Firstly, what is a supply chain road warrior?
A supply chain road warrior works for a company that specializes in supply chain, spends many, many hours on a plane, uses lean principles when going through the security line, gets far too much satisfaction from collecting air miles and hotel points, is constantly wondering why the airlines have such antiquated software, can spot a casual traveler from a mile away, and is fixated on every situation where demand does not equal supply… or vice versa.
The focus of this blog series is to share the insights I have gained during my 15 years as a supply chain road warrior. Having spoken to many companies, peeked inside their organizations, and worked alongside them during countless supply chain initiatives, I’ve built myself a bit of a list of what it means and what it takes to be best-in-class.
Insight #1 – Your company culture
Insight #2 – Your supply chain processes
Insight #3 – Your supply chain measurements
Insight #4 – Your supply chain technology
Does being the best at a specific supply chain function — Demand Planning, Supply Planning, Inventory Planning,
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I recently took a trip to my local big box electronics store, and saw a 3D printer on display. I asked what they were printing, and the response was “plastic components”, which were being sold in the store. The salesperson was busy, so I did not have the chance to find out exactly what those plastic components were, but I thought, wow, they can make parts for sale right there in the store. Retail is changing for sure. I then decided to do a little more checking on 3D printers when I got home. I learned about biofabrication, a recently created word that means the convergence between technology and medicine, to print items to be used in the human body. Living cells are used as the “printer ink”. Visions of the Terminator came to mind. I also discovered, from an article the Guardian that the U. S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first 3D printed drug, called Spritam (levetiracetam). It controls seizures coming from epilepsy. The drug manufacturer, Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, uses 3D printing to create a more porous pill. This means the pill dissolves more quickly with liquid, making it much easier for the patient to swallow higher doses.
3D printing has gone from a novelty to a serious industry, a predicted $16 billion industry by 2018 according to Canalys as stated in another article from the Guardian. Basically, it has become mobile. It has become additive manufacturing. An article in my local paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, had this interesting quote, “From aerospace to health care to consumer products to toys to medical devices, furniture … what I think you’re going to see is an explosion of use.”
A startup local Atlanta-based 3D printing company, CloudDDM, is looking to make an impact. Traditional manufacturing requires the creation of dies or molds that can cost thousands of dollars to create a prototype. 3D printing only requires a digital file with the design of an object, and the specialized “ink”. This also introduces a whole new issue to supply chain and the manufacturing process–protection of intellectual property (IP), in the form of the digital files being sent to 3D printers. Just as important as the prototype itself, is the thought and research behind the design. Printers can be a vast source of digital information based on the memory they possess. This creates a potential security issue.
Atlanta is home to many Fortune 500 companies like Coca Cola, Home Depot and UPS. UPS has already thought about how 3D printing could affect its core business, which involves moving materials in the supply chain. They installed a 3D printer at a local high-profile store, which will be able to perform on-demand services. Their rationale was, if businesses can produce parts easily on-site, instead of off-shore or elsewhere domestically, that could impact the UPS global market for shipping and logistics and cut into revenue. To get ahead of the curve, UPS invested in the aforementioned CloudDDM. The two companies have jointly opened a facility near the UPS air hub in Louisville, Kentucky, with more than 100 industrial 3D printers. They can take an order in the afternoon for a 3D printed item and ship it overnight for arrival the next day.
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There’s just something about Halloween. Maybe it’s all the candy (I’m a self-diagnosed chocolate addict), the kids dressed in adorable costumes, or the carved pumpkins glowing on nearly every neighbor’s doorstep, but I can’t help but love it. Sure, there’s often fake blood, guts and gore, and people trying to scare the pants off you lurking creepily around every corner, but that’s just part of the charm – at least now that I’m old enough not to get frightened by all those spooky ghost stories.
Halloween is big business for candy companies, costume suppliers, and pumpkin farmers alike. According to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation, 64% of Americans plan to take part in Halloween activities this year, with each spending an average of $74.34 on things like candy, costumes, and decorations. It’s a nearly $7 billion industry. And it’s impact on the total supply chain is not to be underestimated.
The intricate planning to make sure you have just enough of the right stock, complicated logistics of getting all those goods from point A to point B, and added demands of making sure you have the workforce to produce, sell and ship these seasonal items is enough to send anyone involved in the Halloween supply chain running in terror.
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The following guest blog commentary is contributed by Bob Ferrari, Founder and Executive Editor of the Supply Chain Matters blog and Managing Director of the Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC.
In October, I had the opportunity to speak at the APICS 2015 conference. My topic was: Positioning Your Skills for the Future Needs of Supply Chain Management, and in this 21st Century Supply Chain guest blog, I wanted to share some of my key messages to this audience as well, since this is a topic frequently brought up.
There is no question that supply chain talent development has become a top of mind multi-industry challenge that takes on different dimensions for both attracting and retaining key talent. The debate is often focused on whether strategies should address a perceived “skills gap” or a “training gap.”
But first, dwell for a moment on the various megatrends and converging forces impacting multiple businesses today. More technology-empowered and demanding customers have added to increases in the clock speed of business in multiple dimensions. Business growth and profitability stems from newer products, innovative services, and emerging markets. Speed is now a compelling requirement in all dimensions of supply chain business and decision-making processes. There is now increased senior management awareness to the strategic importance of the supply chain’s contribution to required business outcomes. With that recognition is keen awareness as to availability and retention of needed skills and talent, but individual strategies and action plans vary across industry settings.
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It’s an industry that’s seen as anything but sexy, and that lack of appeal is presenting a major problem. A growing global shortage of talented supply chain professionals has companies scrambling to find ways to attract and retain that next generation of leaders. Some, like toy maker Mattel, have devised strategies aimed at hiring fresh-faced grads and molding them into exactly what they need. Thanks to the help of several universities, there may soon be a lot more students from which to choose.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, educational powerhouse MIT has been giving free online supply chain courses for the past year. Now they plan to offer “micro-master’s” certificates for completing five courses and an exam. Those certificates will then count as a semester’s worth of MIT credits toward a full master’s degree in supply chain management. MIT is expecting to expand their enrollment in supply chain courses by as many as 30 to 40 per semester, effectively tripling the number of graduates it has per year.
To help with recruiting efforts, we thought we’d do our part by gathering up some wise words of wisdom for anyone interesting in pursuing a career in the supply chain field. Here are the top five pieces of career advice as explained by some of our supply chain experts.
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The Syrian refugee crisis has produced some staggering statistics. According to UNCHR, the UN refugee agency, more than four million Syrians are living outside their country as registered refugees. In Lebanon alone, more than a million Syrians have taken refuge, increasing the country’s population by a third. More than 12 million people are in need of humanitarian aid as a result of the civil war raging in Syria.
While the Syrian refugee migration has received significant press coverage recently, it’s only one part of a larger, dire picture. According to a recent UNHCR report, nearly 60 million people were forcibly displaced in 2014 from countries such as Iraq, Eritrea, and Afghanistan. Of those 60 million people, 19.5 million were refugees.
A crisis of this magnitude creates a mind-boggling supply chain and logistics challenge. Relief agencies normally spend as much as 80% of their proceeds on logistics and supply chain. Unfortunately, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, its income in 2015 will be 10% less than in 2014.
Need is clearly skyrocketing. The location of those in need is evolving and unpredictable. Funding is lacking. So, how can the supply chain fulfill refugees’ basic requirements for food, water, shelter, and medical assistance? Several companies and projects have emerged to address this critical question.
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Okay, so there may be a bunch of readers out there thinking ‘Huh? It’s not even close to Thanksgiving yet.’ Well, for us folks up here in the Great White North, aka Canada, Thanksgiving will be gloriously celebrated on October 12 with family, fond memories, and in my case, a turkey dinner with all the fixings. And my oh my how I do love my turkey!
But seeing as this is a blog about supply chain, and not about my preferred poultry, I thought I’d take a look at what goes into getting those millions of pounds of turkey from the farm to the table. Unless you happen to be raising your own turkeys, or have an appropriate license and skill to hunt a wild one, chances are you’re picking up the centerpiece of your holiday meal from a store. Seems like the easiest choice, right? Maybe for you, but certainly not for those involved in the turkey supply chain.
Coordinating the slaughter (sorry to my vegetarian friends or anyone who’s a little squeamish about these things), shipment and sale of enough birds to feed the majority of the population of a country is no easy feat. One little hiccup would be all it takes to throw Thanksgiving into chaos – and no one wants to see that.
Let’s take a look at what needs to be the first stop on this delicious gravy train – an accurate demand forecast. Producers need to ensure they have enough birds to meet demand. That means incubating eggs and allowing for maturity time. Unlike other manufacturing industries, it’s a lot harder to make up for a miscalculation in raw material needs when you’re dealing with living, breathing animals that only reproduce at a specified rate. While there is the possibility of sourcing from a secondary supplier, there’s no guarantee they’ll have enough stock available.
It isn’t just a low forecast that can cause issues. Over forecasting the number of turkeys needed can result in waste, and thus unnecessary costs, when it comes to birds shipped fresh and not frozen. An overstock of frozen turkeys is less of an issue. They can be held in inventory until the second biggest holiday for these big birds – Christmas, which is only a couple of months away. Fresh birds must be sold before a certain date to avoid spoilage. Oh the joys of working with perishable items in your supply chain!
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These days it seems you can’t spend ten minutes surfing the internet without seeing an article about millennials. Heck, we’ve even written about the generation of people spanning those born in the early 1980s to the mid-1990s. At the same time, in supply chain forums, media, and blogs, talk of the talent shortage in the industry is inescapable. So, how do these two topics converge? In many ways, as quickly becomes apparent.
The supply chain management workforce is comprised mostly of Baby Boomers at the moment—but they’re starting to retire. And, the numbers of professionals transitioning out of supply chain careers will rise significantly over the coming years. Compounding the looming departure of thousands of professionals from the industry is the fact that a shortage of supply chain talent already exists. A study conducted by Supply Chain Insights found that demand for supply chain talent outpaces supply—despite the rise of supply chain-focused university programs over the last two decades. That study noted 46% of respondents stated “Talent: knowledge and availability” was their most significant business pain.
Given these dynamics, it’s obvious attracting and retaining supply chain talent is critical. Many articles have explored how to entice young people to study supply chain management at the university level. But here, I want to focus on how companies can attract millennials currently working in supply chain management—and keep them happy and productive on the job. As you read on, you’ll see a common theme emerge.
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