This Week on SCDigest:
No Supply Chain Blah, Blah, Blah 2009
Annual Supply Chain Research from Gartner and SCDigest
Supply Chain Graphic of the Week, plus more Supply Chain News Bites
Last Week's Supply Chain Cartoon Caption Contest Winner Announced
SCDigest On-Target e-Magazine
Expert Insight - Supply Chain Insight for Medium-Sized Businesses - Affordable Opportunities for SMBs in Supply Chain Technology
Guest Expert Insight - Food Traceability: Supply Chain's Feast or Famine
Guest Expert Insight - Wright State University's Master of Science in Logistics and Supply Chain Management Delivers Direct and Relevant Business Value
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Trivia  Supply Chain Stock Index  Feedback

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This Week's Supply Chain News Bites
Only from SCDigest

Supply Chain Graphic of the Week: Role of SCM in Your Company


This Week's Supply Chain by the Numbers - Ocean Container Capacity, FedEx Rate Increase, Supply Chain-Related Capital Investment, Apparel Import Supply Chain



See last week's winning caption



A drop in the unemployment rate was good news for Wall Street investors last week.  Our Supply Chain and Logistics index was predominately up across the board.

In the software group, Descartes climbed 8%, followed by JDA (up 5.4%).  In the hardware group, both Intermec and Zebra had a respectable week (4.3% and 2.8%, respectively).  In the transportation and logistics group, Prologis gained 8.3%, followed by FedEx (up 6.7%) on the heels of an announced rate increase beginning January 4, 2010 for Ground and Home Delivery.

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Each Week:

Global Supply Chain
Trends and Issues

Supply Chain Insight for
Medium-Sized Businesses

by Dr. Chris Norek, Chain Connectors


Affordable Opportunities for SMBs in Supply Chain Technology

Software as a Service Changes Dynamics for Small and Medium-Sized Business in Adopting Supply Chain Software


Guest Column

by Jim Burleigh, SmartTurn


Food Traceability: Supply Chain's Feast or Famine

Traceability Leads to Real-Time Visibility and Collaboration; Financial Benefits Quickly Follow


Guest Column

by James Hamister. Ph.D.,
Wright State University


Wright State Univer-sity's Master of Science in Logistics and Supply Chain Management Delivers Direct and Relevant Business Value

Program Delivered in Blended Format Geared Towards Working Professionals


HolsteHolste's Blog: Investment in Materials Handling Automation Starting to Pick Up, Data and Leading Providers Both Say

Distribution Video: Holste and Gilmore on Automated Case Picking

Other News: Walgreens on How to Make a Program for Disabled Workers in the DC a Success


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The original Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment (CPFR) program was piloted in the 1996 timeframe between Wal-Mart and what consumer goods company? (Hint: that company was later acquired by another company in 2000).

Click to find the answer below
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."

What do you say?

Send us
your Feedback here

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 users conference; the Manhattan Associates users 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 was detailed and persuasive.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.

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We received a huge amount of Feedback on our piece on Saving Western Manufacturing, Part 2, some of which we print this week. That includes our Feedback of the Week from Brazil’s Otacilio Moreira, who says it isn’t just the US that needs to be worried.


You'll find that and several other good letters below. More next week.


Feedback of the Week – On Saving Western Manufacturing, Part 2:


I should say it’s not only the U.S. that is losing its lead in large-scale, high-tech manufacturing. I see, here in Brazil, the same from big manufacturers to small owned companies (those more affected because they dont have enough resources to expose their products in other markets or trade shows abroad).


It seems the Chinese developed a way of doing business in a more competitive way or using strategies not known by their competitors.


Let me give you an example: A US company operating in Brazil for almost 100 years, has his own factory to build vessels according to ASME standards. They receive a quote to export a vessel to another country and, after sending their price, the bidder returns saying: Your price is double of a Chinese manufacturer. The engineers where curious to learn about the Chinese quote. Let us know about their specs, and from there they learn they were using a different spec. Then they asked the Chinese to quote according to the same spec.


Surprisingly, they reply: Our price will be the same!!!!!!


How come?


It’s like a Hitchcock movie: a mystery, and, as long as we don’t find the answer, all manufacturers around the globe are in jeopardy.


Otacilio Moreira

OMC Orientação para Melhorias Contínuas.

Qualidade e Liderança em Projetos de Supply Chain.

More on Saving Western Manufacturing, Part 2:


I found this article so on-target that I sent it to the President.  It voiced my unvoiced concerns.  Not for the manufacturing that is disappearing, but the manufacturing that never had a chance to exist here.  I see all this funding for new technologies and they WILL NOT be built here.  How is that beneficial to the U.S. economy?  And, the Buy American act is not going to help that at all. 


The costs of new manufacturing start-ups is very high, but Germany and China build the clean rooms so the jobs will come.  This country needs to stop using trigger words like Socialism and start realizing that this is about competing with the rest of the world for our own existence.  Do we really want all of our jobs to be retail?  Who will be able to afford to buy those products?  What is going to happen to our tax base when the poor don't pay taxes and the wealthy have places to hide their money so they don't pay as much taxes?  The middle class is the real tax base and business.  That's what this country needs to buckle down and cultivate. 


Perhaps, a program like the college loan system for new manufacturing startups?  Government subsidized low-interest loans and state and local level tax holidays for them?


Something needs to be considered seriously.


Cheryl Jadykin


Advance Tabco Corp.

Why the decline in US Manufacturing?


Over-regulation from all areas of government - top to bottom including code enforcement for permits.


Lack of interest in manufacturing because people involved have declined to the point of having no clout - it's all about the numbers (votes).


No interest from investors - profits too low in manufacturing for amount of investment required.


Other countries do not have tort law, and do not constantly threaten manufacturers with law suits - if we had liability limits, it might help.


In general there is just too much resistance to making things in the US. We would not have a country torn apart by national health care if we had employers that could furnish insurance to its employees. Small manufacturers are doing well to afford liability insurance & workers comp.


Bill Albright

How does the data stack up when comparing:


-  # of manufacturing jobs during those periods

-  actual GDP for manufacturing in those years

-  actual increases in productivity over those periods


Are there any other key data points that support or refute the premise?


At the end of the day, there should be no "real" debate on the importance of manufacturing to the advancement of a nation and that nation's economy.  Manufacturing has been/is/will be a critical success factor for all economies (local, state, national, global) that want higher standards of living for their citizens and a high level of international importance as other economies are dependent on their capability. 


The economics of manufacturing is about much more than dollars and profit margins we measure/generate today (too often this quarter/this year), but rather about understanding the world of possibilities and how resources can be utilized/leveraged both today and in the future (+100 years).  There will always be issues that will require creative solutions and the skills developed from manufacturing have much broader applications than what is "seen" in products produced and sold.  The number of examples supporting this reality (from current developments to ancient history) are too numerous to ignore.  It is essential that the USA re-discover the power of manufacturing.


Jon Bingol, CFPIM

The conclusion drawn from the data in this article is highly questionable.  The article cited the years from 2001 to 2007 as a harbinger of doom since growth exceeded addition of capacity.  


The data provided by the Federal Reserve shows that capacity utilization in 2001 had just fallen off a cliff coinciding with the bursting internet bubble. Why would anyone add capacity from 2001 to 2007 when there was plenty of unused capacity available?


Ed Pound

Factory Physics


The original Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment (CPFR) program was piloted in the 1996 timeframe between Wal-Mart and what consumer goods company? (Hint: that company was later acquired by another company in 2000).


Warner-Lambert, of Listerine fame, which later merged with Pfizer. Listerine was actually the key product in the trial.