Last week the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) held its annual CONNECT conference in a virtual event format. The three-day conference featured over fifty educational sessions along with timely keynotes. The tone and substance of this year’s conference was clearly focused on the ongoing global supply chain disruptions, and particularly, challenges related to supply chain management talent and reskilling needs.

In the opening keynote, ASCM CEO Abe Eshkenazi declared that: “Supply chains are at an inflection point,” that companies continue to lack end-to-end supply chain visibility and that climate change has risen in overall business prioritization. Regarding specific challenges related to talent, he observed that with ongoing unprecedented demand for skilled supply chain professionals, businesses have the opportunity to enable those individuals to not only get a job but have a rewarding career in at all levels. He further indicated that with some operational disciplines having a predominantly male makeup, supply chain management has an ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) challenge that requires added attention and emphasis.

ASCM is now assisting in this need and mention was made of ASCM’s groundbreaking partnership with the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief DREAMS Initiative. These organizations are educating young women in Africa about the essentials of supply chain management, as well as providing mentorship and job placement with ASCM corporate members and multinational companies. To date, more than one hundred women have graduated from this program. A further program which we highlighted on Supply Chain Matters was a joint announcement with the National Retail Federation (NRF) Foundation and the ASCM Foundation introducing a newly developed warehouse, inventory and logistics certificate program aimed to help train and up skill retail employees.

In the opening keynote, Eshkenazi was joined by ASCM Board Chair Michael Wasson and Chair-Elect Clark Ponthier. Asked about supply chain’s three greatest challenges today, Wasson replied: “Labor, labor and labor.” He highlighted the importance of upskilling, noting that ultimate success requires the contributions of both people and their organizations.

In a later breakout session, Wasson and Pothier provided more in-depth observations. They each reinforced what many in our discipline already know, that worker and talent needs were evident before the pandemic occurred. Noted was that with people now having more employment choices, supply chain managers need to assure that workers feel connected to the mission and values of the organization, as well as to opportunities to grow in skills and added career opportunities. Both stressed a key emphasis on retention, to have a continual sense as to whether employees feel valued, that career paths are well defined at all levels, and that opportunities be evident for lateral roles or rotational job swaps. Many other timely topics were discussed in this session, and ASCM members who have not had the opportunity to do so, should view this session.

In the category of should definitely view, was a live Rebound podcast recording that featured:

Pat Bower, Senior Director of Supply Chain, Aceto

Marcia Brey, Vice President of Distribution, GE Appliance

Chris Pickett, Chief Strategy Officer, Flock Freight

Bob Trebilcock, Editor of Supply Chain Management Review

This session, moderated by APICS CEO Abe Eshkenanzi, discussed the ongoing unprecedented supply chain disruptions and how various organizations have addressed the challenges. Challenges included a 25 percent spike in demand for GE Appliances during the pandemic while having to overcome excessive lead time supply network challenges along with demand levels that required added SKU segmentation

Other conversational topics ranged from how to exit the COVID experience with added learning and rethinking vs. falling back to pre-pandemic thinking and decision-making practices. Marcia Brey stressed the need to be constantly aligned to customer needs with a renewed focus on creating flexibility and added controls in supply chain movements. Panelists were of the consensus that most supply chain processes are data rich but lacking in needed insights, prompting an awareness of what are the most relevant data points to focus on.

There was by this Editor’s observation, an insightful interchange on the role of technology and the investment in data, augmented decision-making and talent capabilities in the post-pandemic period. Observations were that AI/ML technologies can have a role in addressing everyday repetitive planning needs.

Regarding the question as to what excites these panel members about the future, areas cited were technology, heightened supply chain visibility and the increased recognition of the supply chain as an enabler of business outcomes and as a career opportunity.

Again, from our lens this was a must view panel interchange and we encourage ASCM members if they have not done so to have a view of this session.



An announcement made in conjunction with the annual conference was that Supply Chain Operations Reference Digital Standard (SCOR DS) and Digital Capabilities Model (DCM) are now available as no-cost open access tools to assist in improving supply chain processes and practices. Previously, these methodologies were only available to ASCM corporate members. SCOR DS is the latest iteration of the now widely recognized SCOR methodology framework linking business processes, metrics and best practices into a unified structure. The SCOR DS further connects with the DCM Digital Supply Chain framework created in partnership with Deloitte, addressing the transformation of linear processes not a set of dynamic networks. A separate session conducted at last week’s event discussed plans for rebuilding SCOR for 2030 and what that will entail.

The annual conference provided the opportunity to announce ASCM’s 2021 Awards of Excellence. Each year, the ASCM Awards of Excellence recognize superior performance and dedication to advancing the field of supply chain management.

This year’s recipients were teams from Eaton, Univar Solutions and Microsoft.

Eaton was presented with the 2021 Award of Excellence Learning and Development, recognizing the organization’s commitment to productivity and advancement based on the effective and ongoing application of educational concepts, competencies and best practices from ASCM performance-driven team training and the APICS body of knowledge. The 2021 Award of Excellence, Corporate Transformation was awarded to Univar Solutions for an organizational transformation that elevated the business as a result of a supply chain assessment leveraging ASCM global standards, products, services and resources, and the SCOR model. Microsoft was honored for its commitment to supply chain circularity through the reuse, repurposing and remanufacturing of parts, which is meaningfully extending the life cycles of its key assets. ASCM also recognized the firm’s commitment to collaborating with suppliers in order to significantly reduce global emissions with the 2021 Award of Excellence, Making and Impact. This award honors an initiative that creates a better world through supply chain as a result of pioneering corporate social responsibility, proven business integrity and an unwavering focus on sustainability.

Supply Chain Matters salutes each of these award recipients for their efforts.


Added Thoughts

As noted in our opening, the tone and substance of this year’s ASCM annual conference was clearly focused on the ongoing global supply chain disruptions, and particularly, challenges related to supply chain management talent and up skilling needs. An organization that was once deeply anchored in manufacturing and material planning and scheduling has now transformed to one that has a broader supply chain management focus, and in particular, business process and skills development needs. Such a transformation has been timely and beneficial.


Bob Ferrari

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