CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
December 17, 2017
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Annual conference stresses power of collaboration in mastering disruption

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Opening session speakers challenge attendees to work together to solve some of society's "hardest problems."

Many of the educational sessions at CSCMP's annual conference, held in Orlando, Florida, at the end of September, addressed head-on the major changes the profession is facing both today and in the years ahead.

In his general session address, for example, Seth Bodnar, digital technology officer for GE Transportation, talked about how software, data, and analytics are transforming the industrial marketplace. In today's business environment, it's a matter of "either disrupt or get disrupted," Bodnar told the audience of more than 3,000 conference attendees.

As an example of a disruptive change, Bodnar pointed out that GE Transportation is transforming railroad locomotives from the hulking "iron horses" of the past into mobile data centers. Embedded with more than 200 sensors, these engines use sophisticated analytics to perform more efficiently.

A number of the conference presenters emphasized that effective supply chain management and collaboration can help companies face great changes and develop innovative solutions to some of the world's most intractable problems. CSCMP Board Chairman Kevin Smith, for example, opened the conference by highlighting supply chain's role in making sure that more food arrives at the table in edible condition, less water is squandered, and more building materials, fuel, and electricity are available to people worldwide.

That hopeful theme of collaboration to solve problems was continued in the opening keynote session. In his unique presentation, astronaut Scott Kelly remembered looking back at the International Space Station as he prepared to return home after nearly a year in space, marveling at how it had been built. That effort, he said, involved 15 countries working together in a collaborative supply chain to build a football-field-sized, million-pound structure in low-Earth orbit.

"If we can build the International Space Station—which I believe is the hardest thing we have ever done, harder than going to the moon or developing nuclear power—if we can do that, then I truly believe we can do **italic{anything,"} Kelly said. "If we decide we want to go to Mars, we can go to Mars. If we decide we want to cure cancer, we can cure cancer. We can fix the problems with the environment or our fiscal problems or our political problems or social problems."

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