etc., and the CPO role is in the middle of these decisions or often making them,” he said.

This indicates that the future is in supply chain a whole. Many companies have focused on procurement and found significant savings impact. However, these savings are often simply correcting over pricing and mismanagement of vendor relationships. Worse yet, they can be savings on purchased price at the detriment of the total supply chain costs. Increasingly, we see examples of a lower price source that causes increased costs in logistics and manufacturing, and the increase in supply chain risk and lead times.

Five years from now we'll be writing and reading articles about insourcing operations to simplify the supply chain, reduce costs, reduce lead times, reduce risk, and capture a sustainable competitive advantage.

Not every company can be a supply chain coordinator. And, only a certain portion of the value of the supply chain is inherent to the coordination role. The bulk of the value is in actually producing and delivering the goods.

I certainly think procurement skills are needed, and that they have become more complex (international, complex purchasing arrangements, complex supplier relationships, pace of change, etc.)

I would submit, though, that procurement's main role is still to source and purchase goods and services. How that impacts the overall supply chain costs, is a different skill set and includes the need for access to knowledge on the rest of the supply chain (previously known as operations.)

To suggest that procurement should expand to include other aspects would be like suggesting manufacturing should expand to include procurement. Skill sets are different...and should be. Both a part of operations/supply chain, and need leadership with understanding of all functions within.

CPO's to me seem a little overkill. Purchasing is a portion of the supply chain

Corbin Fowler
Senior Manager
Supply Chain Solutions

More on the Elephant:

Do the re-assigned managers increase productivity in new departments? Do they increase revenue or reduce costs? If yes, then the 'savings' appear in the improved company performance - still a greater spread between income and expense, yielding increased revenue.

Or not.

Ruth Baratta
Manager, Export-Import
Shaklee Corporation

More on “Future is Procurement:"

I agree!

Rola M. Lopez, CPIM
Senior Supply Chain
Procurement Services, JMSC
JM Family Enterprises

On Green Supply Chains:

I was watching an investment analyst on CNBC recently ( a GREEN investment guru) and he was asked what is the best GREEN investment ?” After a long thoughtful pause the gentleman replied “Any company improving their supply chain”. The reporter was stunned had no idea how to respond as was expecting some CO2 eater, solar, etc.

My message in this is: Under the hype maybe GREEN is really is about reducing stupid waste and using our resources wisely (not just randomly giving things because pundits want to use as an example) then indeed supply chain done right (inventor reductions, cycle time reduction, cashflow improvement) is probably the most GREEN+ initiative to be done!

Jon Kirkegaard

On UPS and FedEx Revenue Sources:

Interesting, very interesting. As much as you hear about China (and to a lesser extent, India) gobbling up all the world's resources, you'd think the export portion of the Asian markets for each company would be far & above the US market. Anyway - the real story might be how the US is faring against the growth of the Asian markets - i.e., is our rate of shrinkage (or growth?) inversely related to the growth in the Asian percentage?

So, comparative to what we see & hear almost daily - if the US market continues to hold some growth or the rate of decline is not as fast as the growth in the Asian market - that would be a huge plug for the strength of the US markets. Granted, I realize that if the percentage shows an increase for Asia, then the percentage has to decrease for the US. The story behind the story would be to look at total dollar value and total shipments to gauge the activity.

Another thing that would be of interest - is seeing if there is an Asian logistics provider that is experiencing the growth to the detriment of market share for UPS/Fedex. Has another "elephant" entered the room unfamiliar to most of us, somewhat silently? Similar to the story reported recently concerning the largest RFID vendor or solution partners in China. Of the three mentioned - only Intermec was a company I've heard about. Was quite surprised.

Keep up the good work.

Damon S. McDaniel
Alcon Manufacturing, Ltd.

On Import Warehousing:

I attended Profs Maltz and Speh’s Prologis sponsored presentation at WERC in April where I first saw this material, and while they are fine and talented academicians I came away with the impression they had enjoyed a expense paid field trip to learn what is generally known regarding the issues and elements involved with import warehousing. Now it’s being regurgitated here as well. These aren’t recommendations as much as wish lists. Are they willing to take a stand with more specifics as to whom, where, and how?

Speaking through them, Prologis pitched establishing warehousing further out from the ports- a fairly obvious observation given the lack on land available for that firm to develop at the major port areas.

Tom Miralia
Distribution Technology Inc


Q. How much of pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer's current production is through contract manufacturers?

A. About 15%; however, the company recently announced plans to double that level in the next few years, moving (of course) to Asian sources.

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