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Brains in supply chains

CSCMP cultivates university-led research to benefit careers of members.

By Chris Gillis

   The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals has long been a gathering point for serious supply chain managers to network and exchange ideas and best practices, and it’s only natural that more academics and researchers specializing in this field have also gravitated to the organization.
   CSCMP has increasingly opened its doors to educators and their students, and formed relationships with numerous academic institutions to conduct supply chain management research.
   “There are lots of things we do now with the academic community,” said Kathleen Hedland, CSCMP’s director of education and research, in an interview. “They have a strong influence in the organization.”
   It’s estimated that of the 8,500 CSCMP members globally, there are more than 1,000 individuals affiliated with graduate and undergraduate universities, community colleges and online degree programs.
   “CSCMP is uniquely positioned to be the bridge to provide the opportunity for academics to work with the practitioners to understand what their challenges are and what skills and perspectives they’re looking for in employees, and also provides students with opportunities to get exposed to what’s going on in the supply chain world,” said Bob Silverman, former CSCMP chairman and senior vice president of supply chain and logistics solutions at Jones Lang LaSalle Americas.
   The academic draw to CSCMP is expected to become even stronger under the leadership of incoming 2012 Chairman Nancy Nix, a professor at Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business. She spent the early part of her career in logistics operations at DuPont and Reliance Industries before completing her doctorate in 2001. She joined the Texas Christian faculty that same year to build its supply chain program. Nix also became part of CSCMP’s Research Strategies Committee and soon took over as its chairman. She has served on CSCMP’s board since 2005.
   “Much of my research in recent years has been focused on collaboration in the supply chain,” Nix said. “As a result of companies’ outsourcing initiatives and increased focus on their own core competencies, they are increasingly dependent on working closely with supply chain partners to respond to changes in the environment and/or to improve supply chain performance.”
   These continuous changes in supply chain management have opened doors to new collaborative research between universities and companies.
   CSCMP recently worked with Michigan State University to complete the study Organizing Supply Chains in a Time of Change, which examines how supply chains are organized and their importance to companies. The study results explained how supply chain managers must become increasingly “change ready,” which means they must:
   • Understand “change drivers” by establishing the ability to understand different emerging issues that may cause an organizational change.
   • “Sense the need for change” by analyzing relevant information, including events, trends and relationships that may impact their operations.
   • Respond to changes by using information to plan the operation’s future actions, identify the resources and capabilities to implement an “action plan,” and put necessary changes in place.
   CSCMP is working with Michigan State on a follow-up research report due in early 2012.
   The organization has also started research into supply chain talent management with a group of academics from Central Michigan and Auburn universities. “We’re looking at how companies acquire and manage talent in their supply chains,” Hedland said. “This has definite impacts on companies’ training programs.”
   CSCMP’s annual conference, to be held this year in Philadelphia on Oct. 2-5, offers numerous track sessions for universities to present their research findings to corporate supply chain managers.
   On Oct. 1, before the conference kicks off, CSCMP has organized an evening “Meet the Academics” reception. The next day academics and conference attendees are invited to join a forum to hear the latest supply chain management research. CSCMP’s Doctoral Dissertation Award winner will be announced along with the E. Grosvenor Plowman Award, Young Researchers Award, and Teaching Innovation Award.
   Also on Oct. 2, CSCMP has scheduled an all-day Doctorial Symposium for doctoral candidates in supply chain studies. This symposium’s objectives are to:
   • Offer an opportunity for students to develop a deeper understanding of supply chain management.
   • Provide a forum in which supply chain doctoral students will be able to interact with academics and executives.
   • Allow for building networks among academic and business contacts.
   • Expose students to research policy, techniques and approaches.
   • Build awareness of issues, challenges and opportunities in global business.
   Rick Blasgen, CSCMP’s president and chief executive officer, expects this year’s conference to attract upwards of 3,500 people. “Some companies are planning to send as many as 30 to 40 people,” he said.
   CSCMP’s status as a platform to present supply chain research has also gained attention among the wider business and academic community. In July, the organization’s Journal of Business Logistics (JBL) received a 3,905 journal impact factor in its first year of ranking in Thomson Reuters’ 2010 Journal Citation Reports, placing the CSCMP publication in the top 10 science and social science journals for the management subject category.
   Impact factors are recognized measurements that reflect the frequency of journal citations by researchers. They are calculated annually for journals that are indexed in the Journal Citation Reports, and are considered an important evaluation tool for ranking a journal’s quality.
   “The JBL’s impressive impact factor reflects the effect that its research is having on articles published in scientific and other academic journals,” said Matthew Waller from the University of Arkansas, who along with Stanley Fawcett of Georgia Southern University, edits the publication. “It’s a measure of how important a journal’s research is to the academic community.”
   Both Waller and Fawcett have made it their goal to expand the journal’s research and increase coverage of supply chain challenges within the industry.
   The supply chain logistics research also spans beyond the North American shipper experience.
   “CSCMP continues to focus on providing education and research to prepare supply chain leaders and professionals for the future,” Nix said. “More and more that means having a global focus, where we continue to strengthen our initiatives — for example the recent opening of our regional office in India, our global conferences, continued growth in our global roundtables and global representation on our board of directors.”
   For CSCMP, the goal for global supply chain research is to translate it into practical business benefits and efficiencies and help shape the next generation of logisticians.
   “Supply chain professionals need to be analytical and good problem solvers, and the best have the ability to understand problems from the perspective of their supply chain partners,” Silverman said. “Universities are turning out great candidates; supply chain programs are doing a much better job providing practical knowledge and understanding to the people going through their programs.”
   For more details about CSCMP, its annual conference and other activities, access the organization’s Web site at

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