Supply chain experts will gather for a view of the profession’s future, as well as its past.
By Chris Dupin
The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) will mark its 50th anniversary next month, Oct. 20-23, at its annual global conference in Denver.
Rick Blasgen, CSCMP president and chief executive officer, said the annual gathering will be chock-a-block with over 150 sessions where its members can learn about cutting-edge developments in the logistics field.
Keynote speakers will include Felipe Calderón, former president of Mexico, and Peter Carlsson, vice president of supply chain at electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors.
Carlsson’s presentation “will be a fascinating talk as he has essentially built an automotive supply chain from the ground up,” said Kevin O’Meara, senior vice president of supply chain effectiveness at Breakthrough Fuel in Green Bay, Wis., who is chairing the conference.
Calderón is expected to speak about how Mexico, with its vast manufacturing block along its northern border, particularly in the automobile industry, is dealing with changes in world trade resulting from, in part, increasing labor costs in China and rising fuel prices.
“Almost every one of our members that will be at this conference is working on supply chains that are so intertwined with Mexico,” O’Meara said. CSCMP has also tried to grow the number of sessions on international logistics because of feedback from its members.
“Clearly if you’re going to be a logistics supply chain professional, you have to have, at least understand, international logistics and supply chains, if not be deeply involved in them,” O’Meara added.
He said there will be a number of sessions devoted to global procurement and “best cost sourcing and best cost supply chains.”
American companies need to weigh whether sourcing overseas, in nearby countries like Mexico, or even returning production to the United States is most effective.
While some companies procure products and services on a regional basis, others bring those functions together into an international organization that buys worldwide and has a global perspective. “I personally am seeing more and more of that in what a lot of folks are calling integrated supply chain departments or organizations,” O’Meara said.
He said a considerable amount of time at the conference will be spent discussing competition for talent in the supply chain field and how companies can attract and develop talent. In addition, changes in the energy markets—alternative energy, the boom in oil and natural gas production in the United States and new emissions and sustainability regulations – will be discussed.
O’Meara’s company, Breakthrough Fuel, helps clients such as Kraft, Unilever, and Procter & Gamble manage energy used in their supply chains, advising them, for example, on what is the best fuel source for a particular application.
Other major topics at this year’s CSCMP conference will include globalization,
supply chain profitability, risk management, sustainability, international procurement, omni-channel retailing and new technologies.
Blasgen pointed to Amazon’s acquisition of the robot manufacturer Kiva as an interesting recent development. “There’s a lot of money on the sidelines that has not been used to innovate. And I think they’ll be another round of innovation within the logistics and supply chain sectors when that money gets put to work in developing new technologies like item-level RFID and things of that nature that will help visibility throughout the supply chain,” he said.
CSCMP said these supply chain developments can be traced through the group’s 50 years in service. The organization was formed in 1963 as the National Council of Physical Distribution Management. It became the Council of Logistics Management in 1985 and assumed its current name in 2005.
Last year, it held an event where it gathered 24 individuals who Blasgen said were “pioneers of the industry.” The talks were videotaped and the first of a dozen 45- to 60-minute-long programs created from the gathering will be unveiled at the October conference. Blasgen expects they will be used in college programs that teach logistics.
Last year CSCMP also launched its “SCPro,” a continuing education program that offers members an opportunity to obtain “end-to-end supply chain certification.”
The first level of SCPro requires each candidate to study and be tested on eight learning blocks of supply chain knowledge — how they relate to each other and the customer as well as a company’s business and mission statement. Blasgen said more than 100 members have passed the test and the program is gaining traction as more people learn about it.
At this year’s conference, CSCMP will roll out level-two of SCPro, which Blasgen said will give students a more strategic view of supply chains. They are given a case study and asked to demonstrate their ability to work through a particular supply chain problem. Level-three, to be released next year, give students on-the-job supply chain responsibilities.
“If I’m a company leader and I’ve got a lot of people in my logistics or supply chain organization, I may have all of them go through this because it creates a threshold of understanding that’s top shelf within my organization,” Blasgen said.
One goal of CSCMP, he said is to make even younger persons in high school aware of the fact that supply chain and logistics is a viable career path.
“Some people walk into it by happenstance when they are in the university. Well, it’s a solid discipline that we ought to be thinking about and talking and teaching to in high schools so that they don’t just know the typical sales, IT, marketing, finance functions of a company. Supply chain needs to be right up with them,” Blasgen said.
O’Meara said one of the attractions of the CSCMP conference is that “there is a whole bunch of what I would call tactical, day-to-day ideas” that an attendee can bring back to their own organization and implement fairly quickly.
Meanwhile, Blasgen said the job outlook in the supply chain industry is buoyant. “University programs have expanded the number of graduates within supply chain, and there are a lot of companies who are looking to acquire that talent,” he said. Progressive companies see the right supply chain talent as an opportunity to “positively affect results,” he said.
For more details about this year’s CSCMP conference, access the program online at www.cscmp.org