Accenture Academy Blog

Another afternoon flight, another summertime thunderstorm delay! That is the simple reality when you fly in and out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport like I do.

Delays are inevitable regardless of your home airport. If it’s not weather, your travel may be disrupted by equipment delays, connection problems, and crowded aircraft. To minimize your frustration and lost productivity, use the time to catch up on some supply chain reading.

In the days before portable technology, this would require you to haul a stack of heavy magazines around or make photocopies of specific reports. Since I don’t want to give you back pain or act environmentally irresponsible, I have selected readings that are available in PDF format or via the Internet. They can be readily accessed via notebook computer, iPad, Kindle, or other mobile devices.

Topping the must-read list is the Council of Supply Chain Management’s 22nd Annual State of Logistics Report. Released each June, this yearly review tracks major trends in logistics costs, freight volumes, and key performance indicators.

This year’s installment of the State of Logistics Report reveals that logistics accounts for 8.3 percent of US gross domestic product. As highlighted by the table, the total 2010 spend was $1.2 trillion. This is 10.4 percent higher than 2009. Both inventory and transportation costs rose 10.3 percent in 2010. Trucking still accounts for the bulk of logistics spending, though spending for other modes rose grew faster in 2010.

The study’s author predicts that 2011 will be a challenging year for everyone in the logistics sector. Freight rates, particularly in trucking, are expected to rise significantly in 2011 unless freight volumes soften. Fuel costs, drive shortages, and increased regulation are additional issues to manage.

Another valuable research report is The Chief Supply Chain Officer Report from SCM World. This 2011 study surveyed over 750 global executives in an effort to understand how companies are positioning their supply chain organizations to deliver growth. Over 83 percent of the respondents strongly believe that supply chain excellence drives value in the organization through customer service and customer loyalty. Information visibility and lead time reliability improvements are the primary facilitators of value. The study also notes that as SCM becomes a competitive weapon, it is imperative to improve the skill sets of the supply chain workforce and develop management talent.

The Gartner Supply Chain Top 25 always proves to be an interesting read. The 7th annual study highlights supply chain innovators and their impact on best practices. Leading the way in 2011 are Apple, Dell, P&G, Research In Motion, and Amazon. New entrants to the top 25 include Nestlé, Starbucks, 3M, and Kraft Foods. According to the Gartner analysts, these supply chain leaders are adept at:

  • Resiliency—the ability to deliver predictable results, despite the volatile economic conditions.
  • Integration—selection of appropriate strategies to control the end-to-end value chain.
  • Vision—the ability to articulate a clear strategy and consistently execute against it.
  • Orchestration—creation of new rules, best practices, and differentiation.

Resiliency is the focal point of another recent study. The ChainLink Research Supply Chain Risk Survey focuses on the ability of organizations to effectively handle disruptions and become more resilient to supply chain problems. The results may not be what you would logically expect after more than a decade of attention. Survey respondents indicate that supply chain risk investments and capabilities are relatively low. Risk management must move from being a conversation to a high priority for company executives and supply chain professionals. The authors assert that new and innovative practices must emerge to shield the organization from the high cost of disruptions.

While most research focuses on end-to-end supply chain collaboration and information sharing, analysts at eyefortransport have investigated asset sharing at a common level of the supply chain for mutual benefit. Their study, the North American Horizontal Collaboration in the Supply Chain Report looks at this emerging strategy for supply chain efficiency, asset optimization, and margin maintenance. A growing number of manufacturers, logistics service providers, and carriers share facilities, equipment, and manufacturing capacity (sometimes with competitors) to achieve cost savings and competitive advantage. The challenges are numerous, but the rewards are worth the effort.

Finally, it is always good to read a forward-thinking piece that challenges conventional wisdom. While offshoring has been the strategy of choice for many years, there are a few organizations bringing production back onshore. The Accenture study Made in America: Rethinking the Future of US Manufacturing digs into this situation. The goal is not to chronicle the potential shift but rather to understand the key drivers of manufacturing growth in the US. The role of supply chain management in facilitating the transition is investigated in the report. Options such as regional distribution, market-based production, and supply chain flexibility are discussed.

So, there you have a variety of readings to review when you are unavoidably delayed. They cover a wide swath of SCM topics and provide perspectives from research conducted in the US, North America, and around the world. Not only will they help pass the time, they will also build your knowledge and keep you up to date on supply chain leaders, best practices, and emerging strategies.

Did I miss any of your favorites or particularly enlightening recent studies? If so, let me know. I need to continuously improve my knowledge base, not to mention find great articles for my students to study. Thanks in advance for your input!


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