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December 14, 2017 - Supply Chain Flagship Newsletter

This Week in SCDigest

bullet A Supply Chain Christmas Carol 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 On Demand Townhall and On Demand Videocasts
  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

first thought


Supply Chain Graphic of the Week
One Picture Tells it All When It Comes to US Highway Infrastructure


Foxconn Plans for Autonomous Vehicles at Wisconsin Mega-Plant

Impact of ELD Mandate Monday Unknown
Orders for Tesla Semi Keep Rolling In
New DC Woes at Mattel add to Its Woes


November 14, 2017 Contest

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

Holste's Blog: The Importance of Innovation as a Competitive Factor


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 13, 2017 Edition

Santa Cartoon, ELD Impact, CEO Sustainability, MIT RFID Drone and more

Learn the Five Key Reasons Manufacturers Need Multi-Tier Connectivity

Phone Call with Santa Claus

by Henry Canitz
Product Marketing & Business Development Director

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

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


In what year was the famous poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas" published?

Answer Found at the
Bottom of the Page

A Supply Chain Christmas Carol 2017

It was Christmas Eve at Supply Chain Digest, but the small staff and editor Ebenezer Gilmore were still hard at work as the clock neared 5:00 p.m. A few of the crack staff members continued to look up at Gilmore from time to time - the tension growing.

"Where's that piece on automated case picking?" Gilmore barked at Cliff Holste, SCDigest's material handling editor.

"Almost done," Holste said. "I should have it by tomorrow, soon!" Holste responded.


Wishing You a Merry Christmas from Supply Chain Digest!


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Finally ending the tension, Gilmore said to the group, "I supposed you will all be expecting the day off on tomorrow? Well, the supply chain will still be moving in China, you know. But I guess we can catch up with it the day after. Fine - the full day off for the lot of you!"

A cheer erupted from the small group. In fact, to Gilmore's consternation, they immediately packed up and went home with amazing alacrity.

"A merry supply chain Christmas to y
ou Ebenezer! Try a day without supply chain for once this year!" editorial assistant Joan Nystrom yelled as she walked out the door. She and the rest of the small team chuckled as they headed for the parking lot.

Ebenezer harrumphed, but then final he himself gave it up for the night, headed for home, and enjoyed a pleasant Christmas Eve dinner with his wife and five children, most just home from college. As always, they adjourned to the living room, and around the Christmas tree they were simply riveted by his annual holiday discourse on the role of supply chain in the product economy. He then shared his thoughts on what Amazon may be up to in that developing air park not far away at the Cincinnati airport, why Walmart and Target are trying to take vendor variability out of their supply chains, the prospects for autonomous trucks, and more.

When he was finally finished, he smiled and looked around warmly at his family, knowing just how much they had enjoyed the talk. They sat quietly together, breathing in the glory.

"What's supply chain again?" one of the kids finally asked. "Can you even major in it?"

"You say this same stuff every year, it never makes any sense," said another. 

"How can people not know supply chain! Does no one around here listen to a word I say!" Gilmore bellowed. "It ought to be taught in the high schools! Where do you think all this stuff comes from?" he asked, pointing to a healthy pile of presents under the tree.

"The mall?" one of the kids answered. "" ventured another.

"Bah humbug!" Ebenezer responded. "Read Supply Chain Digest! Get educated!"

It was around midnight when Gilmore finally went to bed, after doing a last check of the news wires for any breaking supply chain stories. Not long after he drifted off to sleep, he awoke with a start at a loud noise. Next to him, his wife was still sound asleep, but there at the end of the bed was a strange ghostly presence, with huge chain wrapped around his body.

"I am the ghost of supply chain past!" he said. "These chains are the dead weight companies used to carry from poor, unintegrated practices - take a look!"

Soon, the two were soaring in the air over the countryside, and there in the heavens, the entire supply chain was visible to them both - accompanied by music.

"The Bee Gees?" Gilmore asked. Yes, it was the 1970s, and what the ghost displayed to him looked so strange. Every purchase order and invoice was being sent by US mail. He could see large mainframe computers churning out green screens of the most basic software applications, little of which had much to do with supply chain. Warehouse workers were tracking inventory with cards in a shoebox, wandering the building looking for inventory - which tended to stay there for a long time. Factories were cranking out products based almost solely on utilization and unit costs and what was best for the plants.

Ebenezer could see right inside of headquarters buildings, where he viewed departments like purchasing and marketing and manufacturing and distribution all marching largely to their own drums, occasionally sending typed memos to each other about what they were doing, or complaining about how the others were goofing them up. Vast silos seemed to emerge across the landscape.

"This is kind of scary," Gilmore said. "Why are you showing me this? We are well past this era."

"Not far enough!" the ghost answered.

The next instant, Gilmore was back in bed. He again drifted to sleep, only to be awoken by a second specter, who carrier a chain too, but a much smaller one.

"I am the ghost of supply chain present." he said. "Follow me." Soon again, Ebenezer Gilmore was whisking through the sky.

"This is much better!" Gilmore said. He could see products moving very fast, not just across the US but across the entire globe. The world did indeed look flat from up here.

There was technology, lots of it, with software and powerful analytics optimizing transportation, inventory planning, factory scheduling and lots more. Products flowed rapidly through distribution centers, managed by workers scanning bar codes and even reading RFID chips [Ok, we're making that part up] while using mobile terminals, sometimes talking right into them. He could see Lean factories and S&OP meetings and even some CPFR.

"Now this is supply chain!" Gilmore said to the ghost. "Look how far we've come."
"Look again!" said his guide.

Rubbing his eyes and looking a second time, new aspects of the supply chain were revealed that had not been visible before. He suddenly saw retail stores with lots of stock-outs, and many weeks of inventory in the pipeline, though much less was really needed. As S&OP meetings concluded, he could see the impact of those meetings dissipate as processes moved further down the supply chain to execution. There were vast quantities of information flying here and there, but just a fraction of it being captured and used to make better decisions.

Software applications still weren't communicating well, and there were still significant gaps between planning and execution in almost every area. There were opportunities for cross-company collaboration being missed all over the place. Many companies were not even taking advantage of opportunities to collaborate on their own internal freight moves. My goodness, a number of DCs were not even receiving ASNs from their own plants! And despite all this supply chain activity and technology, inventory levels did not seem to be really going down.

"This is a strange vista you show me ghost," said Gilmore. "I am not sure whether to be pleased or disappointed."

With that, he was back in bed, and soon enough, a third specter appeared, with a chain more like a necklace upon her neck.

"I assume you are the ghost of supply chain future?" Gilmore said, and the presence nodded. Off again they flew.

Below me was a truly new supply chain world. The entire supply chain was visible to me - as it was to companies and their trading partners. The real-time supply chain was here!

Supply chain organizational structures had change significantly. The siloed model of the past were largely gone - managers were now part of process teams, such as order-to-cash, not functional reporting structures. Operational planning and execution were no longer separate processes - they were a single, integrated, highly dynamic one.

The level of automation in distribution centers was staggering - robots of various sorts were everywhere - and a handful of DCs were actually using RFID!

Wow, the level of collaboration was astounding too - for example, retailers were conducting joint S&OP processes with leading vendors, operating almost as if they were one company.

Connected products were everywhere, sending streams of information about their usage and condition, with smart analytics to make sense of it all.

Thousands of companies had full time staff devoted to network design processes on a continuous basis - and were reaping the rewards from that practice.

Forecast accuracy had hugely improved. Well, now on second look it really hadn't, but companies were in fact much far more effective at responding to demand variability with agile supply chains. was up to about $2 trillion in sales - the Justice Dept. was conducting an investigation into whether it was a monopoly that needed to be broken up. Founder Jeff Bezos has recently acquired Canada, outbidding rival Alibaba's Jack Ma the country.

Virtually all supply chain software ran in the Cloud.

There was so much more.

"This is tremendous," I told the ghost. "The supply chain of the future is almost here!"

"But there is a future beyond the future," the ghost said. "You should see what artificial intelligence in the supply chain will be able to do. And Amazon actually solves the robotic piece picking challenge! But we're out of time - maybe next year. Your job for now is to help others chart the course to this near future."

As morning dawned I was back in bed - not tired, but pleased with the mission I had been given. We'll certainly keep at it.

Many changes coming from SCDigest in 2018.

Merry Christmas from Supply Chain Digest!

Did you like our Supply Chain Christmas Carol? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button below.



New On Demand 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.

Now Available On Demand

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: In what year was the famous poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas" published?

A: 1823.

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