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Reflections from ASCM’s 2019 Annual Conference

By Matt Tichon  September 23, 2019

Just when you thought that you had it figured out, it all changes. That statement echoes the themes, sessions, content and discussions from this year’s annual ASCM conference that I had the privilege of attending as part of the association’s Corporate Advisory Group. The ASCM organization did a fantastic job of focusing the conference content around the many areas of change that supply chain leaders are facing.

Here are five noteworthy areas that I found particularly thought-provoking.

1. The Release of the Digital Capabilities Model (DCM) for Supply Networks was Jointly D­­­­­­­­eveloped by ASCM and Deloitte Consulting LLP

Jeroen Kusters from Deloitte made the comment, “While this is not meant to replace the linear SCOR model, it is a new model that focuses on digital enablement and interconnected thinking. It helps people to understand all the interdependencies apparent in supply chains”. He went on to elaborate how the world around us is constantly changing and categorized those changes in the areas of customer expectations, new technologies and hyper-connectivity. The following three points stood out to me as incredibly relevant from Jeroen’s presentation related to the DCM model:

Digitally Enabled: Technology is no longer an afterthought to enable established processes but has transformed into an enabler of new capabilities which generate value for the organization.

Network Thinking: Traditional linear supply chain thinking has driven organizations to establish silos between functions, impeding the ability to meet customer expectations in our increasingly interconnected world.

Whole Systems Thinking: This entails actively breaking down barriers between functions to enable a digital supply network with truly integrated processes between different business functions with the opportunity to perform integrated optimization across the enterprise.

Read the Deloitte press release. 

2. End-to-end Network Orientation/Interconnectedness of Supply Chains

This theme was evident in many sessions and panel discussions. I was also thrilled to see “Supply Network Design” specifically broken out as a second level process under Synchronized Planning in the DCM model.

This year Gartner, ASCM and Deloitte have specifically called out network design or the digital supply chain twin as a critical area of focus and that makes me excited! Companies will now inherently see this as a capability that they need to have. My sincere hope is that this will serve as a catalyst for organizations to shift from spreadsheet-based decisions to a much broader enterprise decisioning platform that enables cross-functional optimization and drives incredible value for them, their customers and shareholders.

During a corporate advisory session, we were asked to stack rank a predefined list of seven habits that highly effective supply chain leaders in our companies have from the most to least effective. It was really no surprise that on the top of the list was continuous improvement, process management and the ability to build win-win relationships. What was eye-opening were the three leadership traits that rated the lowest, or in other words traits that are not often being exhibited by executive leaders. Here are the results of our stack-ranking:

  • Continuous Improvement Advocate
  • Process Management
  • Win-Win Relationship Builder
  • Strategic Integration
  • End-to-end Network Orientation
  • Enterprise Scorecard Management
  • Technology and Tools Acumen

Again, we see that our highly effective leaders are not leveraging technology as effectively as they could be, as the last three traits are all technology-related.

3. Top Trends Impacting Supply Chain 3+ Years from Now

A large research study has been conducted by ASCM’s Research, Innovation and Strategy Committee (RISC) Sensing subcommittee. The study that RISC carried out was to identify the top ten trends that will be critically important to the supply chain community 3+ years into the future. While the results are not yet finalized and published, the top three trends are:

  1. Advanced Analytics and Automation (includes AI/ML)
  2. Supply Chain Risk and Resiliency
  3. Cyber Security

That is interesting especially when the press release from the DCM states, “Seventy-six percent of respondents to a recent Deloitte survey said developing digital and analytics capabilities was the most or very important to delivering the overall supply chain strategy. However, 56 percent of survey respondents spend $5 million or less on digital and analytics capabilities annually, demonstrating a need for more strategic investment.”

4. Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning

I had the privilege of spending an entire day in a pre-conference classroom session with Professor and President of the American Institute of Artificial Intelligence, Inc., Dr. Al Naqvi. His research and expertise cover applied artificial intelligence in business, including machine learning training from Stanford and he is currently authoring the first book on AI for business strategy.

Al covered the world’s first comprehensive model of a fully autonomous supply chain that he developed. He outlines a supply chain that is:

Autonomous: Self-adjusting without human intervention to the demands of requisite changes

Anticipatory: Anticipated value vectors before a given state occurs and hence preemptively intervenes, adjusts, adapts and self-heals (predictive and prescriptive)

Aware: Higher state of awareness achieved via Machine Learning (deep/reinforcement Learning)

Supply Network:

  • Nodes are actors attempting to maximize their value
  • Links represent the interactions
  • Nodes do not create emergence (only interactions do, hence links)
  • Decentralized: since no central control regulates the system
  • Focal boundary exists: awareness about the forward and backward possible
  • Value vector is the successful outcome

5. Petrobras Becomes the First Company to Receive ASCM Enterprise Certification for Environmental, Ethical and Economic Supply Chain Excellence

Sustainability, social responsibility, economic stability and ecological stewardship are all at the front of the minds of today’s supply chain leaders. It was great to see thousands of supply chain leaders clapping profusely when this award was announced and given to Petrobas. There was a great sense of pride that was apparent for our profession, that we as supply chain leaders are serving as the change agents to bring these topics to fruition within global enterprises.

The certification is the first-of-its-kind corporate level designation that demonstrates supply chain excellence and transparency — a growing value for consumers as they become more educated about supply chain supporting ethical and sustainable business practices.

Read the Petrobas press release.

As I look over these trends it occurs to me just how well LLamasoft’s application platform is geared to help organizations deliver incredible value with any number of the above areas. From deploying AI, generating insights with machine learning algorithms, understanding and optimizing interconnected decision making, designing resilient, sustainable supply chains or simply helping executives with enterprise score carding, LLamasoft has you covered.

Wishing my new connections from ASCM the best until we see one another again! Be sure to follow LLamasoft on LinkedIn for more industry insights, news and jobs.