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  First Thoughts

    Dan Gilmore

    Editor

    Supply Chain Digest



 
Jan. 4, 2019

No Supply Chain Blah, Blah, Blah 2018


SCDigest's Annual List of the Best Supply Chain Presentations of the Year

 

It's time again.

In 2005 I wrote our initial (and somewhat infamous) First Thoughts piece on "Let's Stop the Blah, Blah, Blah." The basic theme: too many presentations at various conferences and other events don't say enough of real value. The jab was aimed primarily at speakers from the consulting, academic, solution vendor, author, and sometimes even the analyst community. This group, as we've noted before, too often tends to be focused on sound bites and restating the obvious, rather than delivering real insight.

As always, I include myself in the category of those speakers who risk blah, blah, blah-ness at times, and recognize how hard it is, especially if you speak frequently on different topics, to avoid going there now and then. I fully admit to falling into blah, blah, blah territory on a few occasions.

Gilmore Says....

The game will be won, Mesher said, through velocity – which companies can reconfigure their supply chain networks and execution most rapidly to react to ever changing requirements.

What do you say?

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All that said, I offer again our Audience Bill of Rights, which provides some reasonable guidelines for what you should expect and demand from presenters. We have even heard of conferences where organizers are now using some version of this document in communicating with speakers. 

My conference schedule frankly was lighter than usual this year. In rough chronological order, I attended the National Retail Federation's Big Show, Modex, the WERC conference, the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Forum, and the enVista user conference. Noticeably I skipped the MHI annual conference after a disappointing experience in 2017, but plan on returning here in 2019.

I delivered one of our popular trip reports on I believe every one of those events this year in one form or another, including many video summaries.

If I was at your event and have somehow failed to mention it, please let me know.

My sense again this year is that overall the quality of presentations trended down: lots of good ones, but fewer great ones, for reasons not clear. We also lack a strong cadre of recognized supply chain thought leaders, as is common in other disciplines. Also, many of conferences seem to be favoring panels versus presentions, which is a major factor, as its just not the same as one or two supply chain professionals presenting.

So now as always, in random order, is my list of the best presentations I saw in 2018, capped by SCDigest's runner-up and best presentation of the year awards. As far as I know, all those cited are still at the companies they were with at the time of their presentations, but of course that could have changed. Frankly, I usually do a top 10, but did not see enough excellent ones this year to list that many.

Art Mesher first created his now famous 3 Vs of supply chain framework 20 years ago, with those Vs of course being visibility, variability and velocity. At the CSCMP conference in Nashville, Mesher updated his views of the 3 V's today.

 

In great summary, Mesher said the visibility part has become table stakes – you have to have it to compete effectively. Variability is here to stay and getting worse – the key is harnessing it for competitive advantage. The game will be won, Mesher said, through velocity – which companies can reconfigure their supply chain networks and execution most rapidly to react to ever changing requirements and threats.

 

At the enVista fuel conference, consultant Nate Rosier gave an interesting presentation on combatting rising transportation costs, reinforcing the point that a company's transportation spend is largely a function of its network. The salient point was that either shrinking or expanding the number of DCs can lower costs, the difference largely related to the impact of often not well understood inbound freight flows.

 

At the Gartner conference in Scottdale, analyst Paul Lord gave an interesing presentation around so-called governance for inventory management in an enterprise.

 

The key point was that the financial perspective of inventory in terms of working capital, turns, etc., that dominate the analysis really does not lead to a framework to guide inventory decisions.

 

Case in point: what Lord calls calls situational decisions. Those include things like how much inventory to buy when there is a risk of a supply shortage, how much inventory to build for each NPI, similar decisions about promotional events, etc. We need more insight into how these decisions are or should be made in these areas, Lord said.

 

At the WERC conference, Brian Devine of temp worker firm Prologistex gave an interesting presentation on the state of labor in the DC. Nothing inspirational, but full of facts and figures. Devine noted that with unemployment at about 4% nationally, almost all the good candidate workers already have a job. Companies also often do stupid things that drive DC labor away.

 

2018 Runner-Up: Intel's David Bayba and Mani Janakiram, as part of the CSCMP coference innovation award track, on how the company has built a procurement dashboard that uses cognitive computing, AI and machine learning to combine and synthesize a wide range of data, from both internal and external sources, structure and unstructured. Very innovative.

 

2018 Presentation of the Year: Also at the CSCMP conference, Keller Renoardo, CEO of Zipline, a company that is developing drone delivery systems for medical supplies and beyond . Impossible to capture in a few sentences, the story of Zipline building largest drone delivery system in the world in Rwanda, with hundreds of flights daily to deliver needed blood and plasma on-demand to more than 20 hospitals, was facinating, wven though it was part commercial (of necessity). The system is reducing costs, but more importantly saving lives.

 

But Zipeline has much bigger goals. If I was FedEx or UPS, I would be paying attention.

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

 

2017: John Phillips, a supply chain executive at Pepsico, on the "eight supply chain disruptors," at the Gartner conference.

 

2016: Piyush Bharkava, a procurement executive at Delll, who presented at CSCMP on the company's remarkable development of an innovation culture to support its sustainability efforts.

2015: Sean Willems, chief scientist at Logility and also of the University of Tennessee, on the "efficient frontier," basically a fresh look at supply chain tradeoff curves at Logility's conference.

2014: Bill Nienburg, VP of Global Merchandise & Sales Planning at Under Armour, for an in your face description of how the apparel giant was going to use supply chain to win in the market - and he really meant it.

2013: Richard Murphy, CEO of Murphy's Warehouse Co., at the WERC conference, on the business case for Green investment in distribution. Great, practical detail.

2012: Raj Subramonian of Dell, with an outstanding, heartfelt presentation at CSCMP on use of "vested outsourcing" to transform a stale 3PL relationship.

2011: Rudi van Schoor, of SABMiller's South African operations at the SAPICS conference there, on stopping a major supply chain planning project in mid-stream and totally and successfully re-orienting the approach.

2010: Chris Gaffney of Coca-Cola, at Georgia Tech on how to bring balance into increasingly challenging supply chain careers, and how with the right formula less can really be more for both managers and the company.

2009: Jim Kellso of Intel at CSCMP, on rethinking Intel's supply chain to work for a new chip whose much lower price point required a dramatically lower cost supply chain.

2008: Matt Salmonson of Old Navy/The Gap stores group, who spoke at an i2 user conference on how to implement software the right way, and make change management happen.

2007: Michael Schofer of Coats North America at i2, describing his company's supply chain transformation as its traditional apparel sector customers were all leaving the US, enabling it to survive.

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.

So, that's our list. Congratulations to the winners. There was a lot I missed of course. I welcome your nominees for any outstanding presentations you had a chance to see in 2018. Many ask if I have copies or links to these presentations, and alas I usually do not, but feel free to inquire, as I sometimes do.

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? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button (email) or Feedback section below.


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