Big-sky thinking

September 2, 2010
by By Deborah Aarts
Close to 500 delegates and presenters gathered in Saskatchewan for PMAC’s 85th annual National Conference. Photo: Tourism Saskatchewan/ Charles Melnick 

Corral nearly 500 supply chain professionals in one city for a few days and you’re bound to round up some innovation.

That was certainly true at the 85th annual Purchasing Management Association of Canada (PMAC) National Conference, which took place in Regina, Saskatchewan from June 9 to 11.

Of course, the lingering effects of the recession were top-of-mind. But there was a distinct sense of optimism in the prairie air. With industry experts speaking on the state of the profession post-downturn and delegates swapping best practices, the title of the conference—“Winds of Change”—proved very apt. Here are five of the biggest ideas presented.

1. Collaboration matters

In today’s marketplace, companies can’t expect to get ahead if they go it alone. So said futurist Jim Bottomley in a keynote address on the opening day of the conference.

“Collaboration wins today,” he said. A big reason for this is the fact that supply chains are becoming more global, more just-in-time and more supported by technology; as a result, there are more players involved. When there isn’t good collaboration, “problems occur at the pass-off.”

Inter- (and intra-) company collaboration may have been unheard-of in the past, but in the future, it’s going to be necessary, he said.

In a breakout session later that morning, Mark Morrissey of Deloitte Consulting Inc supported Bottomley’s prediction, adding that in world-class supply chains, collaboration now means jointly reaping the benefits—and sharing the risk.

“It starts to become more difficult to understand where your organization ends and your supplier’s begins,” he said.

To ease any potential points of friction in doing this, Morrissey suggests setting up mechanisms like gain share agreements, whereby you pay suppliers based on how well the overall supply chain performs.

2. Cost containment requires metrics

What’s the best way to keep supply chain costs in line? For contract manufacturer Celestica Inc, the next big thing is measuring total cost of ownership (TCOO).