We pen this commentary at the beginning of day two of the Supply Chain World North America 2012 conference, sponsored by the Supply Chain Council.  The theme for this year’s gathering was Taking Supply Chains to the Next Level. As was the case last year, our speakers have been extraordinary and the messages have been fairly consistent. For the most part, speakers reinforced that current efforts toward transformation are focused more toward the ‘soft’ skills of managing required organizational and business change, and the recruiting of skilled supply chain professionals.

Donald Wirth, Vice President, Global Operations and Corporate Supply Chain delivered an insightful day one keynote, and providing some candid observations regarding supply chain transformation. One example was: “We spent way too much time on six-sigma efforts while never moving the needle on the competition.”  He then shared his council on leading transformation, which included:

  • Leverage scale and skills of the entire organization.
  • Focus on standardization and simplification.
  • Align management practices, including shifting from functional execution to more collaborative based metrics.
  • Continually build the culture and capabilities required to support the business.
  • Link supply chain performance and plant excellence, which is a very important required learning and challenge for inexperienced supply chain professionals.

Wirth further shared his belief in visual management boards as a very powerful tool of communicating management commitments toward change.  His key takeaway for attendees was the statement that the business strategy is the supply chain strategy.

Lalit Wadhwa, Vice President of Global Supply Chain Operations for Avnet, Inc., a global high tech electronics distributor provided insights to continually changing high tech and consumer electronics supply chains and the critical importance of fostering multi-tier visibility to inventory, capacity and order activities. Avnet has the unique situation of having capabilities located at both the downstream design and upstream supply points of high tech supply chains.  Lalit also described for the audience Avnet’s current design principles and deployment of a supply chain control tower rollout.   Supply Chain Matters plans to follow-up with Avnet and provide further detail on this control tower deployment effort.

Other speakers stressed a variety of common themes that emphasized strategies for:

  • Balancing globalization vs. regionalization
  • Learning from other industries
  • Importance of risk management
  • Segmentation of supply chains
  • Focus on required customer and business outcomes
  • Understanding and paying attention to the power of analytics and business intelligence applied to areas such as cost to serve, anticipated product demand, or total landed cost analysis.
  • Developing a flexible roadmap of transformation

Conversations at last night’s evening reception provided attendees the opportunity ample time to renew acquaintances and reinforce conversations related to supply chain transformation.

Stay connected for further commentary later this week.

Bob Ferrari