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.
|"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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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.
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