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Supply Chain Productivity Top of Mind at APICS Conference

Getting out of the office to attend an industry event offers a great opportunity to find out what’s on the minds of supply chain professionals and what subjects they are interested in

By ·
By ·

Getting out of the office to attend an industry event offers a great opportunity to find out what’s on the minds of supply chain professionals and what subjects they are interested in.

The annual APICS conference that took place in Pittsburgh last week was no exception.  This has to be one of the most enthusiastic groups of professionals I’ve ever come across. They are dedicated to learning as much as they can from the conference experience, as evidenced by the fact that the educational sessions were all packed—from the early bird workshops at 8 AM to the late afternoon slots.  (OK, so it’s tough to sneak out to the golf course in Pittsburgh in late October.)

Pressed to pick one recurring vibe at this year’s APICS event, I would point to the attendees’ interest in figuring out how to maximize their productivity—both personally and within their department or company—albeit with limited resources.

One of the often-overlooked, though high-potential ways, to increase productivity is by reducing unnecessarily complexity in products and processes. That was the well-received message from speakers Robert Trent of Lehigh University and scmr.com blogger Robert Rudzki of Greybeard Advisors in their session. The speakers related how unnecessary complexity (unnecessary is the operative word here as not all complexity is necessarily bad, they asserted) invariably drives up costs and destroys productivity. They provided a list of actions they can take to reduce or eliminate complexity in their organizations.

A big crowd turned out to hear Lisa Hershman talk about “results-focused” management. Hershman, co-author of the book Faster, Cheaper, Better, emphasized that when the customer is made the focal point of your business and supply chain strategy, you almost automatically end up pursuing meaningful activities that bring positive results. (The corollary is that you eliminate the non-productive tasks that mainly consume time and resources.)

One last impression from this year’s meeting was the sense of optimism that pervaded the event.  Not wild happy-days-are-here-again enthusiasm, mind you, but rather a solid confidence that the economy is back on solid footing and finally ready to build some momentum. That alone was worth the trip to Steelers country.


About the Author

Frank Quinn, Editor Emeritus
Frank Quinn is Editor Emeritus of Supply Chain Management Review, considered the premier publication for supply chain executives. Frank was the founding editor of SCMR and has overseen its growth over the past 16 years. He has been covering the logistics and supply chain scene in various editorial and consulting positions for more than three decades. Frank is also co-author of the book Diagnosing Greatness: Ten Traits of the Best Supply Chains.

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From the September-October 2017
Additive manufacturing and 3D printing promise to simplify manufacturing, reduce inventories, and streamline operations. But, to determine when and how to apply additive manufacturing, organizations need a decision model that assesses it’s market strategy, supply chain performance, and complexity.
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