There are a lot of opinions about how business supply chains should respond to the COVID-19 virus and the global reaction to it. Has COVID created a new set of rules for supply chains? Or is it still the case, as it always has been, that a good supply chain manager will ensure their supply chain can “adapt” so it won’t “perish”? (To paraphrase HG Wells).
In this interview, Justin Kyngdon, General Manager of Supply Chain Solutions at Expeditors, speaks with Daniel Stanton, AKA “Mr. Supply Chain,” who discusses the current lessons for businesses. Also, how his new book, Supply Chain Management for Dummies 2nd Edition, will “name names” and provide actionable information for supply chain professionals to succeed well into the future.
Daniel Stanton, PMP, CSCP, SCPro, MCSE, MCP, MBA, MEng, is a global executive with expertise in supply chain management and project leadership. He has worked with Caterpillar, the U.S. Navy, APICS (now ASCM), MHI, and several smaller firms. He's also been a professor at Bradley University, Jack Welch Management Institute, and National American University. Daniel is recognized as a LinkedIn Learning Insider, a "Pro to Know" for Supply & Demand Chain Executive Magazine, and a Supply Chain Futurist for IBM Sterling Supply Chain.
Justin Kyngdon (Host): Hello Daniel, and thank you for your time today. What was the motivation for writing Supply Chain Management for Dummies?
Daniel Stanton: So, for those of us in the supply chain community, I think a good place to start that conversation is, “When you say supply chain, what do you mean?” because there are a lot of people that use the terms “supply chain” and “supply chain management” and they mean different things, so they end up talking past each other. That's especially problematic if it's a customer and a supplier that are both using the terms, and it means different things to both of them.
Daniel Stanton: I actually came into supply chain management from the logistics space, which is very much the space that Expeditors is in. I also had experience in the military before I moved into manufacturing. Within a manufacturing organization, I spent time in purchasing, and what I came to realize is within the supply chain, there are all these different functions that have to be collaborating, that have to understand one another and what their priorities are. And that's what defines supply chain management.
Daniel Stanton: So supply chain management is not about logistics. It's not about purchasing. It's not about manufacturing. It's understanding how all of those things fit together and the trade-offs that exist between them. So, back to your question, that was really the motivation. How do we explain all of these things, and how they're interrelated to folks across that spectrum of the supply chain functions, so that we, on the one hand, have a broad enough knowledge to be able to collaborate with our colleagues and really maximize the benefits, maximize the value that we're creating. At the same time, we can have deep subject matter expertise in our particular function or our particular area. That's the part that we're responsible for and the key to helping the whole organization or that whole supply chain be successful.
Justin Kyngdon: Since writing Supply Chain Management for Dummies, what trends are you seeing in supply chains?
Daniel Stanton: Every company thinks that they are the furthest behind in their industry, and every industry thinks they're behind every other industry. The fact is, all of us talk a pretty good game. Very few of us play a very good game, but we're all getting better. If there is a silver lining around COVID, it's that for supply chains, it's really highlighted the importance of some of the key capabilities that we've been trying to focus on for a lot of years: visibility, automation, digitization, and digitalization. So the companies that have made some of those investments and are a little bit further ahead are now getting a ton of credit for having the foresight and the wisdom to have done that. That's good, because then for the later adopters, we've now got role models that we can point to and say, "You know what? We need to be more like company X," whether they're a competitor or not, but just as an example of why it's important for us to do it.
Daniel Stanton: Although, you need to consider that it’s hard to make a business case to do something that you've never done before, and you've never seen anybody else do, or you've never seen anybody like you do. Right? Then it's just gambling. Now all of a sudden, we're really seeing some of the companies that have made these investments in visibility technologies partnering with providers that really have strong technical capabilities or global reach. They're reaping the benefits and getting the payback on that, that you couldn't have known was a guaranteed payback until you needed it.
Justin Kyngdon: Do you see a situation developing where some businesses will now accelerate, and the gap between them and their nearest competitor will widen? Or is the technology out there and available off the shelf to rapidly close that gap?
Daniel Stanton: Probably both. One of the things we're absolutely seeing is coronavirus accelerating change, right?
Justin Kyngdon: Right.
Daniel Stanton: For better or worse. So companies that had sort of been in a slow decline – and I'm thinking in particular in the retail space – they'd been in a slow decline, but it was a slow bleeding. They could do some layoffs here, shut down something there, keep moving things around, and manage to stay afloat. All of a sudden, the rug has just been ripped out from underneath those companies. In the U.S., you see the sort of the ripple effects of that in shopping malls. As supply chain people, we know there'll be upstream impacts.
Daniel Stanton: However, companies that were further down the road doing e-commerce stuff, and now I'm thinking Target, Walmart in the U.S. where they had some of the capabilities in place, but they were moving pretty slowly; they were able to now invest more heavily, speed that up. Now you've got a real race going on between Amazon coming in from the heavily technology side now needing to figure out how to get closer to their customers physically because that's the only way to shorten distribution time and Walmart and Target who have the geography – they've got the real estate where they need it, now trying to layer the technology on top of it.
Daniel Stanton: So for those big companies that have deep pockets and were already sort of moving down the road, they've got a huge advantage because they just need to push the gas a little bit further down, and they're driving it forward. Folks that weren't on that journey already didn't have a good plan and didn't have the vision; it's going to be really hard to catch up.
Justin Kyngdon: So where would you see a freight forwarder, like Expeditors, fit in helping those clients at any stage they happen to be in? Where do you think that we can lend our expertise and skills?
Daniel Stanton: So I think one of the big challenges that we're all facing right now is we run the individual companies, and we're responsible for our own P & L and balance sheet, but we're part of a supply chain. We need to be able to see what's happening in that supply chain, understand how that affects us, our balance sheet, and our P & L, exert influence, and really operate almost seamlessly across company boundaries. So to the extent that you can become an extension of your customers’ supply chain and really understand what's driving their business, and provide transparency. Give them visibility to what's happening to their materials. So the key for everybody working in the supply chain is how do you collect information, get it into a useful format, share it quickly and accurately and in a way that your customers can digest it and use it to make better, faster decisions, and respond to what's happening in their supply chain quickly and effectively?
Justin Kyngdon: What’s one word you would use to describe 2020?
Daniel Stanton: If you look at the environment that we're in 2020, if you were going to pick one word to describe it, it's “volatility." Just everything, whether that's freight rates, whether that's capacity, whether that's the ability to ship stuff into or out of a country, or even from one state to another. Whereas, in 2019, I think you would have been right as a customer of Expeditors to be really focused on costs. In 2020, you should be willing to pay more to have better visibility and more flexibility.
Justin Kyngdon: Before we close off, you have the Second Edition of Supply Chain Management for Dummies, coming out soon. Can you give us a bit of an insight as to what's in that book?
Daniel Stanton: So the first edition of Supply Chain Management for Dummies was really just focused on pulling the story together. What are the processes in a supply chain, and how do we work together? Why should we work together? What are some of the key technologies in the space? That was three years ago. One of the things that I love about working with the For Dummies team on putting a book together is I'm encouraged to name names and to list the technologies and the companies that provide those technologies so that it's very actionable information. And as you know, in our industry, man, this changes fast.
Danial Stanton: So when I was writing the book three years ago, supply chain control towers weren't a software category. I threw in some case studies illustrating supply chain risk and resilience using COVID-19 examples and built up that section to help people get a better handle on how supply chain risk management fits into supply chain management overall, and some additional information about education and certification on options that are out there for supply chain professionals to continue to grow and advance in their careers.
Justin Kyngdon: You have other LinkedIn Learning courses as well. Can you explain those a little so the people at Expeditors can understand where they could get more education and information from you?
Daniel Stanton: LinkedIn has this library of around 15,000 courses in several different languages. So it's available worldwide, and I'm one of the supply chain instructors there. So I have a course on implementing supply chain management. I've got 50 videos on supply chain tips and courses about supply chain certification, supply chain, and careers. There are also a lot of other courses up there that are useful for supply chain folks. Not just from me, but from other professors. There's Six Sigma training, there's Lean training, there's inventory management, project management stuff, and even a lot of software coding stuff.
Daniel Stanton: So personally, I use it a lot. It's pretty rare that a week goes by that I'm not finding something that I'm like, “Okay, where do I find a class to get my feet wet with this?” The other thing that I really like about having the information on LinkedIn Learning, when we talked about collaborating with customers or even suppliers, is knowing that there's a course there that's a really easy thing to take, that can be a tool that you can let your customers know about and say, "Listen, there's this quick course on implementing supply chain management that talks about logistics and procurement and operations and how we work well together. And that gives you sort of a sense of our philosophy and how we're trying to approach it. And if you need a tool to educate your teams so that we're all speaking the same language, hey, it's there. Just click here." And I find that getting folks out of that common ground with that common approach can really help to move a relationship to the next level because you can just communicate better.
Justin Kyngdon: I think that's a really good piece of advice. Daniel, thank you very much for your time today and are looking forward to the 2nd Edition of Supply Chain Management for Dummies coming out. Thank you.
Daniel Stanton: Thank you, Justin. Take care.
The key takeaway we learned from Daniel was to always educate yourself as this industry changes fast.
To learn more and to take action, visit Daniel’s website www.danielstanton.com to:
- Learn more about Daniel Stanton
- Purchase his book Supply Chain Management for Dummies or buy online here
- Connect with Daniel’s LinkedIn Learning courses or visit LinkedIn here
- Get the latest updates on his new book, Supply Chain Management for Dummies 2nd Edition