Bricks Matter Book Review: Part 1

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I received my personally signed copy of Lora Cecere’s Bricks Matter and it immediately had me thinking that I have always wanted to do a book review.

As for reviewing this particular text, I also thought it might be nice to bring a perspective that was not steeped in traditional supply chain knowledge and experience.  Having spent the last 15 years in enterprise software, I am continually struck by how different the value chain of plan-source-make-deliver-return, along with the associated supplier and customer touch points, is with enterprise software.  Thinking about it the other way round, I have no natural biases in reading the book from the perspective of how I think value chains should be structured. So, here goes.  This will be a seven-part series.  One blog per chapter with a final, summary review to wrap up. The first chapter, Why Bricks Matter, starts us off with a great tone and foundation for the rest of the book.  I was expecting the chapter to be a history lesson on the last 30 years of supply chain, which it certainly covers, but it is also a lot more.  The chapter acts as a blueprint for the rest of the book, but more importantly, a blueprint for value chains of the future.

Before getting to the history-for-the-purposes-of-future-blueprint section of the chapter, it is important to point out what Lora refers to when she says, “bricks.”  Lora points to three components of building the right BRICKS: (1) Buildings and the Right Use of Assets, (2) Expansion into BRIC countries, and (3) Supply Chain Process Knowledge.  The building blocks lay out the essential components to value chain strategy creation for the short-term and the future. Lora does a brilliant job of telling the history (and of the immediate future stage) of supply chain management by looking at each 10-year stage (generation) of supply chain by the pioneers who defined each generation: What were their backgrounds?  What challenges were they facing?   What was the state of information technology?  This backdrop really helps understand why choices (good and bad) were made in the past and the likely path leaders will need to take to drive value chain excellence in the future.
Moving on from the pioneers themselves, Lora shifts (literally) to the five shifts in supply chain processes after pointing out why supply chain processes are so important.  In my opinion, these five shifts act as a blueprint for supply chain excellence more than other maturity models that I have seen.  Each model obviously has a place, but Lora’s model is very practical and easy-to-understand, covers all aspects of the value chain, and frankly, points out the stages that supply chain leaders are progressing through today.
Lora wraps up the chapter with a discussion of the supply chain leaders – based on solid evidence.  I will leave the discussion on these leaders for future blogs. To summarize chapter 1, it does a great job giving the history of supply chain management and the beginnings of a blueprint for the future. I am really looking forward to the next 5 chapters.

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