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  First Thoughts

    Dan Gilmore


    Supply Chain Digest

Dec. 8, 2016

No Supply Chain Blah, Blah, Blah 2016

SCDigest's Annual List of the Best Presentations of the Year


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.

Gilmore Says....

Companies and vendors need to start thinking more holistically about product flow across the DC, not just what happens in individual processing areas.

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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 a little below average this year. That said, in rough chronological order, I attended the National Retail Federation's Big Show, MODEX, the University of Tennessee Supply Chain Forum, the JDA Software user conference, the WERC conference, the Gartner Supply Chain Executive forum, the LLamasoft user conference, the annual CSCMP conference, and the MHI 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 frankly 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.

So now as always, in random order, is my list of the best presentations I saw in 2016, 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. Also, with the trend at many conferences towards more panel discussions versus presentations, I have for the first time this year included a few outstanding panelists in my 2016 list.

Heather Sheehan
, recently retired from Danaher but still young and active in supply chain, on an all-woman panel on supply innovation at CSCMP. While all the panelists were good, Sheehan stood outs, notably on formalizing the use of "stretch" goals and how Danaher successfully uses its own buyers to test drive sales campaigns and new product introductions.

Rob Coyle of GlaxoSmithKline on "elevating the role of outsourced logistics"  at the Gartner conference. What do you do when you realize logistics is not really a core competence at your company? Coyle discussed GSK's path very effectively, including a very interesting approach to achieving complete transparency when using a lead logistics provider.


Paul Bjornsson of IKEA at the JDA user conference, with a very good presentation on the retailer's development of a capacity management system for its 1000 suppliers. He started with some interesting questions, such as how do you really define capacity? What are the metrics or units of measure? I have not heard of anyone else implementing a system such as IKEA has  built in this area.


Steve Reade of shoe retailer DSW, on a panel on distribution trends at CSCMP. I had not heard of Reade, but he was very insightful, from comments on the need to really spend time on the human-equipment "interface' when automating DC operations to the need for companies and vendors to start thinking more holistically about product flow across the DC, not just what happens in individual processing areas.


Sven Verstrepen, of Belgian logistics services provider Ahlers, for a presentation at WERC on so-called "horizontal" logistics collaboration, meaning efforts between complementary shippers, maybe even competitors. I have seen Verstrepen speak on this in the past, but it keeps getting better, and reflects what I believe is a coming megetrend, driven as much by sustainability as it is cost savings.


Cristian Negrescu of Mondelez and Mike Burnette of the University of Tennessee (formerly of Procter & Gamble), on "platform thinking" in the consumer packaged goods supply chain, at the Tennessee forum. At the core of platform management in CPG is supply chain simplification, achieved through SKU rationalization and standardization of packaging, formulas, processes and equipment across the globe. Can drive huge savings, but few doing it well today.


Brian Streu of Whirlpool did an excellent job of describing the appliance giant's evolution in developing supply chain network design as a core competence and something used on a continuous basis, on an SCDigest videocast this summer along with Toby Brzoznowski of LLamasoft. "From project to process" was the theme. Very good.


Mani Janakiran of Intel at CSCMP on the company's incredible use of advanced supply chain analytics. What Intel is doing with analytics today is already mind-blowimg, such as a a "supply-demand solver" that looks out over some horizon, and not only identifies where there is a gap in S&OP plans, but also suggests how the issues might be best resolved. Intel has really modeled its entire supply chain, layering truly advanced and innovative analytics on top of that.


Frank Crespo of Caterpillar in a wide ranging keynote presentation at the Gartner conference, which included one of the better discussions of how the Internet of Things can be used in supply chain that I have seen. Cateplliar monitors its expensive machines out in the field through IoT, recognzing that "Every decision an operator makes impacts time and money," Crespo said.


2016 Runner-Up: Sascha Krall, Andreas Mätzler and Pascal Verschueren of chip maker Infineon, at the JDA user conference. Notable for describing how the company boldly realized it couldn't accurately forecast demand very far out, and that the best path was to lay out detailed scenarious for execs to choose from in making investment decsions, and for detail on the "cube" Infineon has built for Integrated Business Planning that completely links demand, supply and finance. Make a change in one area, and the effects instantly ripple through the others.

And the winner for 2016 is Piyush Bharkava, a procurement executive at Delll, who presented at CSCMP on the company's remarkable development of an innovation culture to support its sustainability efforts. Bharkava started out a bit of a sustainability skeptic, but has been converted, detailing the many creative ways Dell encourages innovation that helps it achieve sustainability goals - while reducing supply chain costs $200 million annually.

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

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.

I ran into Wegryn at an event in 2014 - he happily referenced his inaugural award!

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 2016. 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 (email) or Feedback section below.

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