The second day of the Supply Chain World North America conference  was just as informative as the first, and the highlight was a presentation from a supply chain grounded CEO.

Readers can view our day one commentary at this link.

The morning keynote was from Alan D. Wilson, the CEO and President of McCormick & Company, Inc., who’s corporate headquarters were but a few blocks from the conference venue in Baltimore.  CEO Wilson’s presentation was insightful from two perspectives. First, Wilson comes from background and grounded experience in supply chains, having served in the military as a logistician, and having contributed in supply chain roles at Procter and Gamble.  He clearly understands and can relate to supply chain management strategy and importance.

More importantly, Wilson provided a live demonstration on how supply chain professionals can speak and relate to the language of the executive suite.  In his articulation of the shareholder and business goals for McCormick, he was able to clearly map these top level goals to required metrics in material conversion, supply chain and process reliability areas, all within a single, cascading slide. McCormick also has unique supply chain challenges in that its business model of spice and flavor products requires a high level of SKU’s, as well as the need to source inbound materials from over 50 countries.  It was great to observe a CEO who could also clearly articulate these challenges to an audience dominated by supply chain professionals.

Another important strength brought forward was McCormick’s strong emphasis and reinforcement of corporate culture being the fabric of the company.  This culture includes an obsession with quality and firm and demonstrated beliefs in respect, inclusion, recognition and collaboration. McCormick believes that taking care of employees will lead to employees taking good care of customers and suppliers. A noted example, during the darkest days of the past global recession, McCormick continued to invest in people and in benefit programs. Wilson firmly believes that this strategy, although counter to the prevailing industry norms, paid enormous dividends in commitment and performance. There is also a strong linkage between desired outcomes in business performance with organizational design and individual employee incentives.  The management tenet of measure and reward what you want to change is alive and well at McCormick.

McCormick is not immune to ongoing supply chain challenges in the area of sourcing risk, exploding commodity costs or overall improvement in inventory turns. However,  listening to Wilson, one gets a clear sense that the entire organization is aligned and focused on these challenges and remedial plans.

It would be great if every major supply chain conference could have a CEO guest speaker with the DNA of Alan Wilson.

Bob Ferrari