As the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals celebrates its 50-year anniversary, it's an appropriate time to consider how far the profession has advanced during that time. When I look back on the past half-century, it brings to mind a popular slogan from a 1960s advertising campaign that ran here in the United States: "You've come a long way, baby!"
And we certainly have! While logistics has long received recognition as a principal player in the development of global societies, the concept and discipline of supply chain management is a relative newcomer to the business stage. Yet in today's global marketplace, supply chain management is the principal connecting force that brings together regions, countries, and continents.
Over the last 50 years, supply chain management has both influenced and been influenced by a number of important developments. Containerization and intermodalism, which actually got underway in the mid 1950s, and deregulation of transportation paved the way for logistics innovation. The introduction of bar codes and automatic identification provided the first means for tracking the movements of parts and products across the supply chain. Companies such as Walmart led the way in using supply chain practices to bring lower prices and an ever-expanding selection of merchandise to consumers worldwide. The Toyota production system spawned "lean thinking" that guides manufacturing and distribution to this day. Computerization led to the development of software programs that help supply chain professionals manage the many challenges associated with operating across the globe.
Most people nowadays take supply chain management's achievements for granted. For instance, consumers expect to find fresh fruit in their grocery stores all year 'round. But back in the 1960s, refrigerated trucks transporting fresh fruit from California to New York City in just four days was innovative. What was futuristic back then is commonplace today. It is supply chain management—and managers—that get the products consumers want into stores efficiently, on time, and at the right price.
In the future, supply chain management will play an even more critical role in serving businesses and consumers. In particular, the advent of multichannel markets, where consumers can order anything from anywhere, will demand that supply chains adapt to a new way of doing business and develop increasingly sophisticated ways to fulfill those orders. Their ability to make use of "big data" will help supply chains meet those demands while improving operational performance.
All those developments and much more will generate a tremendous need for qualified, educated talent, both for labor as well as for leadership. You can count on CSCMP to help companies meet that need. Just as from its inception in 1963 as the National Council of Physical Distribution Management, CSCMP has been there to advance the discipline and highlight the supply chain's importance in creating shareholder value, we will be there over the next 50 years to both groom and support the next generation of talented professionals who will surely shape global business.