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SCDigest Expert Insight: Supply Chain by Design

About the Author

Dr. Michael Watson, one of the industry’s foremost experts on supply chain network design and advanced analytics, is a columnist and subject matter expert (SME) for Supply Chain Digest.

Dr. Watson, of Northwestern University, was the lead author of the just released book Supply Chain Network Design, co-authored with Sara Lewis, Peter Cacioppi, and Jay Jayaraman, all of IBM. (See Supply Chain Network Design – the Book.)

Prior to his current role at Northwestern, Watson was a key manager in IBM's network optimization group. In addition to his roles at IBM and now at Northwestern, Watson is director of The Optimization and Analytics Group.

By Dr. Michael Watson

February 25, 2014

Comment on Biggest Supply Chain Planning Technology Challenges

The 2014 Supply Chain Planning Benchmark Study May Reveal an Opportunity to Enhance the Skillset of Your Supply Chain Team

Dr. Watson Says:

start chain teams need to upgrade their technical and analytics skills...
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Supply Chain Digest recently released a report on the state of supply chain planning in 2014.  The entire study is worth a read. 

One thing that jumped out at me as a read the report was the following chart showing the biggest technology challenges firms face.

The first (“Can’t model processes, data well enough”), the second (“Not using all capabilities of our software”), and the fourth (“Users need more training to improve the results”) items on this list all seem to point to the same problem:  supply chain teams need to upgrade their technical and analytics skills.

Previous Columns by Dr. Watson

The Three Use Cases for Data Scientists

Learn Python, PuLP, Jupyter Notebooks, and Network Design

EOQ Model and the Hidden Costs of Fixed Costs

CSCMP Edge - Nike Quote: "It is All an Art Project Until you Get it on Someone's Feet"

Supply Chain by Design: Why Business Leaders should think of AI as an Umbrella Term


Running a modern supply chain is quite complex.  It now requires that you have the analytics skills to take advantage of the data that is available to the supply chain team.

The supply chain is awash with data.  If you can take advantage of this data, you can do better planning , find inefficiencies, improve customer service, gain new insights, and get out in front of your competition.

To do this, the supply chain staff no longer needs just traditional supply chain skills.  They need to know how to work with large datasets, how to visualize data, know new and difference algorithms for analyzing the data, understand how to test hypothesis with data, and understand how optimization can help sort through the data.

Even more, the management team needs to understand how to manage this type of work.  They need to understand what techniques are available, understand how to sort through the fog of buzzwords floating now (like “Big Data”), and understand what is now possible with today’s technology.

Final Thoughts:

It is unlikely this trend will reverse—the supply chain team will continue to need to get more value from a vast amount of data.  So, 2014 should be the year you enhance you and your team’s analytics skills.


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