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Rainmakers… Part 1

Who are this year’s Rainmakers? is a recent article about thought leaders identified by DC Velocity for 2010.

This year’s selections represent many different segments of the supply chain discipline: practitioners, academics, consultants, and vendors. But they’re also united by some common threads, including an emphasis on education, training, and people. Through word and deed, our 2010 honorees more than live up to the Rainmakers’ legacy of making a lasting contribution to the profession.

There is also a short Q&A with these professional’s, a sampling of comments that I found interesting are below:

Catherine Cooper [Ozburn-Hessey Logistics]:

Q: What do you consider to be the greatest obstacles to supply chain optimization?
A: One of the great challenges facing our industry is managing a supply chain with the new credit market constraints. With a restriction on working capital, we are seeing lower inventory levels than ever before, resulting in reduced supply chain cycle times and the need for networkwide item visibility. OHL’s customers are making radical changes in SKU [stock-keeping unit] assortments and sourcing methods. The old model of abundance has been replaced with one of scarcity, impacting every part of our industry.

Summary: Volatility is here. Is network visibility the answer? A very small “Yes” but what matters more is the network configuration. Some networks are more susceptible to volatility while others are not – I’ll leave that as an open question for my readers.

Mike Duffy [Cardinal Health]:

Q: What have you found to be the key differences between managing a consumer goods supply chain and a health-care supply chain?
A: For me, a supply chain is a supply chain. The vernacular is very similar, the principles are similar. The biggest difference is where an industry is when it comes to recognizing the role the supply chain can play in driving business performance. In consumer goods and other industries, we’ve identified the supply chain as a key enabler to driving business results. Health care is at a different place on the continuum. Most health-care providers came into existence to take care of patients first and were thrown into the business side of health care second. As a result, the industry as a whole is working to adopt best practices from the consumer products and other industries in order to leverage the supply chain to drive efficiencies and performance.

Summary: A supply chain is a supply chain. Except there is one significant difference arising this past year. The big government is about to slap its paw print over the healthcare supply chain. Anyone thinking about that?

Charlie Guardiola [Burlington Coat Factory]

Q: If you could offer one piece of advice to someone looking to jump-start their career in distribution or supply chain management, what would it be?
A: My advice would be to be a great businessperson first and then apply that business knowledge to the supply chain discipline. I believe that the best supply chain people are those who are great business people. Back when it was called "logistics" and not "supply chain," we were seen as warehouse guys who moved boxes from point A to point B. But things have really changed over the years, and now supply chain is seen as an integral contributor far beyond the four walls of the DC.

Summary: That is some really sound advice. Some of the others identified here talk about greater visibility, confronting volatility etc – that’s something that businesspersons don’t seem to understand all that well. I mean, they get the list of it but they don’t get the gist of it.

Peter D. Gibbons [Starbucks Corp.]

Q: What do you consider to be the greatest obstacles to supply chain optimization?
A:
Two things come to mind: talent and coordination across the supply chain. The logistics field needs more well-educated logistics professionals with early hands-on experience who can understand quickly what needs to change and can implement change without negatively impacting customer service and cost.

On top of that, the ability to manage "total cost to serve" from product development all the way through to delivery onto a customer’s shelf is essential. The major change in the Starbucks food offerings over the last two years is a great example of balancing improvements to product quality with a supply chain solution that improved total costs and margin but allowed cost trade-offs, including better ingredients and quality.

Summary: I don’t think that he can say it but I can – Over the last two years, Starbucks learnt the lesson that practically every growth company learns sooner than later: Growth doesn’t last forever. But Starbucks has survived, somewhat, despite the threats from competitors because they’ve taken the value route. And the above is a précis of what initial steps of value discovery looks like.

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About me

I am Chris Jacob Abraham and I live, work and blog from Newburgh, New York. I work for IBM as a Senior consultant in the Fab PowerOps group that works around the issue of detailed Fab (semiconductor fab) level scheduling on a continual basis. My erstwhile company ILOG was recently acquired by IBM and I've joined the Industry Solutions Group there.

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