Matthew Waller looked at his calendar and saw that he had a meeting scheduled with Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart (NYSE: WMT). He didn’t remember scheduling such a meeting, so he asked his assistant about it, only to be told it was a meeting requested by McMillon.
“It had me nervous. I wondered if I had screwed something up,” Waller, dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business and professor of Supply Chain Management at the University of Arkansas. told FreightWaves. The meeting, it turned out, was good news, and involved more than just Waller and McMillon.
“You have been selected as a recipient of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ Distinguished Service Award,” McMillon told Waller on the Zoom call.
Remko Van Hoek, professor in the Department of Supply Chain Management at the University of Arkansas offered his congratulations. As did Judy McReynolds, president and CEO of ArcBest (NASDAQ: ARCB); Saeed Amidi, CEO of the Plug and Play Tech Center; and PV Boccasam, CEO of Wealth Engine. Kirk Thompson, chairman of J.B. Hunt Transport Services (NASDAQ: JBHT), also wrote in support of Waller’s nomination.
”You have been a great inspiration for me and a generation of consumer-driven, demand-driven supply chains and how we could reimagine and recreate using data and science and actual insights to create the next generation systems and solutions,” Boccasam said.
McReynolds told Waller he was truly a “visionary leader [who] has helped produce some of the brightest and most prepared University of Arkansas graduates to enter the supply chain.”
Waller will be honored with the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ (CSCMP) 2020 Distinguished Service Award during the CSCMP EDGE 2020 Live! Conference and Exhibition Opening General Session on September 20, 2020.
FreightWaves is a global sponsor of CSCMP Edge, along with BluJay Solutions, IBM, Penske and Transplace. Prologis is the premier sponsor.
He couldn’t have done it alone
Waller is very appreciative of those around him that have helped make this surprise honor possible. During the Zoom call, Waller said “if I hadn’t come to Arkansas in 1994, I would not have accomplished so much in supply chain logistics.”
McMillon said the feeling is mutual.
“You mentioned that Walmart has been helpful to you; no doubt you have been hugely helpful to Walmart,” he said. “The progress we’ve made in the supply chain area [is due in part to and] driven by your thought leadership [and] the influence you’ve had.”
The Distinguished Service Award is the highest honor bestowed by CSCMP and is given to an “academic, consultant or practitioner who exemplifies significant, consistent and career-long contributions to the development of the logistics and supply chain management disciplines.” A person must be nominated for the award and have shown high integrity and moral principles throughout their career, the organization stated. It was created in 1965 to honor logistics pioneer John Drury Sheahan.
Click to view a list of past winners.
Waller has served as dean of the Sam. M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas since May 2016. He has been involved with the school for 26 years, including approximately five years as the Sam M. Walton Endowed Leadership Chair, and has become a well-respected expert on the supply chain. During his tenure at Arkansas, Waller has also chaired the Department of Supply Chain Management.
Waller told FreightWaves he has been involved with CSCMP for many years and he believes the organization is vital because it blends both academia and supply chain practitioners. Waller added that he has worked on a number of projects for Walmart through the years but was surprised that McMillon remembered as many as he did.
“I think it says a lot about Doug that he would do that,” Waller said. “Here he is – the CEO of the largest company in the world – and he remembered all the things I’ve done. He recognizes people… and I think that is one of the reasons he’s so successful. The fact that of all people, he nominated me, really means a lot to me. I feel a lot of gratitude for that and I think his nomination and the supporting letters really made the difference.”
According to his school bio, Waller is an SEC Academic Leadership Fellow. He received a B.S.B.A. summa cum laude from the University of Missouri, and a M.S. and Ph.D. from The Pennsylvania State University. He is the former co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Business Logistics.
Waller also works as a consultant to many companies, helping them improve their supply chains. This includes Walmart, where he counts some of his greatest successes. With the retail giant, Waller has worked on projects that have included creating better inventory processes, collaborative planning forecasting and replenishment, and backhaul operations.
The launch of the Department of Supply Chain
During his time in the dean’s office, the Sam M. Walton College of Business has opened the McMillon Innovation Studio with a gift from McMillon and his wife, Shelley, and this year, the Department of Accounting was endowed by Bill Dillard and is now the William Dillard Department of Accounting.
Waller said that he considers the launching of the supply chain management program his greatest academic achievement. For years, supply chain management included just a few classes within the Department of Marketing of the school. The Department of Supply Chain was formally introduced on July 1, 2011. Just recently, it was named number one by Gartner among the nation’s top undergraduate supply chain departments.
Waller is an advisory board member for Natural Capital and board member of the World Trade Center Arkansas. He is also a council member for the Northwest Arkansas Council and co-founded Mercari Technologies, a software business, in 1998. Waller was the co-founder of a patent for a system that “optimizes inventory and merchandising shelf space utilization based upon cost and lost sales, with or without considering physical space constraints.”
He also co-authored the book, Purple on the Inside: How J.B. Hunt Transport Set Itself Apart in a Field Full of Brown Cows, and co-authored the book, Integrating Blockchain into Supply Chain Management.
Waller feels he landed in the right place. “I’m glad I’m doing what I’m doing,” he said. “I really find joy [in teaching]. I feel like I’m cut out to be an academic. I enjoy writing. I enjoy teaching. I enjoy working with students. And you can do that in business to some degree, but I’m not super-motivated to make tons of money, I do fine, but it’s [about teaching and helping others].”
While he has taught and mentored many over the years, a couple have stuck out to him, including Brent Williams. Williams, now the associate dean of the Walton College, not only was a student of Waller’s, but also assisted on a project with General Mills.
“I could tell he was really smart,” Waller said. “For those kinds of projects you have to have someone that can do a lot of quantitative analysis and can interact with the [practitioners] and he loved it so much that he decided to become a professor.”
Waller added that Williams gave an “amazing presentation” for his dissertation.
Another former student Waller talked about was Terry Esper. Esper earned his MBA in the 1990s and is now a professor of supply chain management at Ohio State University. Before he landed there, though, Esper helped Hallmark create its e-commerce supply chain. Esper and Waller co-authored a book, “The Definitive Guide to Inventory Management: Principles and Strategies for the Efficient Flow of Inventory across the Supply Chain” published by Pearson Education. All proceeds from the book go to CSCMP.
“I am proud of that book,” Waller said. “Most books on inventory management and forecasting are focused on [either] practitioners or academics. This one takes the best practices from academia and [shows how to use it in practice].”
Teaching has been Waller’s calling, but his impact goes far beyond that, as evidenced by the number of supporters for his candidacy for the CSCMP award. Those that have either worked with Waller or been taught by him are now fixtures with many major companies, including Walmart, Tyson Foods, J.B. Hunt, General Mills and ArcBest.
“People cheer for you because you’re just such a good guy and it’s always fun when you see someone that is well deserving and also so well-liked and appreciated receive a reward like this,” McMillon said. “It’s special.”