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  • Companion Digital Editions. Searchable replicas of each magazine issue. Read them in any web browser. Delivered by email faster than printed issues.

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Profiles in Supply Management Excellence

How do you extend the frontiers of supply management excellence and build a solid competitive advantage? Answers to this pivotal question emerged from an Executive Summit of supply chain leaders convened recently at Michigan State University. The four companies profiled here, all participants in that summit, have adopted principles that promote excellence and continue to expand that frontier.

By ·

The last few decades have shown that supply management is a fundamental ingredient of business success. As companies rely increasingly on their supply chain partners, driven primarily by external developments such as rising customer demands and globalization, the importance of supply management has grown accordingly. Firms now compete based on their supply management excellence as part of an integrated network, as opposed to individual firms competing against each other.

In this environment, “good” supply chain management, in and of itself, may have lost its order-winning characteristic. Simply being “on par” with the competition is no longer enough; it simply brings you to the competitive frontier. Extending that frontier of supply chain excellence requires the aggressive pursuit and adoption of best practices. By extending that frontier, the company can differentiate itself from the competition and build a powerful competitive advantage. However, the question that remains to be answered is: How can a firm raise the level of its supply management practice to extend their performance frontier and derive that competitive edge?

To address this critical question we invited supply management executives from 25 leading companies to participate in an Executive Summit at Michigan State University (MSU) in the fall 2012. This was the fourth edition of MSU’s Executive Summit, which has become a leading venue for sharing advanced supply management approaches. Participants were senior executives from firms recognized for their supply management excellence. The presenting companies included Coca-Cola, Whirlpool, IBM, MASCO, Cisco, Alcon, John Deere, and Bloomin’ Brands. Academic representatives from MSU facilitated the event. Our objective was to learn first-hand from these successful firms how the frontiers of supply management excellence can be extended.

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The last few decades have shown that supply management is a fundamental ingredient of business success. As companies rely increasingly on their supply chain partners, driven primarily by external developments such as rising customer demands and globalization, the importance of supply management has grown accordingly. Firms now compete based on their supply management excellence as part of an integrated network, as opposed to individual firms competing against each other.

In this environment, “good” supply chain management, in and of itself, may have lost its order-winning characteristic. Simply being “on par” with the competition is no longer enough; it simply brings you to the competitive frontier. Extending that frontier of supply chain excellence requires the aggressive pursuit and adoption of best practices. By extending that frontier, the company can differentiate itself from the competition and build a powerful competitive advantage. However, the question that remains to be answered is: How can a firm raise the level of its supply management practice to extend their performance frontier and derive that competitive edge?

To address this critical question we invited supply management executives from 25 leading companies to participate in an Executive Summit at Michigan State University (MSU) in the fall 2012. This was the fourth edition of MSU’s Executive Summit, which has become a leading venue for sharing advanced supply management approaches. Participants were senior executives from firms recognized for their supply management excellence. The presenting companies included Coca-Cola, Whirlpool, IBM, MASCO, Cisco, Alcon, John Deere, and Bloomin’ Brands. Academic representatives from MSU facilitated the event. Our objective was to learn first-hand from these successful firms how the frontiers of supply management excellence can be extended.

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