The Good, the Bad and the Ugly at the High Tech Supply & Demand Summit

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The first words foretold the upcoming days. When I checked into the hotel at the High Tech Supply & Demand Summit in San Francisco, the front desk person, as she was handing me the room card, pointed to the right, and said, “if you go for a walk, don’t go that way, that’s the Tenderloin district. It’s a very dangerous place.” Those initial words rang true to what happened the next two days. Having spent two years at AMR Research, I’ve seen the type of analyst that will be so direct, the message comes across harsh. I’ve leaned towards the concept of writing the positives, with some humor, and based on practical, business-based supply chain knowledge. Today, for this blog post, that changes.

The Good

As always with the IE Group conferences, the speakers, presentations and content were fantastic. They were based in core business challenges, with practical take home learnings. I’ve seen other conferences that focus too much on the “2020” and “Future Supply Chain” stuff. Hard to take sustainable 3D printing advice to the CFO, when they are asking for inventory and cost savings. The best quote of the conference came from Jawbone.

“Is your supply chain Reaction Worthy?”

There are many supply chains that pride themselves on “getting it over the goal line”, and “chasing down that shortage”. When you think about it, those concepts are costing the company cash flow, either in lower margin or lost productivity. The biggest issue with Excel isn’t the potential errors, the multiple sets of numbers, or the disconnected plans. It’s the strong willed planner who uses Excel to get their supply chain disruption fixed. Yes, they may have fixed the issue. But, at what cost? Were there other higher priority issues? What carnage did fixing this issue create? All this gets back to “Reaction Worthy”. As Jawbone presented, the better supply chains need to be notified of a true, priority exception, not have all planners running around trying to find exceptions. Only when this happens, will planners be able to drop the “reactionary” model and move towards a “proactive” model. Jawbone left with some great questions each supply chain leader should take back home:

  • What If your competition puts a similar product out, do you know what supply chain model they are using to beat your margin and profit?
  • What is your ideal reaction?
  • What is the cost impact? Revenue impact?
  • What other reactions should you consider? Have you simulated them?
  • Who needs to collaborate and who needs to agree on the response?
  • Have you prepared probability scenarios to address the risk?
  • When you “Hit Start”, are you certain ALL nodes of your network are executing the change?

Later that day, these questions were brought to life when a brand presented their supply chain story. As they talked about customer collaboration and such, an actual customer of the brand was in the audience. It was dynamic and entertaining, along with some awkward back and forth. That’s the fun of the IE Group content. Watching a brand and customer challenge their supply chain model was insightful.

The Bad

The comments from the registration desk put the venue at the top of this list. This wasn’t a great location for a conference. The accommodations, along with some service and a tight fit, were below average. As well, the multiple company presentations need be limited. Three separate companies presented twice in the two days. That’s six presentations from three companies. While the content was interesting, I would have wanted to see a mix of companies, rather than one company presenting multiple times during the conference. As a vendor, I did take back a huge lesson. When having a customer present on behalf of a vendor, make sure the content shows the customer challenge, the customer response, and the customer benefits only. The audience will engage with the customer much more. Hearing about the software and getting a sales pitch disengages the room. There were 34 questions for Jawbone, who presented on behalf of Kinaxis. Another vendor added software and marketing insights to their customer presentation. While interesting, that presentation only received three questions.

The Ugly

I thought this section would contain itself to just our account executive. When driving back home to the south bay from San Francisco, another car hit him. Thankfully he’s fine and it was just the car damaged. I understand this happens, but, you see, he was days away from moving his family back to Chicago, and this had a huge impact on his schedule. However, the Ugly story doesn’t end there. It was school vacation week, so my family decided to join me in San Francisco, since San Diego is not too far of a drive. We went over to the Exploratorium, parked in a paid lot, in the handicap spot. When we returned a few hours later, we found our car windows were smashed, and some luggage taken. We had to drive the eight hours back to San Diego with kids and a service dog sitting next to smashed windows. The police were very helpful with the report, but said “this happens a lot.” I did some “googling” and found he was right. Crime, especially against tourists, is up dramatically in San Francisco. I guess the “Hope and Change” isn’t quite what we expected in the City by the Bay!

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