During the opening session of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' (CSCMP) Annual Conference, astronaut Scott Kelly shared what was running through his mind as he left the International Space Station after having spent a year in space.
Kelly told the audience of some 3,000 supply chain professionals that he looked back at the space station, marveling at how it had been built. That effort, according to Kelly, involved 15 countries—some of which used to be bitter enemies—working together to build a football field-sized, million-pound structure in low earth orbit. Some of the components of the station had not even touched one another before they were joined together.
"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 anything," said Kelly. "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."
This message of the power of collaboration to solve the world's hardest problems has been carried through to a large part of the conference, which is being held this week in Orlando, Fla. CSCMP Board Chairman Kevin Smith, for example, opened the conference by emphasizing 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.
The first day of the conference also featured close to 50 educational sessions, many of which addressed collaboration, connectivity, and network building. Subjects included how to work with sales to foster idea sharing between your internal supply chain experts and your customers, how to improve relationships between shippers and third-party logistics service providers, and how to work with your suppliers' suppliers.Caplice receives DSA
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Chris Caplice, who received CSCMP's Distinguished Service Award (DSA), also touched on the importance of collaboration in his acceptance speech.
Caplice has worked in both industry and academia and jokingly referred to himself as "too much of a practitioner to be a good academic, and too academic to be a good practitioner."
What makes CSCMP unique, he said, is that it attracts academics and practitioners in equal measure. Sometimes, however, the two don't know how to approach one another, according to Caplice.
He challenged practitioners to go out of their way to buy academics a cup of coffee or a beer and hear about the latest research, and he urged his fellow academics to listen to practitioners and attempt to "solve a really practical problem every once in a while."
The conference will continue through today and tomorrow, with a major session from Seth Bodnar of GE Transportation on how technology can improve supply chain management as well as mega-sessions on business intelligence, supply chain innovation, and last-mile delivery.