CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
February 22, 2020

No silver bullet

The complexity of today's supply chains underscores the need for good information to make the right decisions.

I recently saw an interesting quote from former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson that read: "Presidents quickly realize that while a single act might destroy the world they live in, no one single decision can make life suddenly better or can turn history around for the good."

That statement will resonate with a lot of supply chain managers. We live in a rapidly changing environment, where one wrong supply chain decision can seriously affect a company's ability to remain competitive and sometimes even survive.

At the same time, there is no single silver bullet that will make a supply chain more efficient or less costly. It usually takes a combination of the right moves to achieve meaningful gains.

Today's supply chain decision makers face greater challenges than ever before. The pace of distribution is faster, customer demands are greater, and competition is no longer just the company around the block, but also the company on the other side of the planet. These are just some of the challenges (and opportunities) that require supply chain professionals to make good decisions every day.

These are also what makes this industry exciting. In my 20-plus years covering this field, I've learned that no two situations are exactly alike. Each company's needs are different, based on the products it handles, the customers it serves, and the size of its network (to name just a few of the factors that determine how a company designs its supply chain). These differences always give us fresh stories to tell.

As we saw at the recent Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) EDGE Supply Chain Conference & Exhibition show in Anaheim, California, no two supply chains are exactly alike. That's why there were more than 100 educational sessions and 140 exhibitors on hand, all discussing and showcasing different supply chain solutions. The approximately 3,000 attendees were there to learn how those solutions could match their specific applications.

We also saw how the digital age is impacting supply chains. Data is indeed king, and many of the educational sessions addressed the need for companies to capture and manage data for better decision making. Technology, blockchain innovation, artificial intelligence, and 5G were also front and center at the conference. Session topics centered on the complexity of today's supply chains and offered applicable strategies to deal with companies' current challenges. Keynote speaker Jeremy Gutsche, an innovation expert and chief executive officer of Trend Hunter, pointed out that while many companies want to innovate to create meaningful and sustainable businesses, "most people don't want to break from the proven path."

The complexity of supply chains underscores the need for supply chain professionals to stay informed, so they can make smart decisions. We will continue to be here to help you keep up. Let's enjoy the ride together.

David Maloney is editorial director of CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly.

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