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Meeting and Exceeding Supply Chain Expectations


Friday October 9, 2015

Upon returning from APICS 2015 in Las Vegas, I have time to reflect on the excellent speakers I heard (and interviewed), motivated people I met, and invigorating conversations I had. APICS was proud to welcome Jack Welch, legendary management expert and best-selling author, to the stage for the conference’s opening general session. He explained his vision for corporate leadership and culture. “It's about building the best team,” Welch said. “It’s always people first, strategy second.”

He continued by stressing the importance of purpose because that's how today’s workforce is motivated. Ask yourself the following questions about your employees: Do they know you care and have their best interests at heart? Are you telling them what’s in it for them? “Make sure you don’t put obstacles, blocks, and rules in the way of how people do their jobs,” Welch advised.

Later, Amanda Marko, president and chief connection officer at Connected Strategy Group, urged attendees to win the hearts of the people they manage so that those employees will be spurred to action. “The change you lead takes place in small moments—standing in the hallway, talking with your colleagues,” Marko said. She advised supply chain and operations management professionals to make their interactions positive and memorable in order to implement meaningful change within organizations.

Attracting talented people to business—supply chain in particular—was a theme throughout the conference. Consider the panel discussion “The Supply Chain Talent Crisis,” which exposed the reality that supply chain is a hot career about which most young people don’t know. Panelist Cheryl Dalsin, technical program manager at Intel, explained how her company is working to overcome the challenge. “We have a very robust internship and rotation program for new hires,” she said. And for professionals younger than 25 who don’t have awareness of supply chain as a field, Intel created mentoring circles and rotations, which enable professionals to experience another area of growth without leaving their own jobs.

Further, Lungelo Khumalo, CSCP, a supply chain solution design consultant for DHL South Africa, explained how his company loses talent because of unmet expectations and culture issues. “The biggest thing we can do is keep our promises,” he urged.

Keeping with the talent themes at APICS 2015, Tuesday’s general session speaker Jim Carroll advised attendees to prepare for an era of accelerating change. Carroll, a global futurist and trend spotter, warned against “aggressive indecision” and its impact on the supply chain. “How the heck can you talk about innovation and positioning yourself for the future when you have this [aggressive indecision] mind-set?”

Although sessions inspired attendees to look to the future, they also warned against mistakes of the past. During “Fender Strikes the Right Chord with S&OP,” supply chain experts from the musical instrument manufacturer described lessons learned from their first four failed attempts at sales and operations planning implementation. Professionals there created a comprehensive five-year plan to gain substantial operational improvements, such as improved inventory turnover, reduced forecast error, and improved fill rates. In this session, the speakers emphasized one overwhelming point: You can’t do it all at once. Even when you think you’re done, you’re not.

As part of APICS’s commitment to the future of supply chain and operations management, we once again sponsored the International Student Case Competition, in which student teams from around the world must make the best strategic and tactical choices to save a virtual company, The Fresh Connection. I am thrilled to congratulate the team from HEC Montreal, who focused on agility, flexibility, and responsiveness to meet customer expectations and win the competition.

APICS 2015 was an inspirational and informative conference, and I look forward APICS 2016 in Washington, DC. Advance registration is now open. Visit

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