CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
December 11, 2017
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Collaboration: the key to managing change

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Collaboration has become the driving force behind supply chain management excellence.

Back in 1964, Bob Dylan's song "The Times They Are A-changin' " captured the feeling that we were entering a period of rapid transformation. Nearly five decades later, things are changing faster and more profoundly than ever before. And nowhere has that occurred more dramatically than in the world of business, much of it propelled by the marvels of modern technology.

Take a look at the "business" of supply chain management (SCM). Since the 1960s, it has evolved from physical distribution to logistics to supply chain management. SCM has progressed from an invisible corporate necessity to a critical component of commerce that has achieved global prominence in boardrooms and on Wall Street. Supply chain management has shed its dowdy image as a "cost center" in favor of the more glamorous one of "revenue generator."

In 1963, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) debuted with the name National Council of Physical Distribution Management (NCPDM). The organization was formed by a visionary group of managers, consultants, and educators who foretold the integration of transportation, warehousing, and inventory as the future of the discipline. Fifty years later, it's clear that CSCMP's founders got it right.

The path toward the integration of supply chain management functions can be seen as a microcosm of what has been happening in business as a whole. Boundaries and borders, between countries and within companies, have become less of a barrier as the worldwide web of technology has connected and united us into the seamless, borderless commercial community of today. For supply chain managers, that means our mission is to deliver the products and services our customers want—and need—to survive and thrive, every day and around the clock, on all seven continents and beyond.

Today's technology enables us to better understand our customers and communicate with our supply chain community in real time. But if we are to nimbly respond to the changing demands of dynamic supply chains, we need to work together to create an integrated response. When key participants—shippers, carriers, and logistics service providers—collaborate and share information within and across the supply chain, the entire process is more efficient and effective than it would have been had all the players operated independently. That is why collaboration has become the driving force behind supply chain management excellence.

In these fast-changing times, we all must work to tear down walls that block collaboration. We must advocate for supply chain partners to work as a community, one based on transparency and trust. And if we continue to pursue supply chain excellence by creatively collaborating with others, we will elevate the profession—and ourselves—to world-class status.

Rick Blasgen is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP).

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