sc digest
December 7, 2017 - Supply Chain Flagship Newsletter

This Week in SCDigest

bullet No Supply Chain Blah, Blah, Blah 2017 bullet SC Digest On-Target e-Magazine
bullet Supply Chain Graphic & by the Numbers for the Week bullet Holste's Blog/Distribution Digest
bullet Santa Cartoon Caption Contest Continues bullet Trivia      bullet Feedback
bullet New Expert Insight Column bullet New Townhall and On Demand Videocast

first thought


Supply Chain Graphic of the Week
US Distribution Centers Getting Bigger, Taller


Big Economic Prize from US Manufacturing Resurgence

ELD Mandate for US Truck Drivers Looms
Container Carriers Just Can't Stop Order Megaships
NAFTA Renewal Odds Not Good


November 14, 2017 Contest

See The Full-Sized Cartoon and Send in Your Entry Today!

Holste's Blog: A Different Way of Looking at DC Automation


11th Annual Gartner-SCDigest Supply Chain Study!
One of the Most Popular and Respected Studies in the Industry Each Year

Survey Respondents Receive Complimentary Gartner Research
(See Details Here) - a $300-500 Value

Weekly On-Target Newsletter:
December 6, 2017 Edition

Santa Cartoon, DC Labor, Gartner Study, Freight Rates Heading Higher and more

Fast Isn't the Only Factor

by Gary M. Barraco
Global Product Marketing
Amber Road

Developing a Global Supply Chain Autobahn for China

by Kae-por Chang
Managing Director 
Amber Road China

Reinforcement Learning Explained Using the Beer Game

by Dr. Michael Watson

White Paper Discusses the Importance of Understanding Some of the Quirkier Import and Export Anomalies

A "Third Way" to Address the Growing Labor Crisis in US DCs?


What do former data collection equipment vendors Norand, Intermec, Vocollect, Hand Held Products, and LXE have in common?

Answer Found at the
Bottom of the Page

No Supply Chain Blah, Blah, Blah 2017

It's time again.

In 2005 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, academic, 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.

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 going there now and then. I fully admit to falling into blah, blah, blah territory on a few occasions.



In great summary, Vodafone mined data from some 1.2 million POs to learn just why only 38% of them are executed just as they are supposed to be.


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Feedback here

All that said, I offer again our Audience Bill of Rights, which provides some reasonable guidelines for what you should expect and demand from presenters. We have even heard of conferences where organizers are now using some version of this document in communicating with speakers.

My conference schedule was about average this year. In rough chronological order, I attended the National Retail Federation's Big Show, ProMat, the Logility user conference, the WERC conference, the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Forum, the LLamasoft user conference, the annual CSCMP conference, the MHI conference, and the enVista user conference.

The only major events I didn't get to were the Institute for Supply Management conference, which as always directly overlapped the WERC event and Gartner conference, and APICS, which I just haven't made it to for a number of years.

I delivered one of our popular trip reports on I believe every one of those events this year in one form or another, including many video summaries.

If I was at your event and have somehow failed to mention it, please let me know.

My sense again this year is that overall the quality of presentations has been trending down: lots of good ones, but fewer great ones, for reasons not clear. We also lack a strong cadre of recognized supply chain thought leaders, as is common in other disciplines. Also, some conferences seem to be favoring panels versus presentations, a trend in general I do not support.

So now as always, in random order, is my list of the 10 best presentations I saw in 2017, capped by SCDigest's runner-up and best presentation of the year awards. As far as I know, all those cited are still at the companies they were with at the time of their presentations, but of course that could have changed.

Jason Morin of XPO Logistics at the WERC conference on applying Lean thinking to distribution operations, a poorly understood subject, with many questions. Morin started with an interesting game to illustrate the inefficiency of batch operations, followed by real world DC examples, though more on the inbound side than order picking. Still, best I have seen on this topic.

Bill Best, VP of supply chain REI, on the supply chain sustainability efforts of outdoor retailer at the MHI conference. The main focus of the presentation was the nearly $80 million new DC REI recently built in Goodyear, AZ. It was simply designed for sustainability from the get-go. This one of the two best sustainability presentations I have seen in recent years, one that came from the heart with credibility, and was persuasive without hype.

Nate Rosier of enVista at its conference, on what he termed "product flow design." Hard to summarize in a few words, the essence was that supply chain network design tools often don't sufficiently deal with granular operational details needed to deliver the best answer, and thus must be supplemented with additional analysis. Rosier covered a lot of ground fast and I need to learn more, but this was true thought leadership, increasingly hard to find.

Previous Best Presentation winner Sean Willems of Logility and the University of Tennessee at the Logility conference on the use of playbooks in supply chain, by which he means a structured way for looking at problems and opportunities. He cited the four-chapter playbook used by Jeff Wilkie, CEO Worldwide Consumer at Amazon, which includes constraint management, statistical process control, cross functional supply chain issues, and "DC managers matter." Willems is always good.

Brain Tessier of industrial giant Schneider Electric at CSCMP on use of blockchain in the supply chain. Tessier passionately believes this still sort of mysterious blockchain is going to have perhaps as big an impact on supply chains as the Internet. He detailed I believe six current blockchain pilots Schneider is engaged in, and it was this level of detail combined with a real passion on the subject that made this almost one of my two finalists.

Also at CSCMP, our Expert Insight columnist Dr. Michael Watson of OpEx Analytics, his colleague Kristen Daihes, and Paul Brown of Clearwater Paper on keys to building a supply chain analytics center of excellence. First, it is a pleasure to hear three obviously true experts on the topic speak without the usual hype and agendas. Second, this is a hot topic, and it provided all kinds of useful insight into creating such a COE.


Tal Rubin and Het Naik, of US Silica - a producer of sand-related products - at the LLamasoft user conference, on using a network design tool to create operational "available to promise" and inventory allocation capabilities - based in part on order profitability. Who knew the sand supply chain - driven recently by huge sand demands from US fracking operators - was so complex? And who knew you could take a strategic tool and make it work in almost real-time support of operational decisions?

Filip de Keersmaeker of Johnson & Johnson at the Gartner conference, on J&J's efforts at building a supply chain modeling capability at the company. J&J is "over investing" in talent to ensure success, while it found an early optimization run across the supply chain resulted in a full 40% of J&J SKUs being affected - meaning safety stock, sourcing, manufacturing "cadence" or other decisions were changed versus before the new modeling process - based a model that considered an amazing 4 million variables.

2017 Runner-Up: Perhaps surprisingly, a presentation on the use of big data to improve the procurement at German telecom giant Vodafone, by Alex Rinke co-founder of technology firm Celonis, as part of the supply chain innovation award track at the CSCMP conference. In great summary, Vodafone mined data from some 1.2 million POs to learn just why only 38% of them are executed just as they are supposed to be. It opened my eyes with a real, high impact case study of what could be done with advanced analytics, in a way I had not heard of before.

And the winner for 2017 is John Phillips, a supply chain executive at Pepsico, on the "eight supply chain disruptors," at the Gartner conference. Phillips has been on the speaking tour for a few years now, in part because he is very good at it. How he assembles all the current facts and examples he provides I don't know, but he gets you up to speed very quickly. The time flies by, because he is simply fun to hear, with great visuals.

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

2016: Piyush Bharkava, a procurement executive at Dell, who presented at CSCMP on the company's remarkable development of an innovation culture to support its sustainability efforts.


2015: Sean Willems, chief scientist at Logility and also of the University of Tennessee, on the "efficient frontier," basically a fresh look at supply chain tradeoff curves.


2014: Bill Nienburg, VP of Global Merchandise & Sales Planning at Under Armour, for an in your face description of how the apparel giant was going to use supply chain to win in the market - and he really meant it.


2013: Richard Murphy, CEO of Murphy's Warehouse Co., at the WERC conference, on the business case for Green investment in distribution. Great, practical detail.

2012: Raj Subramonian of Dell, with an outstanding, heartfelt presentation at CSCMP on use of "vested outsourcing" to transform a stale 3PL relationship.

2011: Rudi van Schoor, of SABMiller's South African operations at the SAPICS conference there, on stopping a major supply chain planning project in mid-stream and totally and successfully re-orienting the approach.

2010: Chris Gaffney of Coca-Cola, at Georgia Tech on how to bring balance into increasingly challenging supply chain careers, and how with the right formula less can really be more for both managers and the company.

2009: Jim Kellso of Intel at CSCMP, on rethinking Intel's supply chain to work for a new chip whose much lower price point required a dramatically lower cost supply chain.

2008: Matt Salmonson of Old Navy/The Gap stores group, who spoke at an i2 user conference on how to implement software the right way, and make change management happen.

2007: Michael Schofer of Coats North America at i2, describing his company's supply chain transformation as its traditional apparel sector customers were all leaving the US, enabling it to survive.

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 2017. Many ask if I have copies or links to these presentations, and alas I usually do not, but feel free to inquire, as I sometimes do.

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? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button below.




New December Videocast:

The State of Retail-Vendor Supply Chain Relationships 2017

Results from SCDigest's Second Biannual Benchmark Study of Retailers and Their Vendors - and SCDigest's New Index to Measure State of the Relationships

These findings are being presented in a live panel discussion with interactive questions from audience members throughout.

Featuring Dan Gilmore, President & Editor-in-Chief of Supply Chain Digest plus Greg Holder, CEO, Compliance Networks, Kim Zablocky, President, RVCF (Retail Value Chain Federation)
and Victor Engesser, Retail Executive Advisor, RVCFP.

Wednesday December 13, 2017

New On Demand Videocast:

The Modern Control Tower: Orchestrating Your Digital Supply Chain

What is a Supply Chain Control Tower and What Does It Do?

These experts will discuss how operational control towers have evolved past their visibility and transportation roots to focus on taking action for every end-to-end customer order across the multi-party supply chain.

Featuring Dan Gilmore, President & Editor-in-Chief of Supply Chain Digest plus Martin Verwijmeren and Brian Hodgson of MP Objects.

Now Available On Demand

On Demand Videocast:

Supply Chain Optimization Series Part 2: Planning by Design - a Breakthrough New Approach to Supply Chain Planning

A New Apps-Based Approach to Planning is Changing to Traditional Paradigm, Enabling Better, More Rapid Decision-Making

Discover the challenges organizations face with their existing planning solutions and how an apps-based approach is allowing business to rapidly build solutions molded to their business processes that complement their existing planning software.

Featuring SCDigest's editor Dan Gilmore and Director of Product Management for LLamasoft, Jim Wilson.

Now Available On Demand


Catching up on a variety of Feedback emails this week - see below

Feedback on Astounding Changes in Consumer Goods to Retail Supply Chains


This piece certainly belongs in the hall of fame Dan. Simply excellent work.

Going back to the early Greek philosophers it is said the only constant is change (or something like that). While I tend to be a bit of a process geek, and love to see constant flows that can benefit from minor (usually) improvements, the truth is that we must all be pragmatic visionaries about the future of our businesses and those of our business partners.

Everything will change, some things will change significantly, some new things will be introduced and some existing things will disappear. Our success will be based on how visionary we are about the future, how we plan to adapt to it, and how successfully we lead the transition.

Steven R. Murray
Lead Process Auditor and Senior Research Associate

Feedback on Warehouse Control Systems vs Warehouse Execution Systems + Ocado Grocery Robots


Retirement has given me more time to think and perhaps the following train of thought has some relevance in relation to some of the topics covered in your recent package.

There has been much noise about robots replacing human beings particularly where the task is repetitive etc. There has also been comment and speculation about robots being developed/improved to use artificial intelligence and having an ability to learn from their mistakes.

Given these two aspects is there not the prospect of robots gaining emotional intelligence? If that comes to pass then could robots programmed to do warehouse work etc actually decide that it is far too boring and mundane, and therefore employ human beings to do that work for them. Perhaps we just have to wait it out, and that in the long run there will still be employment for the majority after all. Could Amazon and Ocado have got it wrong?

(With my tongue only slightly in my cheek!)

David MacLeod
Learn Logistics Limited



Feedback on Gilmore Review of "The Supply Chain Revolution"



I am the author of The Supply Chain Revolution. I saw your review of the book at Thank you for taking the time to review the book and also asking your readers to provide their perspective. I appreciate it.

While writing the book, I had to balance between competing ideas such as the ones you pointed out - big picture vs. details, small vs. big business. I was hoping to have a follow-up conversation on these topics.

If you would like to discuss these or any other topics covered in the book, please let me know. I will be happy to share my thoughts with you.

Suman Sarkar
Three S Consulting




Q: What do former data collection equipment vendors Norand, Intermec, Vocollect, Hand Held Products, and LXE have in common?

A: Through various acquisitions, the lineage of each can be tracked back from today's Honeywell Corp.

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