We pen this commentary at the conclusion of the Supply Chain World North America 2012 conference, sponsored by the Supply Chain Council.

The highlight of today’s session was the keynote, Making Supply Chain Management Truly Strategic, delivered by Dr. Steven A. Melnyk, Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management at Michigan State University.  Dr. Melnyk’s messages regarding moving from a supply chain that it is strategically decoupled and cost-driven, to one that is business outcomes driven were very insightful and ones that all of us in the supply chain community need to think about. Without giving away the complete concepts shared, Supply Chain Matters will highlight some very important thoughts shared regarding Dr. Melnyk’s concepts of defining of six possible supply chain outcomes:

  • Cost
  • Responsiveness
  • Security
  • Sustainability
  • Resiliency
  • Innovation

His counsel was for supply chain executives is to try to avoid single outcome initiatives, for instance cost savings, namely because the supply chain lives or withers under the single outcome of cost.  Instead, the recommendation is blend outcomes, with perhaps 3 focused outcomes.  The first would be characterized as strategically critical, and not to be compromised. The second outcome, strategically important, and the third, strategically necessary. Another important message is that some outcomes may not mix well, for instance, lean driven cost avoidance and innovation. Professor Melynk offered an example, communicating his belief that the outcomes of the Apple supply chain are innovation, security and responsiveness.

One presentation we neglected to mention from yesterday’s sessions was that of Dell and its efforts in supporting direct retail fulfillment.  Dell’s current successful efforts in transforming its supply chain from a predominate configure-to-order customer model, is a successful transition to supporting forecasting based, direct retail sales via major electronics retailers. Behind the scenes, and a major enabler of this direct retail transformation is the existence of a highly experienced supply chain analytics team based in Bangalore, India.  Supply Chain Matters will be arranging a follow-up briefing with this group to share with our readers the breakthrough efforts in demand sensing and accurately predicting customer buying trends.

This author was pleased to facilitate the Pundits and Influencers panel discussion which discussed a number of topics related to the current state of global supply chains and the consistent messages that continue to be brought forward from these conferences.  One observation that all the panelists concurred with is the requirement on a renewed emphasis on the strategic, collaborative and organizational alignment skills for today’s senior supply chain leaders. Once again, Supply Chain Matters will feature a separate dedicated commentary regarding the panel exchange.

Bob Ferrari