Expert Insight: The Executive View
  By Gene Tyndall  
  June 7 , 2007  

Comments from AMR Supply Chain Executive Conference


Didn’t Make it to Phoenix? Our Gene Tyndall was There

Tyndall Says:
Logistics Service Providers (LSPs) are still primarily perceived as just that, and there are few examples of strategic relationships.

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I am pleased to relate some observations from the AMR Supply Chain Executive Conference, held recently in Scottsdale, AZ.

My thanks to AMR for the opportunity to participate, and was sold out at 800 people.

AMR emphasizes “Demand-driven Supply Networks” as being the right strategy for how all companies should operate their supply chains.  This theme was consistently addressed at this conference within the larger theme of “Globalization:  Balancing Risk and Opportunity.”

AMR is also known for its annual “Top 25 Supply Chain Companies.”  I will leave this year’s announced list for others to review.   It is rewarding, however, to see some new companies in some new industry segments appear on the list.  The AMR methodology for evaluating supply chain excellence is relatively simple, but strict, and in general it holds up year after year in the winners that build shareholder value. 

It is also rewarding to see several companies doing the right supply chain things.  There were excellent presentations by executives at Novartis, Caterpillar, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Coca-Cola; as well as an executive panel on sustainability with Dow Chemical, Alcoa, and Fluor.  All revealed strong initiatives and progress on such advances as integrated operations, “operations intelligence,” collaboration, risk management, demand management, and enabling technologies.  In addition, there were positive advancements in responding to environmental, greening and energy issues, and of course globalization.

Speaking of globalization, before I go any further on content, let me praise the exceptional keynote presentation by former Secretary of State, General Colin Powell.  If anyone out there has not had the privilege to hear him speak, I highly recommend you do so whenever you have the opportunity.  He is highly entertaining, inspirational, and conveys an understanding of leadership second to none.  He uses true stories to illustrate his points, and relates totally to his audience each time.  His focus for this group – on the importance of globalization, appropriate immigration and competition, and the global value of supply chain excellence – was also spot on.  As he stated, we need to move “from battlefields to playing fields” – those of economic democratization, energy, environment, education, and dealing with regional issues such as those in the Middle East.  He is positive and optimistic that America can regain its global leadership standing.  General Powell is a true American hero and statesman. 

The AMR conference is full of content.  In addition to the main presentations, there were some 18 breakout sessions on a number of relevant topics.  Obviously, while I could not attend all of these sessions, I did see a few, and would like to share just a few interesting findings:

  • Dashboards are becoming cockpits, and beyond – to enable more orchestration of supply chains’ management and excellence.
  • Brand owners are increasingly taking on their entire supply chains.
  • The Toyota production system practices are finding their way into other companies, adapted as appropriate.
  • Reacting, to anticipating, to collaborating, to orchestrating, is the evolutionary progress model -- from silos, to companies, to cooperating with a few suppliers and customers, to collaborating with all key suppliers and customers.
  • Network redesigns are becoming more important (this session was packed) as companies deal with globalization and changing customer demands.
  • Lean manufacturing – while a good thing – can cause “brittle supply chains,” which lose their agility and flexibility.
  • Sales and operations planning (which SCDigest has often highlighted) continues to be a major challenge in almost every company.  Forecasting errors persist because demand is market-driven, not computer-driven or supplier-driven.
  • Change/culture management remains as the key barrier to many of these new strategies – but leadership behaviors is equally a constraint.
  • Logistics is becoming more of a network, and a mobile one at that.
  • Logistics Service Providers (LSPs) are still primarily perceived as just that, and there are few examples of strategic relationships.

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