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Theory and practice in harmony


December 15, 2010
by Cheryl Paradowski

PURCHASINGB2B MAGAZINE, NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010: Attending my first International Symposium on Supply Chain Management recently, I found it a unique and positive setting for academics and practitioners to interact and share research and best practices.

Professional events tend to be geared for either groups of practitioners or researchers. Often, researchers attend conferences to hear what practitioners are encountering in the field. Less frequently, practitioners attend academic conferences to hear about the latest research but, more often than not, academics are simply presenting their work to each other, so having an event that is specifically targeted at both groups is really rare.

Industry should look to academics for well-researched solutions to business problems that they themselves might not have the time to investigate. Similarly, academics can find inspiration for new research by hearing about the real-world challenges practitioners are facing.

Supply chain leadership

PMAC’s role in hosting this annual event is important. Our commitment to this Symposium is part of our mission and vision to build leadership in supply chain management and be recognized as an authority for the profession. This event allows us to foster future innovation on the emerging horizons of SCM, and reinforces our commitment to thought leadership.

The amazing pace of growth of infrastructure in China was eye-openingly presented by Symposium keynote speaker Dr Linda Sprague, first emeritus professor at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai. The first highway in China was built less than 10 years ago, but by the end of 2010 the country will already have more kilometres of highways than the US and will move 10 times the global average of freight per kilometre of train track.

Understanding and staying informed about our global, interconnected economy gives you leverage in the field and a competitive advantage for your organization. As we all learned during the recent recession, events outside our borders can affect us just as much as those happening domestically.

The Symposium creates a forum for practitioners and academics to learn first-hand what is emerging in different parts of the world, from someone who has intimate knowledge and understanding of those issues. Learning about critical issues and innovation in the field through various media is important; learning through an in-person, interactive dialogue is invaluable.

Collaboration in action

I was delighted to learn about the collaboration between a practitioner and an academic at this year’s Symposium that was born from last year’s event. Their paper “A Performance Evaluation Model for Supply Chain Sourcing”, by Alfred Guiffrida, Kent State University, and Newton Paul, PAR Pharmaceutical Companies Inc. is the ideal desired outcome of the Symposium.

Having met at last year’s event, the two found they had an area of mutual interest. By leveraging their strengths in the theoretical and practical application of supply chain knowledge they created an outstanding piece of work that garnered honourable mention for this year’s Best Paper Award.

Adaptive supply chains

A key insight—and a high priority for PMAC—emerging from the panel discussion on the future of supply chain management is the need to move supply chains away from the current “Strategically-Decoupled, Price-Driven” supply chain to a “Strategically-Coupled, Value-Driven” supply chain.

The panel highlighted that the majority of today’s supply chains are static, not linked to strategic objectives, and primarily measured by price, delivery and quality. Strategically-coupled, value-driven supply chains are highly adaptive, strategic in nature and are measured by cost savings, cost avoidance, revenue growth and asset utilization. PMAC took a lead role six years ago in moving the profession towards strategic supply chain management when it began redesigning its flagship SCMP accreditation program, changing the focus from more tactical procurement to strategic supply chain management.

The words “green” and “sustainable” supply chain have both been used to signify environmentally responsible practices. I am glad the panel discussion on sustainability at the Symposium clarified that true sustainability takes into account ethical, social and economic practices, not only environmental. Sustainable supply chains are a focus for PMAC and will no doubt be a fixture at future Symposia.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have met with many innovative international researchers and practitioners at this year’s Symposium. I look forward to seeing the fruits of this year’s event at next year’s Symposium.