What I Learned at the CSCMP Annual Global Conference 2014

The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) Annual Global Conference is among the best events to learn and network in the industry. In previous years, I’ve been a track chair and/or speaker (see my agenda from last year), but I took a different approach to learning and networking this year: instead of sitting through Powerpoint presentations, I spent my time talking with people — clients (shippers, tech companies, and 3PLs), educators, consultants, young professionals, and several software companies exhibiting at the Supply Chain Exchange.

What did I learn from those conversations?

I learned that people are genuinely excited about the opportunities in supply chain management. Every problem or challenge companies face creates an opportunity to demonstrate leadership, an opportunity to innovate and develop new solutions, an opportunity to explore new areas of research, and an opportunity to disrupt the status quo. Simply put, there’s no time or reason to be bored in supply chain management — if you are, then you’re either working at the wrong company or supply chain management is not for you.

I learned that logistics executives are truly concerned about truckload capacity, with some even considering buying their own trucks or expanding their existing fleets (and they’re making the case to their CFOs).

I learned that cloud-based solutions are gaining traction across a broader spectrum of supply chain applications, including areas where many analysts were originally skeptical about adoption, such as warehouse management systems (see LogFire) and supply chain planning (see Solvoyo).

I learned that in response to all the research showing companies are falling short on supply chain risk management, a new software space is emerging to help companies in this area (see IDV Solutions).

I learned that the next-generation of supply chain applications will embed social networking capabilities to enable communities of trading partners to communicate, collaborate, and execute business processes in more efficient, scalable, and innovative ways — and that some of those solutions are already here (see Macrolynk and Cloud Logistics).

I learned that 3PLs are starting to focus more on a long-overlooked part of their business —  customer relationship management (CRM) — as they look to obtain a more complete, detailed, and integrated understanding of their customer base in order to identify new (and profitable) growth opportunities and be able to present “one face” to the customer, which is especially important for 3PLs that have grown via acquisitions or have multiple operating units (see Lanetix).

I learned that for many companies, there’s still plenty of untapped cost savings and operational efficiencies to be gained through better inbound freight management, and there’s ongoing innovation in software and services to facilitate better communication, planning, and execution between Purchasing and Logistics to capture those benefits (see ArrowStream).

I plan to write more about these and other learnings in future posts, but here’s one more takeaway that I want to share with you, especially as many companies and supply chain executives are in the process of developing or finalizing their budgets for 2015: it’s time to put leadership development and education back on your calendar and budget! According to leadership expert Ken Blanchard, “when you stop learning, you stop leading,” and this is especially true in supply chain management. As evident at the CSCMP conference, new technologies, business models, competitors, legislation, economic issues, and so on are constantly emerging. Therefore, it’s critically important for supply chain executives to stay informed of these trends and make the time for learning because yesterday’s leading practices might no longer apply and they’ll need to develop and implement new ones to succeed moving forward.

(For related commentary, see Putting Leadership Development Back on Your Calendar, What’s Missing from Your 2014 Budget?, and Supply Chain Learning: Think Beyond Traditional Paths)