This Week in SCDigest:
No Supply Chain Blah, Blah, Blah 2008
Supply Chain Graphic of the Week, plus more Supply Chain News Bites
Annual Supply Chain Research from Gartner and SCDigest
SCDigest On Target e-Magazine
Guest Expert Insight - Part 1 of a 4-Part Series: Examining the "Act Vertical" Supply Chain
From RetailWire: Shift to At-Once Orders Rattles Soft Goods Industry
New Blog - Gilmore's Daily Jab - This Week: How Not To Allocate Inventory
SCDigest Introduces "Distribution Digest"
Your Supply Chain Questions Answered! This Week's Question - Reimbursement Program for DHL Pre-Paid Overnight Envelopes?
Trivia, Supply Chain Stock Index
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December 11, 2008 - Supply Chain Digest Newsletter



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No Supply Chain Blah, Blah, Blah 2008

It’s time again. Four years ago, I wrote our initial (and now 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 any 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 of course 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.

Gilmore Says:  
"The SCDigest award for 2008 supply chain presentation of the year goes to Matt Salmonson of Old Navy/The Gap stores group ."

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Send us your Feedback here


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.

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 so busy at SCDigest this year (it was a fantastic 2008 for us) that I was not able to get to the number of events I normally do this year, so my selections for best supply chain presentations of the year are based on a comparatively limited sample size from previous years. I am sure I missed many good ones. Schedule complexities unfortunately prevented me from getting to the WERC or APICS conferences this year, for example. I did attend: the Georgia Tech Supply Chain Executive Forum, the CSCMP annual conference, a meeting of the Atlanta CSCMP roundtable, a meeting of the Medical Devices Supply Chain Council, an eye for transport event, the North American Material Handling show, the user conferences of i2, JDA, Manhattan Associates, and probably some others I am forgetting.

I also presented and participated privately at global logistics/supply chain meetings of four regular companies in 2008. I do a limited number of these each year. If you are interested, drop me a line – it seems to work out well.

Below you will find my totally subjective list of the best presentations I saw in 2008. Given the relatively limited venues I attended versus past years, I am also including in my list of best presentations of the year a few from our outstanding Videocast series this year – you can find any of those on-demand at our Videocast page. All company affiliations were at the time of the presentation. Some may have changed, though none I am aware of.

Best Presentation by “Non-End Users” (consultants, technology vendors, academics, etc):

  • John Mariotti, former corporate exec and now author/consultant, speaking about the “supply chain complexity crisis” and its devastating impact on profits, at a meeting of the Atlanta CSCMP roundtable (a presentation of the year candidate).
  • Jeff Metersky of Chainalytics, speaking on inventory optimization techniques and challenges, during one of our Videocasts. His experience and insight were obvious, and not a bit of blah, blah.
  • Ben Pivar of Capgemini, who gave an excellent and incredibly detailed (as in “really thought through”) presentation of a vision for integrated supply chain planning and execution for retailers, at the JDA user conference executive track meeting.
  • David Busch of PRTM, speaking at the Medical Devices Supply Chain Council, on factors to consider in making the decision to outsource manufacturing, especially to low-cost countries. A former exec at a contract manufacturer, he clearly knew the potential benefits and hazards.
  • Dr. David Simchi-Levi of MIT and ILOG, who just this week gave a fantastic presentation on supply chain flexibility during one of our Videocasts. It was based on real company data, which led to some very interesting and important conclusions.
  • Robert Martichenko of LeanCor at CSCMP 2008, talking about how his company helped Zeiss Optical significantly improve distribution operations through applying lean techniques in the DC. He obviously knows lean, and was very good at explaining how it can be used in a DC environment, which isn’t obvious.
  • Author Jack Uldrich, the last day keynote speaker at CSCMP, on the powerful and still not well perceived changes in technology (nano technology, computing power, robotics, etc.) that are going to dramatically impact our world, companies and supply chains. An absolute eye opener, and presentation of the year candidate.

Best End User Presentations:

  • Scott Strickland, CIO of Black & Decker’s Home Products division, at the JDA user conference. Great and detailed story of how the division has become more demand-driven and is a leader in leveraging retail POS data for supply chain decisions.
  • Bo Andersson, head of supply chain for GM, at the i2 user conference. The force of his personality was impressive, his range of knowledge extensive, and I simply loved this: “If you don’t make your supply chain numbers at GM, the first thing that happens is that you receive some private lessons from me.” Yikes!
  • Ron Berg of United Stationers, on “Inventory Optimization and the Boardroom,” again during one of our Videocasts. He simply showed how focus and technology can make dramatic improvements in inventory success. A presentation of the year candidate.
  • Christian Verstraete of HP at CSCMP, with a very interesting presentation on how HP analyzes and uses different logistics “pipes” or paths during different stages of a product’s lifecycle to minimize supply chain costs at each stage.

Finally, the SCDigest award for 2008 Supply Chain Presentation of the Year goes to Matt Salmonson of Old Navy/The Gap stores group, who spoke at the i2 user conference not on their inventory/replenishment solution specifically, but rather on how to implement software the right way, and make change management happen. I had simply never heard much of what he said presented before, and it made absolute sense. I promise we will write on his advice/lessons soon.

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

  • 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, who will be receiving a nice plaque from SCDigest. There was a lot I missed, of course. I welcome your nominees for any outstanding presentations you had a chance to see in 2008.

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.

Let us know your thoughts.

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This Week's Supply Chain News Bites Only from SCDigest

Supply Chain Graphic of the Week - Two Decades of Consumer Goods-to-Retail Supply Chain Improvement Programs

This Week's Supply Chain by the Numbers - Supply Chain Flexibility, Pirates, Foreign Oil Dependence, Apparel Suppliers

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More bad economic news (particularly the rising unemployment rate) had Wall Street struggling to find a firm footing last week. Our Supply Chain and Logistics stock index results were primarily down, yet exceedingly inconsistent.

See full stock report.

Each Week:

-Global Supply Chain
-Distribution/Material Handling
-Trends and Issues

Weekly On-Target Newsletter
December 9, 2008 Edition

Part 1 of a 4-Part Series
Examining the
"Act Vertical" Supply Chain

by Jack Horst
Kurt Salmon Associates

Accelerating Integrated Supply Chain Performance

BrainTrust Panel Discussion Question: What are the Merits of At-Once versus Futures Programs in the Soft Goods Industries?

Shift to At-Once Orders Rattles Soft Goods Industry

Gilmore's Daily Jab

How Not to Allocate Inventory

THIS WEEK ON Distribution Digest


Holste's Blog: Handicapped Labor Pool has a lot to Offer Distribution Managers

>> Top Story: Economic Downturns Usually Show Need for Supply Chain Execution Flexibility
>> New! Supply Chain Slide Show: Non-Putaway Distribution Models

In the early/mid-1990s, what were the two large bar code/data collection related trade shows that enjoyed several years of major success before quickly fading, merging, and then quickly disappearing altogether by the late 1990s?

A. Click to find the answer below


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We have our second “Fuel for Thought” Winner! A $20 Fuel Card goes to Jerry Saltzman of Wyeth as our Feedback of the Week for his response to our piece on Supply Chain, AIG and What’s Next, one of a number we received on this column. That includes a short, very positive comment from John Fontanella at AMR Research, who sadly passed away just last week. It will be remembered.

You will also find short letters from John Rader of SMC3 and Chris Alder of Access Business Group on this topic.

Feedback of the Week - On Supply Chain, AIG, and What’s Next:

I, too, would like to believe Dan Gilmore's assertion that the influence of "real product" will be stronger for the foreseeable future. The financial industry should serve as the economy's electric grid, providing the power to drive factories. For the last 8-10 years, however, the financial industry has acted more like factories, creating incredible wealth for a few while the "real product" factories are forced to make short-term sacrifices to keep up or be bought up. Unfortunately, when the power lines go down, everyone suffers.

With its stronger influence, "real product" industries are in the position to check and balance the power supply. "Real products" are powered by lots of smart, hardworking people who should be confidently able to put their earned wealth in a safe, reliable financial industry. "Real product" industries should not be afraid to shake hands with people and worry about being electrocuted.

Jerry Saltzman

More On Supply Chain, AIG, and What’s Next:

Congrats, this is the best and most thought provoking supply chain article I’ve read all year. You are taking the whole research industry to school with this one.

John Fontanella
AMR Research

Some thoughts based on conversations with industry professionals and points of view in excellent articles such as yours:

When designing global (even domestic) supply chains, the cost of oil fluctuating within an band should be a given. Determining the band requires the vision of oil economists.

Supply Chain implementation should remain as flexible as practical and be supported by planning tools that measure (on demand- weekly, monthly, daily) to the supply chain's performance against the established metrics.

Sourcing decisions should include a measure of tolerance for the price of energy within the selected band. Primarily because, finding capable labor, facilities and equipment takes time. Stated differently, planning ahead and accepting a short-term loss could be more than off-set by stronger mid- to longer-term gains in landed cost.

I enjoy your articles.

John C. Rader
Director Industry & Educational Services

I liked your thoughts about the current crises.

I also hope for the day when we become (again) a product-driven producer-society, and not that of 'financial products'.

Chris Alder
Analyst, Strategic Sourcing
Access Business Group


Q. In the early/mid-1990s, what were the two large bar code/data collection related trade shows that enjoyed several years of major success before quickly fading, merging, and then quickly disappearing altogether by the late 1990s?

A. Scan-Tech and ID Systems; the merged events then later became Frontline, which also faded and folded a few years later.

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