Supply Chain in Space at 2016 CSCMP Conference

Supply Chain in Space at 2016 CSCMP ConferenceAstronaut Scott Kelly kicked off this year’s 2016 CSCMP Conference with an inspiring account of his record breaking year aboard the International Space Station. What does this have to do with supply chain you ask?

Although supply chain management is not rocket science there were a number of key takeaways from Captain Kelly’s presentation that can be applied to our field.

1) Sense and Respond
High performance aircraft and space vehicles require constant analysis and quick adjustments to ensure an uneventful flight. Similarly, becoming complacent or settling for the status quo can lead to disruptions in your supply chain. You need systems in place to monitor activity, alert you to potential dangers and allow you to act when required. (For more on sense and respond: Making Sense out of “Sense and Respond”)

2) Risk Mitigation
Risk mitigation in space operations is all about compartmentalization while maintaining overall operational awareness. Astronauts have planned and trained for countless situations that may arise. Similarly, your supply chain must be able to stay one-step ahead of the market and changing conditions. The ability to plan for and simulate multiple scenarios can be the difference between smoothly moving through the disruption or missing the warning signs and reacting to minimize the damage. (For more on risk: Supply Chain Risk Management and Rocket Science)

3) Planning
According to Captain Kelly, inventory management and spare part location accuracy is critical to survival in the abys of space. Accurate planning is required before any mission takes flight. After all, once you are several hundred miles above Earth, resupply can be near impossible. Amazon will not ship to you for free in 2 days or less. Inventory management here on Earth may not seem so life or death, but not having the right inventory at the right place at the right time can certainly be career limiting.

4) The Right Stuff
It takes the right kind of person to become an astronaut. And, just like in the movie The Right Stuff, who you have sitting next to you in the cockpit can determine the success of a mission. Just like in most supply chain organizations, talent utilization and situational leadership is key to a well-functioning international space station crew.

Captain Kelly said one of the keys to his success was his ability to plan and to set goals. I think many supply chain organizations could learn from his example. Yes, supply chain management is not rocket science, but I for one believe that the supply chain management professional could learn from Captain Kelly’s amazing ground-breaking expedition on the International Space Station and be inspired by his ability to accomplish his dreams.

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