At the conclusion of the 2010 Supply Chain Council Executive Summit held here in Houston. I wanted to share with Supply Chain Matters and other readers some summary impressions and take-aways that I came away with from speaker-related and networking activities spanning this past day and a half of jammed packed sessions.  Some of these observations are not just from this author, and include those shared by attendees in various exchange sessions.  My hope is that these observations taken from a select group of supply chain executives can generate further commentary and reflective thinking from readers.

In no particular sequence, the following is what I’ve captured:

  • The last 18 months have been most challenging for supply chain management professionals, probably the most they have had in their careers.  In some industry settings, the atmosphere of ‘crisis’ was leveraged to gain significant improvements in working capital, cost and overall asset management within supply chains. Yet, as Ram Ramaskrishnan, Executive Director of Bajaj noted, the need was to “cut the flab, not the muscle.” in the coming months, the COO agenda includes more challenges related to improving customer access, growing top-line revenues, upstream/downstream flexibility, risk mitigation and total cost engineering.
  • Supply chain and operational managers need to believe that the organization and team will win.  Plan for the upturn with a winning mindset. Multiple attendees noted that a more positive mindset can go a long way not only in re-energizing teams, but providing a path forward in the post recessionary period.
  • Volatility, variability and business change is a permanent phenomenon going forward. The important key for supply chain management professionals is understanding and influencing those levers that lead to required change for the business.
  • High performance supply chains have enormous leverage on impacting business results.  Yet, supply chain managers need to step-up its efforts in communicating the value of supply chain initiatives and programs directly with senior management.  I’ve heard this theme reinforced at other recent conferences as well, and the key message is communicating in the language of senior management, which implies the ability to differentiate on the impact of supply chain on key business outcomes.
  • Attendees noted similarities in supply chain best practices regardless of size or scope of the supply chain.  Supply chains supporting shipments in the millions have practices in common with those supporting lower volumes.
  • Senior supply chain and operational executives continue to embrace sales and operations planning (S&OP) as a primary means for operational and organizational alignment.  A new emphasis in the coming months will be in accelerating the overall S&OP cycle time to maintain pace with the change of business.

Finally, I’ll share a concluding thought on planning the length of presentations at an executive level conference such as the one just completed.  Summit planners allocated a full one-hour for each presenter, and that turned out to be a wise decision.  The real benefit from many of the presentations came from the 15 minutes of Q&A and peer exchange generated from the speaker as well as the attendees when discussing the implications of a particular topic.  That should be an important take-away for other organizations and conference planners organizing executive conferences.

In the coming days I will be sharing some other thoughts and observations regarding global supply chain challenges culled from this Summit.

I sincerely want to thank the staff and Board of the Supply Chain Council for allowing Supply Chain Matters to provide coverage and commentary of the 2010 Executive Summit.

Readers are encouraged to offer their own commentary on any of the observations and impressions noted.

Bob Ferrari