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Next Week- Join Bob Ferrari at QAD Explore 2016


Next week, ERP technology provider QAD will be conducting its QAD explore 2016 annual customer conference being held in Chicago.  The conference kicks-off with a welcome reception on Monday evening, May 2nd, with general sessions beginning on Tuesday May 3 thru Thursday, May 5.

The conference agenda includes a number of sessions focused on specific industry challenges, technology trends, and updates and new releases related to specific QAD applications and services. Current conference registration is nearing 800 expected attendees.

We would like to call attention to one specific panel discussion: The Skills Gap and the Gig Economy, scheduled for Thursday, May 5 at 11am local time. This Editor and independent supply chain industry analyst has been invited by QAD to be a panelist to address this important topic.  Other panelists include:

Nick Castellina, Research Director at Aberdeen Group

Kaye Swanson, HR Skills Director, QAD

Sharon Ward, Senior Director Solutions Marketing, QAD

There is little question that manufacturing and supply chain talent development and retention has become a top of mind multi-industry challenge. Many organizations express frustration in their efforts to find talent with correct skills.  Challenges often relate to the large increase in Baby Boomer era retirements, image problems related to manufacturing and or supply chain careers, and means to attract and retain millennials. Desired skills include embracing the flood of new technologies making their way into manufacturing and supply chain business processes, understanding of global business cultures and facilitating organizational change. The reality is that business, technology and supply chain business challenges are out-distancing current skill and talent needs.

Our panel will highlight current organizational challenges and trends in this important area along with root causes. This Editor will address various industry developments and differing perceptions related to either training or skills gaps that are currently impacting industry supply chains. All of the panelists will also address specific questions from our audience.

In addition, Supply Chain Matters will be featuring specific coverage of QAD explore 2016 that will include takeaways and insights derived from a panel discussion on skills and talent needs along with key themes derived from the conference.

I look forward to meeting or speaking with our readers who are part of the QAD community attending next week’s event. Please say hello if you get the opportunity.

Bob Ferrari

Noteworthy Senior Supply Chain Executive Changes at J.M. Smucker


We at Supply Chain Matters are always on the lookout for important supply chain related learning, insights and accomplishments. Thus, what caught our eye was a recent announcement related to senior supply chain leadership changes at consumer foods producer J.M. Smucker.

The company announced the pending retirement of Senior Vice President, Supply Chain Logistics and Operations, Dennis J. Armstrong following 37 years with the company.  Mr. Armstrong will retire from his corporate officer role in September.

How extraordinary is that in today’s world of ever changing job roles and continuous employers.

Noted is that Mr. Armstrong has served in a number of leadership roles that have spanned logistics, operations and purchasing during his long career.

According to the announcement, Mr. Armstrong’s supply chain leadership responsibility will be assumed by two other existing J.M. Smucker executives.

James R. Ray will assume the role of Senior Vice President of Operations. Day, with 27 years at the company, was the Vice President of Coffee Operations for the past seven years and thus assumes the new senior operations management role from a line-of-business background. For readers unfamiliar with Smucker’s coffee business, it includes the retail production and distribution of Dunkin Donuts branded coffee, among other brands. Prior operations management roles for Mr. Ray were within consumer and natural foods businesses.

Robert D. Ferguson assumes the role of Senior Vice President Supply Chain.  Mr. Ferguson is currently Vice President, Integrated Business and Program Management and came to Smucker from the 2015 acquisition of Big Heart Pet Brands. Integrated business and program management responsibilities usually connote organizational transformation leadership roles. In today’s consumer goods focused supply chain, transformation remains continuous.

Both Mr. Day and Mr. Ferguson will now report directly to Smucker’s soon to be President and Chief Executive Officer, Mark Smucker, and thus will be members of the executive leadership team. Senior leadership changes included other executives as well leading to a revised executive leadership team.

Thus, yet another example of the strategic importance that operations and supply chain has garnered in supporting and delivering expected business outcomes.

While we often write about such leadership shifts, we believe it is important for Supply Chain Matters to be able to reference actual occurrence, especially in an industry that is dealing with significant business strategy challenges affecting products and changing consumer needs.

As for Mr. Armstrong, we extend our best wishes for an enjoyable and rewarding retirement after what looks to be rewarding operations and supply chain leadership career at a single employer.

Bob Ferrari

Leadership in the Supply Chain Industry Starts with Business Acumen


The following is a Supply Chain Matters guest posting by Jim Barnes, Services Managing Director for the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Business Acumen training program.

The role of a supply chain professional has never been more strategic than it is today. With professionals being responsible for more tactics and outcomes than in past years, organizations are demanding proficiency in a broad range of business skills from their purchasing staff at every level.

Supply chain requires more of a strategic plan for many reasons, the most prominent being that much of what organizations spend is wrapped up in the supply chain – up to 70 to 80 percent in some cases.

From building relationships with suppliers and internal stakeholders to gathering business intelligence and making better decisions, professionals in procurement and supply chain are more involved in the critical thinking and actions that determine success for their enterprise. As a result, a broader range of business skills and acumen are required from professionals at each level.

Today’s supply management professional must become proficient in all – not just some – of the business skills it takes to drive results for his or her company. From building relationships with suppliers and internal stakeholders to gathering business intelligence and making better, professionals in procurement and supply chain are more involved in the critical thinking and actions that determine success for their enterprise.

There are many ways to define business acumen in our field today. The skills that comprise it include:

  1. Building Relationships
  2. Business Intelligence
  3. Change Management / Transformation
  4. Communication
  5. Decision-Making
  6. Leadership
  7. People Development / Coaching
  8. Results Focused
  9. Stakeholder Engagement
  10. Strategy Development


Here at ISM Services we are regularly working with major multi-national organizations to provide targeted training in some of these areas as part of their overall learning and development roadmap.  We commonly see the need for supply management teams to address the “human-factor” through Stakeholder Engagement, for example.

Identifying, engaging and managing stakeholders can be a challenge, even in some of the best-run companies on the planet.

Business acumen also addresses the synthesis of data into intelligence for better decision-making.  In particular, our clients in high technology, pharmaceutical and utility industries are asking for training to develop skills in data analysis, problem-solving and action-planning.  It is not enough to take instructions from an ERP system and fill a requisition and issue a purchase order.  Supply management pros are expected to research and understand their spend, analyze key supplier financials and articulate insights into implementable steps.

Finally, business acumen training is mandatory for the up-and-coming generation of supply management professionals. By supporting the continued growth of these newer entrants into our market, millennials will see the value – and potential growth – of building their career in the supply chain and procurement fields. Millennials want positions that offer high engagement and come with a consistent feeling of job satisfaction. This new generation of leadership actually expects to be a strategic leader in their firms, not just tactical players. So business acumen is a key recruiting tool as well.

To learn more, contact me directly at


 Disclosure: The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) is a current client of the Ferrari Consulting and Research Group.


Supply Chain Matters Highlights from the MIT Crossroads 2016 Conference


Supply Chain Matters had the opportunity to attend the 2016 Crossroads Conference hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Transportation and Logistics (CTL). Crossroads is an annual event that began 12 years ago for the benefit of MIT CTL corporate sponsors, and each year the conference brings together leading-edge industry and global supply chain trends and insights developed by MIT and external academic focused research. This Editor has been fortunate to be invited to this event for many prior years, and this year was no exception.

The agenda included a presentation by Sertac Karaman, MIT Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics on the timely topic: Autonomous Vehicles: Driving Change in Logistics Networks. In the talk, Professor Karaman traced the recent history of self-driving cars after Google developed the first autonomous vehicle. What was most interesting was his predictions for what’s next in this area, which he indicated would be broader deployment of autonomous vehicles operating in distribution and logistics centers within the next two years, and within what he described as suburban focused driving environments within the next six years. One of the remaining challenges to be addressed, according to Karaman, was urban delivery and logistics requirement. Here, he referenced efforts underway from UK based Starship Technologies directed at a specialized autonomous delivery vehicle that can navigate urban landscapes. The summary conclusion is that there has been substantial technological advancement in autonomous vehicles over the past decade and the forthcoming two-year immediate impacts in supply chain environments will be in low-speed, low complexity environments in existing distribution centers and warehouses. Beyond that, there are many other opportunities as technology advances continue.

A presentation by Matthias Winkenbach, Director of the MIT Megacity Logistics Lab at CTL addressed the topic: Big Data and the Journey to a More Efficient Last Mile. Winkenbach reminded the audience that 60 percent of future GDP growth will emanate from 600 global cities, and that the logistics industry must tackle the current huge density of retail outlets that exist in mega city landscapes through more advanced use of big data integration techniques involving geographic, delivery requirements, physical sensor and other pertinent data sources. By combining publically available data such as income demographics, density of commercial establishments, road network density and capacity, with transactional data related to orders, MIT researches have been able to plot and simulate logistics needs for the delivery of food and beverage deliveries in some of the world’s most dense mega-city complexes. The integration of this data was described as the ability to correlate customer stops with special delivery services, to optimally identify delivery person walking time needs (off-vehicle operations) along with providing drivers information on optimal parking locations or congestion points to avoid at certain times.

A rather interesting insight from the Q&A session of this presentation was actual audience polling that revealed that a lot of data is actually being collected by organizations but is not being currently leveraged because of a number of challenges related to data accuracy, understanding, size and complexity as well as technical competence.

A fascinating but very concerning presentation came from Retsef Levi, Professor of Operations Management, MIT Sloan School of Management whose topic was: Adulteration Risks in Global Food Supply Chains Emanating from China. He addressed MIT research spanning over two years which was funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Observed was that imports of food shipments into the United States have dramatically expanded to include upwards of 80 percent of seafood, 70 percent of honey and other basic food commodities. The FDA sponsored Food Safety Modernization Act signed into law in 2011 was passed to prevent food safety problems rather than regulatory agencies having to merely react and respond to growing incidents. The act clearly shifted the responsibility and accountability for food safety with the industry, including validation of the food supply chain. MIT assembled a cross-departmental research team to address how does the structure of the food supply chain impact risk?  Because of the FDA sensitivities related to this research, we will refrain from sharing more of details. Suffice to note to our readers that the research identifies compelling risk drivers that include unmonitored stakeholders, overall dispersion of food supply chains, regulatory strength and the targeting of key strategic commodities that are common to many food products.

An industry focused presentation came from Joel LaFrance, Supply Chain Visibility Lead at General Mills. The day before the Crossroads conference, a group of CTL corporate members identified supply chain visibility as their most important and compelling challenge. That theme was addressed as LaFrance addressed the importance of defining supply chain visibility lexicon, as contrasted with transparency and traceability. He described the new influences impacting General Mills supply chains including unprecedented complexity and volatility as well as the convergence of physical and digital processes. The consumer goods producer started it supply chain visibility journey nearly 18 months deploying a series of use cases and initiatives directed at supporting line-of-business needs. Further shared were top four learnings that included realization that connected data is critical, that insuring end-to-end supply chain visibility changes that way work is performed, along with prioritizing end-to-end visibility needs as opposed to targeting specific functional needs.

This author had to cut-short his attendance for the full agenda, because of a previously scheduled client commitment. However, we did obtain a copy of CTL Executive Director Chris Caplice’s presentation: Transforming Professional education: An Update from the Front Line. Addressed was MIT’s ground breaking efforts in delivering an online ‘Micro-Master’s’ Program for Supply Chain Management that features open enrollment, online certification and no admissions criteria. While the program is characterized as not an MIT degree program, it does provide a faster path towards a degree. The curriculum will include courses such as Supply Chain Fundamentals, Supply Chain Analytics, Supply Chain Design and Technology. The online learning experience includes on-demand, ‘bite-sized’ video segments of 3-9 minutes coupled with quick reinforcing questions and extensive practice problems after each section. Current enrollment in this online program now exceeds 28,000 and includes student representation from 181 countries which is quite a testament to the global interest levels in acquiring supply chain management skills. This innovative program was described as helping organization’s to identify supply chain talent because MicroMasters provide a proxy for grit. It further helps to recognize and foster high-potential achievers by recognition.

This was another informative Crossroads conference one providing broader perspectives on the direction of supply chain management.

Bob Ferrari

© 2016 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All Rights Reserved.


ISM and ThomasNet Recognize the 2016 Complement of 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars

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In prior commentaries Supply Chain Matters has amplified the growing talent gaps that are today impacting multiple industry supply chains. As more baby boomers reach retirement age, supply chain and procurement executives are looking with trepidation at a looming talent gap. The industry needs an influx of fresh faces, especially professionals drawn from the millennial generation.

In our ongoing efforts to bring more visibility to the attractiveness for careers in supply chain management we have called prior specific attention to the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars recognition program jointly sponsored by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) and This program, initially launched in 2014, was initiated to provide role models to illustrate supply chain and procurement as an exciting and rewarding career choice.

Last April, we featured an interview with some of the architects of this noteworthy recognition program and in May, we actually interviewed some of the designated stars, and we were impressed with their confidence, scope of responsibilities and accomplishments thus far in their careers.

Today, the program announced its 2016 complement of rising stars. With an average age of 27 and delivering more than $10 million in cost savings from just a single individual, this year’s recipients span industry settings ranging from manufacturing to education, medical devices, IT and government. This year’s designated Megawatt Star was Amy Georgi, a supply chain acquisitions and integration program manager with Fluke Electronics in York Pennsylvania. Amy is described by her mentor as: “..a standout agent of supply chain transformation” and noted among her accomplishments was spearheading a complex, three-phase move of a manufacturing plant which was being divided into two facilities.

This Editor had the opportunity to review the background profiles for all 30 of this year’s rising stars designees (Available for downloading at this web link) and I was again impressed with not only the level of accomplishments so early in their careers, but the depth and diversity of backgrounds for each of these individuals.  As was the case last year, our goal is for Supply Chain Matters to highlight specific interviews with up to two of this year’s rising stars to provide our readers additional insights into the attraction of a career in supply chain management as well as the respective learning as to what led to organizational successes.  Anticipate the highlights and takeaways from these interviews in the coming weeks.

Supply Chain Matters Tip of the Hat Award

Supply Chain Matters extends our Tip of the Hat recognition to all of the 2016 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars.





Millennials are indeed the future of new talent entering our community. In addition to the ISM– ThomasNet initiative, both the Association of Operations Management (APICS) and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) have ongoing initiatives, programs and activities directed at talent management and attracting new talent of all ages.

Bob Ferrari

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