First Thoughts
  By Dan Gilmore - Editor-in-Chief  
  Dec. 10, 2009  

No Supply Chain Blah, Blah, Blah 2009


It’s time again.

Five years ago, 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, 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.

In general, I find presentations from what vendors typically call “end users” – regular companies and practitioners – generally don’t fall into “blah, blah, blah,” though the level of detail and insight shared varies greatly. There is also the somewhat bothersome trend of some companies obviously having marching orders to never leave a slide up long enough to actually write down anything useful. I guess we should be thankful enough they were permitted to tell the story.

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 it now and then. I fully admit to falling into blah, blah, blah territory at times – though I think I had a pretty good year with my Integrated Supply Chain Planning and Execution and Supply Chain of the Future presentations.

Gilmore Says:

I welcome your nominees for any outstanding presentations you had a chance to see in 2009.

Click Here to See
Reader Feedback

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

We were plenty busy at SCDigest this year (it was a fantastic 2009 for us - thank you), and my conference attendance was just a little under normal. That said, I was still able to get to: ProMat; the Georgia Tech Supply Chain Executive Forum (twice); the JDA Software user conference; the Manhattan Associates user conference; NASSTRAC; the CSCMP annual conference and local Toronto and Atlanta roundtable meeting; the Material Handling and Logistics Conference (HK Systems); the RedPrairie user conference; the Fidelitone (3PL) user conference; and probably some others I am forgetting. I am basically on the road most of April-May and Sept.-Oct.

I also presented and participated privately at global logistics/supply chain meetings of two regular companies in 2009. I do a limited number of these each year. If you are interested, drop me a line – it seems to work out well.

I was unable to attend WERC because of conflicts with the JDA and NASSTRAC meetings. The i2 users conference, almost always a source of one or two really great presentations, was postponed this year due to the tough economic and corporate travel climate (i2 is now being acquired by JDA: i2 Planet RIP).

Below you will find my totally subjective list of the best presentations I saw in 2009. All company affiliations were at the time of the presentation. Some may have changed, though none I am aware of.

Best Presentations by “Non-End Users” (Consultants, Technology Vendors, Academics, etc):

  • George Stalk, of Boston Consulting Group, at the CSCMP Toronto roundtable, on overall trends in global supply chain and opportunities for bringing production back closer to home. It led to a column by me a few weeks later (presentation of year candidate).
  • Jim Tompkins of Tompkins Associates on the coming economic comeback and need to prepare your supply chain for it, at the Georgia Tech Supply Chain Executive Forum. He may have been just a bit premature in terms of the economic timing, but the research and logic supporting his premise were detailed and persuasive.
  • Dr. Peter Klaus, of Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, on the history of Green supply chain in Europe at the Atlanta CSCMP roundtable in April. Everyone was expecting the usual “Green is great presentation,” but Klaus, though a Green supporter, was detailed and frank in his presentation of how such efforts in Europe to date have led to very little progress. An eye opener.
  • Dr. David Simchi-Levi of MIT, on how to think about supply chain flexibility, both at the Georgia Tech Supply Chain Executive Forum and in a videocast on SCDigest (presentation of year candidate). Had even many senior supply chain execs at the meeting saying they needed to rethink their paradigms.

Best “End User" Presentations:

  • Wayne Carlston of OC Tanner, on managing the full lifecycle of supply chain assets effectively (software and hardware). “Buying and owning are two very different things,” he said at the Material Handling and Logistics Conference (presentation of year candidate).
  • Gary Maxwell of Walmart in the Day 1 keynote presentation at the CSCMP conference in Denver, on building out a global supply chain. “Best in market, not best in glass,” should be the paradigm in these diverse countries, he said (presentation of year candidate).
  • Vladimir Landaverde of Technicolor, at the RedPrairie user conference, who in tremendous detail walked through exactly how parcel shipping rates are structured, what drives them, and where the opportunities are for savings. I saw even many experienced parcel shippers taking lots of notes - as was I.
  • Jim Flannery of Procter & Gamble in part 1 and part 4 of our four-part videocast series (just completed) on “New Ways of Working Together in the Consumer Goods-to-Retail Supply Chain.” Flannery is a sales executive, not a supply chain guy, but he made a compelling case throughout the broadcast for the role of supply chain and how this value chain can and must change.
  • A group award to the dozen or so companies that participated in the Demand Planning Council meeting at the JDA Software user conference. Some really smart people discussing, in this case, organizational structures and roles of demand/replenishment planners in their organizations. Very detailed, very real stuff. I sat next to Brett Frankenberg of Coca-Cola Bottling Company – I was highly impressed, as just one example of the level of discussion and expertise there.
  • Greg Rake of Pier 1 Imports, at this year’s CSCMP conference, in a panel discussion on global sourcing. No minced or too carefully chosen words here – straight stuff, including what the chain is doing to get different merchandise than the Walmarts of the world. Hint: you have to search the global hinterlands.

Finally, the SCDigest award for 2009 Supply Chain Presentation of the Year goes to Jim Kellso of Intel on how the company had to totally rethink – and almost blow up – its existing supply chain approach to reach dramatically reduced supply chain cost targets for its new lower-priced Atom chip. It was a fine story of both strategy and process, with a little thrown in on Intel’s new “Supply Chain Master” role in the company.

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

  • 2008: Matt Salmonson of Old Navy/The Gap stores group, who spoke at the i2 user conference, on how to implement software the right way, and make change management happen.
  • 2007: Michael Schofer of Coats North America, describing his company’s supply chain transformation, at the i2 user conference.
  • 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 2009.

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 make their presentations better? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button below.

  Send an Email