This is my third posting of observations and commentary related to events at this year’s Annual Conference of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP).

In this posting, I will share some of my initial reactions to some of the interesting sessions that I attended today.  When I get back to the office and have additional time, I will dive a bit deeper into the learning from these presentations.

New Paradigms in Reverse Logistics

A quite interesting session featured a panel discussion focused on the new paradigms in reverse logistics.  The session moderator noted that this was one of those rare times where major competitors in their industry settings can be recruited to speak at the same table regarding a subject of common interest. Panelists represented senior managers from Dell and Hewlett Packard, as well as Wal-Mart and Target.  Each panelist provided an informative summary of their current business strategies directed at reverse logistics and sustainability., and responded to specific audience questions regarding current strategies and programs.

The takeaways that I came away with from this session were:

  • There was a common trend toward more centralization of reverse logistics strategy, along with an increased global focus on strategies. It was interesting to observe how Dell, with its new shift toward more retail channels of distribution has re-thought its reverse logistics strategy.  HP continues to have supply chain focused at the business unit level, but global-wide focus of strategy.
  • Manufacturers shifting their focus toward making the business case for reverse logistics more focused on the actual retailer or channel partner vs. movement of returned material back to the manufacturing source.  The two manufacturers both highlighted their efforts to include more financial incentives for retailers to recycle material and products.
  • An increased focus on the part of Wal-Mart, and some extent Target, on reduction of waste, and creation of new sustainable value networks or alternative channels for material recovery centers to recycle waste and encourage recycling. It is unfortunate, in my view that Wal-Mart continues to edict mandates on suppliers as the hammer for conformance.

Supply Chain Metrics Used in Network Modeling

A second rather interesting session for me was supply chain metrics used in network modeling.  With the recent coming together of confectionary manufacturers MARS and William Wrigley Jr. Company to identify potential overlaps in their combined supply chain networks as well as identify integration or synergy opportunities.  Since both companies were existing customers of the former Logic-Tools, (acquired by ILOG, and then acquired by IBM) the use of this supply chain network modeling tool was facilitation for identification of opportunities.  What I especially liked was an emphasis on more interaction with the audience in a panel-type of format.  The presenters focused on the overall process of modeling, what was required, and what was learned by the combined teams.

Important takeaways from this session included:

  • Quick wins were found before any actual modeling was done, as a result of the needs to consolidate data among both companies.
  • When modeling scenarios were completed, combined management was in a better position to make more informed  decisions regarding warehouse synergies, potential common systems, or customer shipment consolidation.  Additional insights were also gained regarding potential impacts of an increased cost of energy, or reduction of overall carbon footprint.
  • The combined project team performed this task over three months on a virtual basis, without the need to meet face-to-face until just before final recommendations.  This was an important reinforcement that a virtual team process can work, with selection of both the right players, and a single point-of-contact for each constituency.

All things considered, I found most of today’s sessions rather informative and educational.   Conference participants seemed to feel the same way.

Bob Ferrari