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Feb. 19, 2021
Supply Chain Digest Flagship Newsletter


This Week in SCDigest

bullet In 2021, a Relook a MIT's Supply Chain 2020 Project from 2004 bullet SCDigest On-Target e-Magazine
bullet Supply Chain Graphic & by the Numbers for the Week bullet New Stock Index

New Suppily Chain Cartoon Caption Contest

bullet Trivia      bullet Feedback
bullet New Expert Column bullet On Demand Videocasts



A new report from ARC Advisory analyst Clint Reiser lays out the
landscape across WMS, WES and Warehouse Control System (WCS)
software, detailing the WES value proposition, and describing
important changes in the WES market.


first thought


Supply Chain Graphic
of the Week
Top 10 US LTL Carriers

This Week's Supply Chain

by the Numbers

Brazen Warehouse Heist in Texas
Under Armour Pursuing Direct to Consumer
US Manufacturing Output Slowly Recovering


New York State Sues Amazon over Lack of Virus Protection


Jan. 27, 2021 Contest

Show Us Your Supply Chain Wit!

It's Back! SCDigest's Weekly

Supply Chain Stock Index




Weekly On-Target Newsletter:
Feb. 17, 2021 Edition

Cartoon, Top SCDigest Stories of the Week

How Technology Is Shaping The Future Of Supply Chain

UN Supply Chain Expert and CEO of Morpheus.Network

Dan Gilmore

Revisiting SCDigest's Framework on RFID Process Change


In what year did the first woman win CSCMP’s prestigious Distinguished Service Award?

Answer Found at the
Bottom of the Page

In 2021, a Relook a MIT's Supply Chain 2020 Project from 2004

In 2004, MIT's Center for Transportation and Logistics launched a program call "Supply Chain 2020."

For some time it was run initially by MIT's Larry Lapide, whom I used to see regularly, especially during his tenure as a supply chain analyst at the then AMR (later acquired by Gartner), but it's been a long time. Lapide is still at MIT.

When I first heard of the program back then I thought this is great, MIT is going to do some research on what our supply chains would look like 16 years later.



Excellent supply chains avoid the trap of trying to do everything well because then nothing is done well.

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I don't think we ever got that. Perhaps that wasn't really the purpose.


To add to my confusion, I saw some links last year to what I believe was a series of thought leadership pieces from MIT on supply chain 2020, but despite spending some decent amount of time web searching I simply can't find them. If someone can point me in the right direction I would be grateful.

Not long after the MIT program launched, I did find something useful for my efforts here at SCDigest. That is the graphic below from some Supply Chain 2020 document.

I often write or present on supply chain trends or the future of supply chain. I have often used the MIT Supply Chain 2020 graphic, because it makes the point that you cannot predict the supply chain of the future without assumptions about the world of the future, notably the areas of politics, the economy, and regulations.

Specifically, in about 2005 MIT laid out three potential 2020 scenarios relative to global supply chains.

Scenario 1 - Synchronicity: The world is at peace, trade flows openly and freely, there are lots of innovations, and other good things.

Scenario 2 - Spin City: Government interventions in markets is common, there is complex web of conflicting regulations, little international consensus on key issues, etc.

Scenario 3 - Alien Nation: Very local view of key issues, heavy protectionism, limited migration flows and more.


MIT's Supply Chain 2020 Global Scenarios



So where we in 2020? It wasn't Synchronicity, that's for sure. How about Spin City, trending towards Alienation? There were, I'll note, business headlines last year relative to "end of supply chain" - meaning long, complex global supply chains were losing favor, for a variety of reasons.

There is still an MIT Supply Chain 2020 web site. It includes a decent amount of content, though somewhat scattershot frankly. But I did find a 2006 piece written by Lapide interestingly titled The Essence of Excellence, based on MIT Supply Chain 2020 research. Let's take a look 15 later.

Early on, Lapide asks: "What exactly is an excellent supply chain?"

It's a question I have often asked myself.

Lapide notes how tough it is to answer that simple question. He says the MIT research on this started with a focus on supposed supply chain "best practices," - but soon found that was a dead end.

Lapide argued that "Realistically, there is no such thing as a "best" practice; best practices only work under certain business conditions in certain industries."

He notes, for example, that then supply chain icon Dell's direct-sell, build-to-order business model did not directly apply to other industries, such as the brick-and mortar retail world of another then icon, Walmart. It didn't even apply to other computer-related gear Dell sold.

Lapide came around instead to this: an excellent supply chain is essentially a "competitively principled" supply chain. What does that mean?

It has two core principles, Lapide wrote. First, the supply chain is strategically designed and operated according to an "excellent supply chain framework," that I will summarize in a moment. This, he says, will ensure alignment between supply chain business practices and the competitive strategy of the overall business.

I will note I have often said that in the end the best supply chains are those most aligned with the overall company business model.

The second core principle is this: excellent supply chain managers consistently operate on the idea that they need to be guided by the intent of the supply chain strategy. That means no "silo" mentalities, and such managers distinguish between those operations that have to be best-in-class when compared to competitors and others that just need to be "good enough."

"Putting it another way, excellent supply chains have an intended focus and purpose, and excellent supply chain managers understand, act on, and respect those intentions," Lapide wrote.

The most interesting thing to me about that statement is that it is predicated on the idea that most supply chains don't operate that way, else doing so would not be evidence of excellence, meaning better than others.

The above mentioned framework for supply chain alignment includes four elements, Lapide wrote, with excellence marked by a supply chain that:

1. Supports, enhances, and is an integral part of a company's competitive business strategy: In an excellent supply chain, the business strategy and its relevant elements need to be explicit and clearly understood by supply chain managers.

2. Leverages a supply chain operating model to sustain a competitive edge: At the same time, the supply chain operating model should not only support the business strategy but also be a major element in enhancing that strategy.

3. Executes well against a balanced set of competitive operational performance objectives: While a supply chain might execute well, that in and of itself does not make it excellent. Excellence is about doing well at what matters most - the things that matter to stay competitive.

4. Focuses on a limited number of "tailored" business practices that reinforce each other to support the operating model and best achieve the operational objectives: Excellent supply chains avoid the trap of trying to do everything well because then nothing is done well. To be excellent, a supply chain focuses its resources on the inputs that matter most and applies only adequate resources to those areas that are not as important to the strategy and operating model

All that makes sense. But ah, were it only so easy to just adopt such practices.

"It takes years to mesh the elements together - and a great deal of effort to alter them as the competitive landscape changes over time," Lapide wrote. Indeed, he wrote here in 2006 about getting going to have an excellent supply chain by 2020.

So two things. First, there a lot more in this article, and it seems quite current despite being written 15 years ago. Think I will do a part 2 soon.

Second, we now into 2021. We need new thinking about Supply Chain 2030 or something.

I will see what we can do.

Any reaction to these thoughts from MIT's Supply Chain 2020 research? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button below.


On Demand Videocast:

Understanding Distributed Order Management

Highlights from the New "Little Book of Distributed Order Management"

In this outstanding Videocast, we'll discuss DOM, based on the new Little Book of Distributed Order Management, written by our two Videocast presenters.

Featuring Dan Gilmore, Editor along with Satish Kumar, VP Client Services, Softeon.

Now Available On Demand

On Demand Videocast:

The Grain Drain: Large-Scale Grain Port Terminal Optimization

The Constraints and Challenges of Planning and Implementing Port Operations

This videocast will provide a walkthrough of two ways to formulate a MIP, present an example port, and discuss port operations.

Featuring Dan Gilmore, Editor along with Dr. Evan Shellshear, Head of Analytics, Biarri.

Now Available On Demand

On Demand Videocast:

A Blueprint for WMS Implementation Success

If You Want a Successful WMS Project, You will Find the Blueprint in this Excellent Broadcast

This videocast lays out the keys to ensuring your WMS implementation goes smoothly, involves minimal pain, and accelerates time to value.

Featuring Dan Gilmore, Editor along with Todd Kovi of Radix Consulting and Dinesh Dongre of Softeon.

Now Available On Demand


Feedback will return next week.


Q: In what year did the first woman win CSCMP’s prestigious Distinguished Service Award?


A: 2012, by Ann Drake of DSC Logistics

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