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The Next Generation Supply Chain Leader

February 06, 2013


Supply Chain FutureCan young, smart, driven supply chain students and their professors teach us anything about the future of supply chain?

Recently I went to the MIT Media Lab Building for an event co-hosted by the local chapter of CSCMP and MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics.  

There were two things going on. The first was a MIT Supply Chain Student Poster Session and Networking Night. Two big rooms were lined with the logistics projects from graduate students of MIT’s Logistics programs. The students themselves were on hand to explain their projects, interact and answer questions.

The second activity was a presentation by Dr. Yossi Sheffi on his new book “Logistics Clusters”. Very well known in supply chain, many of the people I work with on a daily basis passed through Dr. Sheffi’s classes at MIT.

We made the rounds and talked with students about their projects and a few points struck me:

  • First: These graduate students were all well-spoken and incredibly smart. I know we should expect no less from the ivy grown halls in Cambridge, but I walked away from most of these conversations thinking, “I’d love to have this person working for me!” I wouldn’t be afraid to drop any of them into a dicey customer supply chain project with confidence that they’d figure it out and be successful.
  • Second: This was a global crew of student practitioners. Students from all over the world and all continents filled this session. I think this is an indication of the transfer/sharing/dispersion of supply chain practitioner knowledge across this global logistics network we call home.
  • Third: I noticed a preponderance of humanitarian or ‘aid’ related logistics problems attacked by these students. This next global generation of supply chain practitioners is very concerned about using logistics and supply chain expertise to feed the hungry and cure disease and save the environment. When my venture capitalist friend told them there was no money in it they looked at him like he was missing the point.  
  • Fourth: With all the smarts and good intentions most of these projects were still very basic. They were manually approaching problems we have had off-the-shelf software solving for years. However, maybe with fresh eyes and fresh intent, they can find a better way.
The presentation by Dr. Sheffi was entertaining and interesting as well. The simple premise of his book is that you can create green field physical clusters of logistics operations and they will become excellent economic engines for all involved.

In conclusion the future of supply chain and logistics looks quite bright if these folks are leading it.

Chris Russell is Vice President at Logility.

Tags: Industry Matters

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