As Boundaries Blur, Communities Take Shape

The times they are a-changin’. . . and so they were back in 1964 when poet/songwriter Bob Dylan soulfully sang that song. But the times, they still are a-changin’ more than four decades later, and changing more rapidly, more dynamically, and more profoundly than ever before. And nowhere has change occurred more dramatically than in the world of business, much of it propelled by the marvels of modern technology.

Take a look at the “business” of supply chain management (SCM). Since the 1960s, it has evolved from physical distribution to logistics to supply chain management. From a humble, invisible corporate necessity to a critical component of commerce that has achieved global prominence in boardrooms and on Wall Street. Supply chain management has shed its dowdy image as a “cost center” in favor of a more glamorous image as “revenue generator.” SCM has become a 21st Century global superpower.

The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) was born in 1963 and given the name of the National Council of Physical Distribution Management (NCPDM). The organization was formed by a visionary group of managers, consultants and educators who foretold the integration of transportation, warehousing, and inventory as the future of the discipline. Forty-five years later, we can see that CSCMP’s founders were at the forefront of forecasting the future of the physical distribution field.

The eventual integration of SCM functions has been but a microcosm of what has been happening in recent times…wherever there are boundaries and borders. The walls are coming down, in countries and in companies around the globe, as the worldwide web of technology has connected and united us into the seamless, borderless commercial community of today.

As supply chain managers, our mission is vital. We deliver the products and services that our customers want—and need—to survive and thrive, 24/7/365, on all seven continents and beyond.

SCM leaders have common goals: to satisfy our customers, minimize our costs, maximize our profits. When key participants—shippers, carriers, and 3PLs—collaborate and share information within and across the supply chain, the entire process is more efficient and effective than it would have been had all the players operated independently.

Without authentic collaboration, all we have is a collection of companies, each one following its own path, and nobody wins. When a community of partners work together, everybody benefits, especially the consumer.

Today’s technology enables us to better understand our customers and communicate with our supply chain community in real time, creating a unified, fluid process from beginning to end. Collaboration is the driving force behind supply chain management excellence. That is why today, more than ever, it is critical for us to understand the new paradigm of “community,” and what it means to us, our companies, and our customers.

CSCMP understands the importance of community as we seek to bring global SCM professionals together, and collaborate with those who share our goal of educating today’s and tomorrow’s leaders. CSCMP is working hard to promote collaboration as the cornerstone of SCM excellence.

So, spread the word and tear down those walls. Advocate the need for supply chain partners to work as a community, one based on transparency and trust. Continue to pursue supply chain excellence by creatively collaborating with others, and you will elevate the profession— and yourself—to world-class status.

Blasgen is President and CEO of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals CSCMP)

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