“The supply chain is like the wire between a switch and a light. You flip the switch and a light goes on – you don’t call your power company up and thank them. You expect that light to go on like magic; goods show up and nobody knows how, just like the wire between the switch and the light.”

Rick Blasgen, President and CEO of CSCMP


Despite the all-consuming pandemic, there are still a few overarching trends that are changing what is required of companies and their supply chains. They include talent, technology, and automation. Not only are these trends leading to sustained operational changes, they are impacting each other at the same time.

Rick D. Blasgen is the president and chief executive officer of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, more commonly known as CSCMP. Beyond sitting for scores of interviews to answer detailed questions about where all of the toilet paper went and how soon the supply chain could get it back in stock, he has spent the last few months continuing to monitor the above trends so the CSCMP can help the professional community prepare for the future.

In this podcast interview, Rick tells Supply Chain Now Co-hosts Greg White and Scott Luton about:

· The impact that changes in consumer and professional habits have had on supply chains, including a steep growth in eCommerce

· Why supply chain professionals and leaders should never underestimate the importance of interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate

· How his team plans to make the most of their annual event – CSCMP Edge – despite the forced switch from in-person to virtual sessions

Amanda Luton (00:05):

It’s time for supply chain. Now broadcasting live from the supply chain capital of the country. Atlanta, Georgia heard around the world. Supply chain. Now spotlights the best in all things. Supply chain, the people, the technologies, the best practices and the critical issues of the day. And now here are your hosts.

Scott Luton (00:28):

Hey, good morning, Scott Luton and Greg white with you here on supply chain. Now. Welcome to today’s show. Good morning, Greg. How are you doing? I’m doing well. I am, uh, it’s early. People can listen to this anytime of day, but I think it’s fair for them to know. We are, we are all up early in the morning and Rick, even earlier than us there, I did it again. Didn’t I, you let the cat out of the bag and have our featured guest and see his name so well today as, as Greg is alluding to, we’ve got a global leader in the supply chain industry, a Titan of trade associations in particular. So looking forward to diving in yacht that huh, alliteration. I love it. Looking forward to dive in with Rick glass gin, with CSE and P in just a moment, but, you know, stay tuned.

Scott Luton (01:15):

Cause you’re going to be able to really increase your supply chain IQ and get a sense of the industry here today. Um, and if you enjoy today’s conversation, you know, Greg, what we invite folks to do, they should subscribe. Don’t you think, Scott? I really think they should subscribe and go to supply chain now, radio.com and check out all of the shows. That’s right. That’s right. I do some pretty interesting stuff I think was correct. There’s so much going on in the world of global supply chain, you know, publishing a podcast every day even, and we’re still scratching the surface, but regardless, we’re here to increase your supply chain acute with no further ado, uh, want to bring in our featured guests here, Rick blastin, president CEO of CSC, MP, which we love our acronyms in this space. The council of supply chain management professionals.

Scott Luton (02:01):

Rick. Good morning. Good morning, Scott. Good morning, Greg. It’s great to be with you. I really appreciate the opportunity to have a chat today. Yeah, it’s great. Having you with us. Absolutely. We’ve you know, with us, both being in the Metro Atlanta area, we really enjoyed our collaboration in recent years with the Atlanta, uh, council of CSC and peatland around table. Um, and really looking forward to kind of putting our finger on the pulse, uh, at the, at the global level of CCMP and kind of getting your thoughts on what’s going on and what, as we all know is a very unique year. Um, but before we dive into business, Greg, we want to get to know Rick better. Right? Let’s do that. There, there are probably a lot of people listening that know you, but they’re, we have listeners all around the world. So tell us a little bit about yourself, maybe even a little bit about where you’re from some other interesting tidbits about your, uh, your life. Well, I’ll start by saying I grew up in a suburb of Chicago, low town called Oak forest, Illinois,

Rick Blasgen (03:00):

Rough there. Um, and, uh, just had a great childhood, uh, for the most part was, um, uh, going through high school. Uh, my father was, uh, always had a job and he always had extra businesses. And, uh, one of the, uh, interesting things that’s Charlotte sort of shaped my life in an early age. He had a couple of pizza places and I would go help him make pizzas on the weekend. And one day there was a guitar there. So I picked that up. There was a book started playing guitar, and next thing you know, I was in a garage band and our, our neighborhood and, um, uh, started playing songs. And that’s how I got into music and had a,

Greg White (03:34):

What was the name of the band? Rick?

Rick Blasgen (03:36):

Oh gosh, who knows? They were, uh, they were many and wide believe me and probably we didn’t know what the hell they meant, but, uh, so we used to play at high schools and then colleges and so on throughout that. But, um, I always wanted to go to college and, um, at the time I was playing in a Polynesian act every Saturday and Sunday and in a restaurant supper clubs. So like I didn’t go away to college. I went and got my degree through local colleges, graduated with a finance degree. And at the time there was a recession and I, uh, was offered a position as an inventory analyst for Nabisco. And I thought, well, I don’t know what that has to do with finance. I’ll um, I’ll go make Oreos or something for a few years. And next thing you know, I’m in this distribution department in a customer service office for Nabisco, and that’s how I started my logistics career. So you never know, you know, where your path is going to take you one, one decision or one thing that happens in your life and saying, it’s that you want a different course.

Greg White (04:32):

Wow. That is, you know, that, that is very common for people of our generation to have kind of fallen backwards into supply chain. We hear that story all the time. I mean, I don’t think people realize there weren’t supply chain degrees until probably the two thousands. So, and, and, you know, only in the last 10, 15 years really, except for some of the early, early schools, but it’s interesting how people have come to it. I also got to say, if my father had a pizza joint, I would never leave. I would make the band practice there

Rick Blasgen (05:09):

That’s right. Well, to this day yet I make his recipe on Sundays. And, uh, and I got to thinking about MRP and DRP, you know, how many pizzas do you get that may have to make well that’s forecasting? What do you put on him? Well, you need raw materials, ingredients, and, you know, right away, that’s kind of part of manufacturing, the oven and distribution delivery. So maybe I was destined for logistics at a very early age and had no idea,

Greg White (05:31):

You know, it’s funny how many people tie it back to that, to something they did. We’ve had people tie it back to their paper route and speed and early, uh, you know, an early start and, uh, efficiency and things like that because he wanted to get back to bed, Chris Gaffney from Coca-Cola.

Rick Blasgen (05:50):

Sure, sure, sure.

Greg White (05:52):

But yeah, so that’s, that’s interesting stuff and it is amazing how it, of all ties together and how, as you said, Rick, you never know what’s going to lead you there. So did it turn out that finance was valuable in your early stage?

Rick Blasgen (06:07):

It really was. I really think about, you know, how back then we had to understand how much inventory to keep in the distribution network for anticipated sales and shipments and so on. And I learned about algorithms on safety stock. And as I got a little more senior in my career and learned about the financial aspects of carrying inventory and so on and through it all ended up with different jobs, went to run a distribution center in Chesapeake, Virginia, and back then they, they walked in and said, they want you to run a distribution center in Chesapeake, Virginia. And there wasn’t a lot of discussion, you know, the next Monday you were in Chesapeake, Virginia. And I think that was a seminal moment in my career where I had a budget. I was a general manager. I had people I had a union to deal with and you really learn very quickly at a young age, how to run a business. So the financial aspect of what I learned did kick in. Um, so for those of you out there, wondering if your degree is ever going to be used in your chosen career, it likely will be, he will draw on that later on in life, uh, without knowing it. But, uh, but that career was, uh, you know, as long as you continued to make a progress and have different levels of responsibility as I did and different experiences, uh, there is no replacement for that actual experience. And I learned that early on in my career,

Greg White (07:19):

That’s really valuable. So, uh, aside from the Biscoe, was there anywhere else that you went before you wound up at a CSMP? Well, so I lived

Rick Blasgen (07:27):

Through the RJR acquisition of Nabisco and then the KKR leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco. And through all those, you’re always like, well, when am I going to continue on with this company? How’s that going to work? But I ultimately did. And then Philip Morris own craft craft, and Nabisco merged, which is how I came back to Chicago to run supply chain for Kraft foods, North America for a number of years. And then ConAgra foods was trying to consolidate disparate companies and build out a network and install SAP. And they had, um, invited me to come join them. And I worked for Bruce roadie at the time was the CEO and chairman of ConAgra for a number of years, but I wanted to stay in Chicago cause I was gone for 16 years. My father at the time was still alive. And I said, you know, I’m not going to go to Omaha, which is where they were headquartered.

Rick Blasgen (08:15):

And they said, no, no, no. We want you to run the operation in Chicago did that for a few years and we consolidate everything in Omaha. At the time I was on the board of directors of CSMP. Um, we left, I left ConAgra, uh, in very good terms and had a contract for another 18 months to, uh, play out. And at the time the woman that was running [inaudible] Maria Makaton was retiring. So the board said, well, Hey, why don’t you do this? I said, Hey, look, I’m passionate about supply. I love the organization, but I’m a corporate callous kill the competition, kind of a guy. You know, I, you know, I dunno if I’m going to fit in, but no, no, no, you run it like a business and we’ll see where that goes. And that was 2005. So I thought I’d do that for a few years. And here I am 15 later,

Greg White (08:56):

That’s amazing how that works. Isn’t it? It’s again, you never know where you’re going to wind up. Right. So well, tell us through all of that. I know you had quite an awakening when you took over the, the DC in Chesapeake, Virginia, tell us about any sort of epiphanal or Eureka moments or awakenings that you had that really stand out to you.

Rick Blasgen (09:21):

Well, one of the things I’ve learned and I’m very passionate about is most people think logistics is a cost to be managed if they don’t understand what it is. Um, that’s just trucks, that’s trucking, you know, go get another truck, don’t carry too much inventory, make sure the inventory is where it’s supposed to be. How come the inventory isn’t made and placed where it’s supposed to be. Uh, all of that is a science and it’s operational and it’s real. And I think as I’ve learned through my career, explaining what we do in terms that our colleagues can understand is paramount. If you walk around saying seamless fluid, fully integrated, satisfying the needs of our customers at the lowest total delivered cost, a supply chain professional can dissect that sentence. Someone who is in marketing or a business unit president is going to look at you and just short of shake their head.

Greg White (10:10):

Yeah. Their eyes glaze over.

Rick Blasgen (10:12):

So you’ll learn how to convert your language to what’s meaningful for them around customer service, around, um, you know, inventory management and having the right inventory at the right moment. That’s why in every presentation I, I, I, uh, I give, I always stop and say, how many of you have been to the grocery store in the last two weeks? All the hands go up. I say, how many of you only bought what you went in there to buy and all the hands go down. So think about that. We have all this behavioral science and forecasting and all this replenishment activity. And you as the consumer are so crazed out, you go into a store and come out with something, you had no intention of buying, and we’re supposed to have that therapy. You, you know, that’s agile and flexible and supply chain and being proactive around inventory and managing our service expectations.

Greg White (10:59):

And that’s a really good insight into, you know, something I discovered honestly studied for decades is we always talk about things, Rick, like what this item did or this item seasonality or how this item is performing. And the truth is we’re not forecasting items at all. We’re forecasting that consumer and what they’re going to do when they walk in the store or when they hit the site or whatever kind of customer you have, right? Whether you’re a manufacturer selling to distributors or manufacturer selling to, to consumers or retailer, you know, you have what you’re really doing is trying to predict the actions of that consumer. And that is so difficult because even the consumer couldn’t have predicted, they were going to grab that Snickers bar or pack of Oreos on the way out. I could have predicted that effect.

Rick Blasgen (11:49):

And sometimes that’s marketing doing its job, right. Make where there is no demand.

Scott Luton (11:54):

Yeah, that’s right. And, and it’s everywhere. Those influences are what you’ve got to assess, right? Those things that influence us to buy entry. That’s an interesting topic. I don’t want to derail us there, but, uh, that’s a great, you know, that’s a great and enlightening and frankly, a good way to relay it to consumers is to recognize that you don’t know what you’re going to get when you come into the store, how can, how can a retailer, you know, I want to go back to, to what I heard earlier in some, what you were sharing there, as you were sharing some of the jargon that supply chain practitioners know and love and taught each other in wood, Rick, before we kind of broadened the conversation, would you argue that, you know, the art of communication and communication kind of in layman’s terms is a skill that is more important today for supply chain professionals than even, even it was maybe a couple of years ago.

Rick Blasgen (12:45):

I think it is. And I, you know, entering the game, you have data analytics, we have all these tools and systems and all of that to try to help run your supply chain. We know our inventory is explaining it and educating people about what it is is, is difficult. Whenever the next cocktail, your party you’re at ask your neighbor or whomever. What’s the last thing you bought? Well, I bought a pair of shoes. Why do you think they got there? Well, from the back room, why do you think they got to the back room? And that’s when the eyes glaze over. Nobody realizes when you’re at a train stop and there’s a train going by, what’s on it. Or why are these trucks on these roads? And you know, all of that is, as I like to call, um, sometimes like our council, I call this, but certainly supply chain where the wire between the switch and the light, you flip the switch, a light goes on, you don’t call your power company up and thank them. Cause you expect that light to go on kind of like that magic happens. It shows up and nobody knows what’s going on with that wire between the switch and the light.

Scott Luton (13:42):

Oh, I love that. Um, along the lines of what you’re sharing, uh, in one of the silver linings that Greg we talked extensively about, uh, 2020, uh, this pandemic environment are consumed folks that have never touched supply chain are connecting the dots, understanding what it is, our dear aunt Robin and our family. Uh, who’s been in the healthcare industry for, uh, I’m not going to date her for several decades. Um, she’s, she’s an Emory fighting the good fight, right on the front lines of what, and she’s reached out a week or two ago and said, Scott, I finally understand what supply chain is. And that was such, you know, these little things are so important and they’re great signals for, for the industry. I believe so. Uh, and again, want to thank everybody that might be listening to is in healthcare, uh, doing a good fight and a good fight. Um, all right. So Rick let’s, let’s broaden the conversation, um, as we’re alluding to, there’s no shortage of topics and developments and challenges in global supply chain, um, in, in any given year, certainly in 2020, but what’s, you know, what’s at the top of the list. What are you in the CCMP tracking? You know, the most here lately,

Rick Blasgen (14:47):

You know, you’ve had pre COVID post COVID right now, we’re in COVID. And so wants to talk about that. And I get that. I completely understand it. I personally think our supply chain has been, has been pretty resilient through all of this, through all of the original shortages, um, uh, toilet paper. And by the way, I was interviewed so many times about that. When, when you take, I don’t know, 25, 30 million people who travel 80, 90% of the time, and you say, stay home, where do they go to buy their toilet paper to the same store? We go to buy our toilet paper, which is different than what they were using and hotels and restaurants and schools and so on and so forth. So some hoarding occurred, but a lot of it was a shift in the type of product and therefore manufacturing lines had to shift and make a different ply of toilet paper and other food products and so on.

Rick Blasgen (15:31):

Um, so a couple of things, we had a race to automation and robotics and technology because of labor, shortages of labor, not just truck drivers, everybody wants to talk about the devastating truck driver anticipated shortage. We’ve been talking about that for years and years and years, and yes, that’s an issue, but there were also shortages of labor in manufacturing facilities, distribution facilities, and elsewhere. So technology has helped us by allowing hurdle rates for robotics and automation to come down and employ that in distribution centers versus where we might have thrown people at it. So that will still occur as the economy comes back and our operations continue to kick in. And then just understanding how to connect all those distribution centers with more e-commerce activity. Different channels of distribution is all the rage, as well as supply chain. People are really good at figuring that out.

Rick Blasgen (16:26):

And we understand if e-commerce has a percentage of retail was 15%, it’s now it’s going to be 25 or 30%. What do I have to do about that? We can model that we can reposition inventory. That’s why you see, you know, companies. I think Amazon was talking about buying some distribution centers that they came up, JC penny distribution centers. So, you know, yeah. Cause now they become piles of inventory closer to the consumer. Um, so there’s, um, there’s all those types of things that go on in this big mixer called supply chain that people are figuring out. And so right now we’re in the middle of an anticipated economic recovery and what’s gonna be different pre COVID is if the level of eCommerce is it how people shop, um, are they going to be willing to go to malls and retail space to look at garments and look at things the way they used to, or is it going to shift, but the supply chain folks are really good at figuring that.

Scott Luton (17:21):

Absolutely it is. It is interesting just how far we’ve come, uh, from a, uh, forecasting, uh, planning and, and although they’re always began, we don’t have a perfect crystal ball and it probably never will. Although maybe next week we will, I don’t know technology is moving fast, but it’s just, it’s amazing how shrewd and savvy folks that are really, you know, looking at, you know, accumulating the data, acute pain, close attention to the signal. It’s amazing. Just how fast, how fast and innovative the discipline has gotten and when it comes to forecasting and planning and those things. And Greg, I know we are, you’re the, you’re the head of the deacons at the first church of planning and forecasting. So this is

Greg White (18:08):

You’re passionate about what, what, what, when Greg Rick was sharing, some of those things are tracking. What, what comes to your mind? First of all, I think that the problem solving capability of supply chain professionals is foremost. Nothing ever goes right. The truth truth be told if you’re overstocked, it’s supply chains fault. If you’re out of stock, it’s supply chain fault, if something happens to go right, thank goodness for that sales team. Um, so, you know, you get used to preempting, it’s, it’s almost self preservation. You get used to preempting, predicting and preventing failures in the supply chain. And that’s why I think it has been so resilient during this, this period. And, and you can expect it to continue to be, even, even if you look at how the paper industry staggered, you know, seven, 800% increase in sales, literally overnight, they staggered, but they weren’t knocked out.

Greg White (19:06):

So that, uh, that’s a really impressive, uh, recovery. And that’s the other point, right? It’s not just about forecasting. It’s not just about planning. Everyone has a plan as the great philosopher Mike Tyson said until they get punched in the face. So resilience and responsiveness are critical aspects of supply chain as well. And automation to that is absolutely necessary because as we all know, in any supply chain, expert knows, it’s not a matter of whether your forecast is wrong. It’s how wrong is it. And resilience and responsiveness is all about counteracting, the wrongness of your forecast, and also dealing with some of the things that Rick has alluded to as well, those constraints in the marketplace, if you need a case of beer, you don’t order a case of beer as a distributor, you order a pallet. So you have to think about things like that, as well as you convert demand in the stream, upstream the volumes shift, right? So those that’s, that makes a very, very complex relationship that automation helps with a tremendous amount.

Scott Luton (20:18):

The other thing is the environment I was reading just the other day. Um, um, a, I believe it was the head of a retail supply chain was talking about how typically when they’d have big increases in demand, they would go on a hiring spring, right? Fill their warehouses and fulfillment centers with new people. But in this environment, of course, that can’t, that can’t happen as easily as challenging. That is, it’s even a greater challenge in this environment with social distancing and another discipline, uh, the other, uh, protocols they’ve got to in place. So naturally they’ve, they’ve doubled and tripled down automation rather than try to, you know, uh, um, onboard all of those folks and, and, and this challenging environment. So, uh, the automation trend is only gonna get bigger and bigger and bigger. Um, but Rick, what, um, before we shift gears over to the talent pipeline, because, um, it might not be intuitive, but this massive embrace of automation and technology is going to be a great thing for the talent industry and supply chain, because it’s going to bring more of the top talents and create a ton of new opportunities. It’s gonna move the industry forward and, and that’s gonna mean a lot more jobs. So it, you know, sometimes in these conversations, we get trapped, that automation means, um, you know, kills opportunities, but the way we look at it, it’s going to open a door for a massive amount of new opportunities, right?

Rick Blasgen (21:44):

It’s adding jobs to the supply chain in total. Absolutely. When you look at the companies that will be part of our supply chain exchange, if you will, at our conference who are innovating and coming up with new ideas for us to employ within our supply chain, it’s great people with great engineering and innovative minds who are creating this. And that’s just a different type of role within supply chain than someone who is an forecast analyst or an inventory analyst or a transportation manager. So that’s why careers in supply chain are so broad and we have to do a much better. I know we’re going to talk about that better job of, of bringing awareness to what it is that we all do, but, uh, it’s, you know, uh, technology has allowed us to become more productive. If you look at our annual state of logistics report, which is the definitive cost and trends driving logistics in the U S 31 years. Now, it has come down from 18, 19% back in the eighties to, um, you know, 8% now of our GDP. We are much more effective and efficient, uh, with our, our, our logistics dollars. And that is because of the people and the technology and the ability to work together and collaborate across the multiple functions of supply chain

Scott Luton (22:52):

Is evolving perhaps in a way that’s never been seen before, especially at a rate that that arguably has never been seen before. So, um, but that’s, it’s an exciting time to be an industry, despite the challenges everyone’s dealing with, this is an exciting time to be in supply chain and with no shortage of opportunities. So, um, you know, for, especially folks that embrace that change, you know, it’s, it’s going to be challenging if, you know, if you’re used to the same role in the same way, and that, you know, if eight to five still exists, I don’t know, but, you know, for folks that are open to change, willing to step through the door and take it and seize the opportunity, man, this is an exciting time. Um, so great. What’s Greg and Rick was talk talent, um, because the flip side of the exciting stuff that Rick and really both of you all are speaking to, it’s going to take the top talent to make, to move the industry forward. And, and I’ve heard it been said a number of different ways that the supply chain industry is competing for, for absolute top talent, that in ways that it never has. So, you know, Rick, what are you seeing successful companies that are serious about onboarding talent? What are they doing?

Rick Blasgen (24:01):

Well, first of all, they’re constantly educating them and their senior supply chain leaders are, are allowing them to go through and experience the supply chain within their company. Um, you know, if you think about it, there are, I don’t know, six jobs to every supply chain graduate coming out of our major universities. Um, and they’re getting job offers eight to 10 months before they graduate. So we’ve got to cultivate the talent that we have now that may not have had a supply chain degree. And we have tools to do that. That’s one of the reasons CSC, MP has been around our goal is to connect, educate, and develop the world’s supply chain professionals. And we keep refreshing our portfolio of education in order to do that because it continues to change. So we’ve got to cultivate the talent that we have in house, provide them the ability to learn, to lead people and lead functions, and then understand how the functions connect together.

Rick Blasgen (24:52):

How does manufacturing and procurement work together to produce the inventory that Greg white has forecasted that we need in these nodules downstream, and then the transportation folks will get us there. So we always talk about that horizontal flow of inventory and information. It really is. It is a physical flow. And I think sometimes we forget that, you know, we all like to talk about the greatest technology that, you know, we’re, we’re employing in our supply chain, but until we figure out molecular [inaudible] and we’re able to produce a product in your stomach, so we don’t have to ship it to you, we’re going to have to move it, produce it, raw materials, ingredients, packaging supplies, consolidate it to take advantage of transportation, synergies, move it downstream into what facility to consolidate it with other manufactured products and move it down in the retail corner, where somebody is going to buy it, where we can consume it, that physical move still happens. And while that still happens, we’ve got to consider that and the potential for damage and so on and so forth. Then protecting that product throughout its life.

Scott Luton (25:51):

Man, you are hardcore. I’m sorry. Oh, no, no, no. That’s I think that was brilliant, but you are, you are as described, right? You said you are a competition killer. You have clearly a very deep understanding and passion for this. And yeah, I love it. Greg is interesting. We’ve done so many of these together and, and, uh, you and I were on the same wavelength there as Rick was sharing a couple of times during the interview so far already, uh, his passion is just, it just exudes. Um, so Rick, this is, this is why we do this. I mean, I love folks that have a passion, especially for supply chain, the people, the technologies what’s going on in the industry. So this is, this gets our juices going. Can I go back to just real quick point, Scott? I hope we never get to a point of molecular deep,

Rick Blasgen (26:50):

Something like that.

Scott Luton (26:51):

They’re a pizza piece of pizza appears in my stomach because I enjoy eating it pretty much. Anyone else I’m with you on that? Yeah.

Rick Blasgen (26:59):

I don’t know if it’s deep dish or, you know,

Scott Luton (27:02):

It will happen, Rick. It probably will happen not in our lifetimes, but it will happen in the future. And I am sad for people who don’t get to taste and chew and enjoy pizza. I’m jealous of Rick’s family every Sunday, as he, as he bakes his father’s secret recipe. When you come to Atlanta, come a weekend, I will make some of that. Yeah. We’ll post too. Yes. Yes. Pizza supply chain. All right. So let’s, um, we’re gonna talk about, uh CCMP and the minute they would give folks a clear understanding beyond what work’s already shared, what the organization does and, and a big of it coming up, uh, just around the corner, but talent, you know, I want to stick to town just for a second here. Rick, what else are you seeing leading companies again, that are really serious? You know, there’s so many companies out there I’m not naming names all, uh, but they they’re mailing it in. They, they believe it’s 2002, you know, uh, the right people are gonna find them. That’s, you know, that’s just not reality. What else are you seeing really companies?

Rick Blasgen (28:06):

You know, I think that if the top companies who are able to retain the best talent, have an individual development plan for each person, and that was a big proponent of that. You know, if you want to be a supply chain leader, and it’s going to take X number of years for you to reach that goal, whatever that is in your mind, and we got to get you there, we’ve got to give you the experience, the ability to work within and around the supply chain, certainly the technical skills, and don’t underestimate the interpersonal skills necessary in order to be effective. How do I go communicate with someone in marketing or manufacturing who may have a different objective than mine, and you have to sit down and explain, not everything is driven by a computer, a black box. They help us. We all know that, but at some point you have to go align your goals and objectives with that of your colleagues in order to reach that the common goals and objectives that you need for your company to succeed, that requires interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate one-on-one to bring your goals and objectives together.

Rick Blasgen (29:04):

And sometime there are goals that are simply in conflict. And I have multiple stories of looking at vulnerable objectives of marketing, manufacturing, procurement, myself, and supply chain, and laying them out there and having the top HR people say, wow, these goals are completely in conflict. How come marketing doesn’t have customer service goals? I mean, manufacturing just wants to make a bunch of inventory. The more they make the lower the unit cost. Rick, what happens if you don’t need it? Well, it sits there and absorbs costs. So you really got to get into the guts of how people are incented to behave in order to do that. And I think the, the top companies have figured out that they’ve got to align people and they’ve got to get experience, and they’ve got to get into personal skills and get people to communicate that really think about the ultimate goal of satisfying our customer and lowering our total costs across supply chain and doing it with the same goals in mind.

Scott Luton (29:58):

Yeah. That interactivity between departments is so critical. Look, I was in, in retail and I was in merchandising at one point and in supply chain, and you want to talk about goals at cross purposes, they are significant, right? My job at one point was just bringing in as many new products as possible and let them fly. Let’s see how they do. And those stacked up in, you know, those are the, where we were wrong. I stacked up in the distribution center in the stores and, and we weren’t incentivized to stop that proliferation of skews, which is another topic we’re talking about these days. And to, and to rationalize that skew rate, we would leave slow movers out there because it didn’t hurt my bonus to leave them out there. It hurt my bonus to lose sales or to lose gross margin return on investment. So we have to align those goals between, between all of those departments to get what we want and create a better vision throughout the year.

Rick Blasgen (30:59):

And sometimes if you’re a publicly traded company, I remember being in meetings and either I or someone would ask how many New York stock exchange ticker symbols do we have? And someone would say one so well, isn’t it to our best overall benefit to work together in order to improve earnings per share, increase the stock price and do all of that. Of course. Well, why are we not doing, you know, so what’s preventing us from doing that and really getting to the guts of the matter, but that requires conversation.

Scott Luton (31:26):

Yeah. Well, and a lot of it is the motivation that you put around around pay, right. Or, or recognition on the job. I mean, you have, that has to be aligned to get what we want. There’s so many areas I want it that I want to take that, take a deeper dive on some of the things that you’re sharing, but for the sake of time, uh, let’s, let’s keep moving here. Will, uh, Rick glad to have you back and we’ll take a deep dive into some of these things from a practitioner standpoint, skew rationalization alone could be a weekly series based on some of the, some of the, um, schools of thought and some of the execution we’re seeing here lately. Um, alright. So let’s talk about CSC MP and make sure folks that, uh, that for all four people maybe that haven’t heard of, of your organization, so make sure they understand the value proposition and why folks get involved

Rick Blasgen (32:17):

Founded in 1963, back then from forward-thinking academics and practitioners that wanted to create a professional association focused on this newly found field called physical distribution. It was founded as the national council of physical distribution management, um, then evolved into the council of logistics management now into the council of supply chain management professionals. And as often say, if we find life on Mars, we’ll be the intergalactic council of planetary needs is some sort, but that, that connection with unbiased research with academia and therefore students and young professionals and advancing our noble, our noble mission of advancing logistics and supply chain and the careers of everyone in it by connecting, educating, and developing everyone around the world, through our programs, through our round tables, which are local chapters around the world, um, we’re a membership based organization, individual members, corporate members, uh, when you’re a member of this family, you pick up the phone and recognize yourself as when you get an answer and we’re able to provide connections, which is so important, uh, let alone our, our professional education and development.

Rick Blasgen (33:21):

And then of course all of our events. But, uh, as I said, it’s that wire between the switch and the light. You know, you flip the switch, a light goes on, well, there’s some CSMP connection somewhere where, you know, I needed a job and I got a new assignment or somebody looking for, uh, some folks in this area and they’re able to access them and find them through our organization or a new company wants to know what type of third party provider does this, but we can, we can do that and connect people around the world in that way as well. So it’s a, it’s just a great organization, a lot of high energy people who care and they’re unwavering and their dedication to help us with that mission.

Scott Luton (33:57):

Or I agree, you know, here locally in Atlanta, we really enjoyed Dave Maddox and Sandy Lake who were both, uh, board members on the local round table. Um, you said it well, I mean, good people that know their stuff and, and believe in giving back. And, and as Greg says, giving forward, because you know, these, uh, associations like CSC and they, they offer you credentials and professional development opportunities and networking opportunities, which all of those, those three things alone are so important, um, to, to, to, to move your career forward. So, um, good stuff there. All right. Uh, Greg, do you wanna, do you want to chime in before we, we talked to Rick about, uh, CCMP edge, I’d just like to address just real quickly the talent thing, because I think the thing that we have, we have to acknowledge is that we went from full employment statistical full employment, right.

Scott Luton (34:53):

And that the shortage that Rick is talking about was very, very real. Um, and, and now I think with supply chain in the forefront of all of this discussion, it’s pretty much COVID COVID COVID and supply chain. So, I mean, if you think about it for consumers, so with people in job, transition millions and millions of people in job transition and the number of opportunities in supply chain, I could see us having the discussion that you were talking, you were just talking about. I could see us having access to some really, really strong professionals who never thought like, like none of us did never thought of supply chain as a career until this moment. So, you know, we interact with some of those folks on our live streams, uh, Greg and, and, and some other conversations we’re having, we see it in real time. Absolutely.

Scott Luton (35:50):

And, and, you know, one of the common, one of the, um, we had a trend there going for a while were, were CTOs, uh, were found themselves in supply chain, a lot of technology leaders because of the art, the current state of the industry. So I think that’s a great point. You’re making Greg and it’s good for people because it’s going to be great opportunities in a new sector, maybe for them. And it’s great for the industry, because you’re going to get, you’re gonna get new outside of fresh eyes. That is, you know, that is so important to problem solving and innovation and all of the things that we we’ve got to do in supply chain. Right. Right.

Rick Blasgen (36:25):

Yeah. When your skills are portable, if you have, um, you know, great analytical skills that can apply to so many different areas of supply chain, if you have a passion for transportation, I know you spoke with Gail Rakowski not long ago, our division called Nash track, which is focused on advocacy for North American shipping and transportation. Uh, you know, there’s people that transportation, 63, 64% of total logistics costs, we need good solid transportation, thinkers, and thought leaders. Um, but there’s so many other jobs that you can get into that you just may not think about until you really understand careers in supply chain. We’ve got some great information on our website about that, but, um, we’re going to continue to need more people, which is why, excuse me. One of my passions is how do we get it into lower levels of our educational system as a destination career? So you don’t stumble across it in college. And yet, you know, about it in high school or even earlier

Scott Luton (37:17):

Great point huge point there, right? And Greg, you and I have spent some time in elementary schools talking supply chain, which was fascinating, but Rick, you, you nailed it because I look at, I love supply chain. I love manufacturing. I love all the different components that make up in, in supply chain, but it was after college. And after I spent a couple of years in air force before I ever stepped foot in, and my first facility, you know, 300 tours ago, 300 visits ago. Um, and that can’t happen if we want to grow the industry and we’ve got to move just like you said, we gotta move it upstream. So that folks aren’t uncovering that in their mid twenties, we’re really not pushing a rope anymore. And that’s the good news, right? People know about supply chain. People are interested in supply chain. It’s again, it’s in the forefront of things. And there are hundreds of supply chain programs at universities, just in the States. So there are, you know, there’s a great opportunity to be exposed at an early, early age. You’re being exposed to it every day, even as a kid, if you, if you watch, um, Netflix or you watch the news, I’m sorry, if you’re a kid, please don’t watch the news, but you hear about it every day and probably

Greg White (38:36):

Have learned about it over the kitchen table, which is really how careers get started, right? Those discussions that you have over the kitchen table among your family are those or wherever you have breakfast nowadays, um, are those that get ingrained into you. And, and that’s that discussion has been happening. We’re out of toilet paper, you know, um, they’re overstocked on X or whatever discussion has been being had. I can’t find a mask that, that those kinds of discussions are being had, and that is being ingrained in the psyche of kids today. So I think we’re in a good spot. Yeah, certainly better off have come a long way. And as we’ve talked about before, when we hear a leading, uh, uh, food retailer incorporate supply chain in their commercials commercials, that beautiful thing commercial was about supply chain. Right. So, alright, so Rick, let’s talk about getting these people together when they’re adults. So physical events have been advantaged, frankly, but I have a feeling they’re going to start coming back and I know you have edge every year and it’s coming to Atlanta right. In 2021. That’s correct. That’s correct. So tell us a little bit about what edge is, um, whether you think we’ll actually physically get together there and, you know, and, and help people

Rick Blasgen (40:03):

And participate well this year, we would have been, uh, in Orlando, 3000 people from 40, 45 different countries, high energy, um, hearing, uh, presentations from their colleagues, members by members is very volunteer, driven organization, volunteer driven event. And of course like men, this year, we had a shift to a virtual conference, but this is not going to be a webinar. This is a truly interactive, it’s why we’re calling it edge 2020 live, uh, event, uh, where you can go and hear keynote speakers are our Monday keynote speaker is Eric Tara Mooney. Who’s going to be talking about the future of work on Tuesday. We’re going to hear from Target’s executive vice president and chief supply chain, officer Arthur Valdez. Who’s just got a fascinating story to talk through, and we’ll have a lot of different panels, 22 different tracks, over 120 sessions that you can see, and they’re going to be available to our attendees for 90 days afterwards as well.

Rick Blasgen (40:59):

So when you think at a physical event, you might be only able to see one session at a time. Obviously here, you’re going to have access to our portfolio of really top shelf people talking about what’s going on in their supply chain today. So it’s called edge 2020 live. It’ll be from September 20th to the 23rd online you can register right now. And it’s a, it’s a price point that everyone can manage from where ever you’re at in the world. And it’s truly going to be a interactive, just really cool platform that we have chosen to do this. And, um, I’m really excited about it, excited for people who would otherwise maybe not have the wherewithal to come to a physical conference who can now do this from wherever they sit I’m, whatever continent afford it and get access to all of that great content. So CSC, MP, edge.org is the place to go to register. Please do that. Um, you will, you will be able to connect with so many people who will become longterm relationships for you, uh, and our members and our presenters are so cool about answering any questions and connecting with you afterwards. So we’re really looking for it’s going to be a really cool event.

Scott Luton (42:04):

So we have seen a lot of organizations because of this environment open their, their events to everyone. So do you need to be a member to attend or

Rick Blasgen (42:16):

No, you don’t need to be a member. You can join, uh, and become a member and get access to different pricing, but all the other reports and things that we have for our members, like I mentioned, our state of logistics report, we’ve got a lot of other great information for our members. Um, so I’d urge everyone to take advantage of the membership opportunities we have now register for edge, but you’ll get a year long opportunity to get access to the greatest, um, information that our academics and practitioners build on a daily basis. And the connections there’s a, you know, you can’t say enough about the connections that, you know, people send an email, Hey, I’m a CSC MP member. Hey, I am too. Where are you? And let’s talk. And then of course our round table events, when they go back into in person events are great local places to get to know people, as well, as you mentioned earlier,

Scott Luton (43:02):

Huge, huge opportunity, uh, connecting, educating, developing that clung to those three words you said earlier. Cause that really that’s what I’ve experienced, uh, in, in, in getting out there and interacting with, with various, uh, associations and including CCMP. Uh, and I like how you said, it’s not going to be a webinar. That’s why we’re calling it CSE and P edge live where, you know, a true virtual, um, remote, but in person event, you know what I mean? It’s, it’s a, it’s going to be a showstopper for sure. All right. So [inaudible] dot org for the event then CSE and p.org to learn more information about the organization, right?

Rick Blasgen (43:42):

Absolutely. It’s all right there for you.

Scott Luton (43:44):

And then how can folks get in touch with you, Rick?

Rick Blasgen (43:47):

Hey, our going at [inaudible] dot org were all listed there on the website. I’d love to talk and get feedback and find out what’s going on with each individual who cares about this industry. As I do this discipline and cares about organizations like CSC, MP, uh, you know, sometimes I think associations are one of the first things that people go out. Do I need that? I got the internet I can type in supply chain excellence and all this stuff comes back. It must be true. Cause it’s on the internet. Well, I don’t know. I don’t know how you take the conversation like this, that happens all the time and provide it to people without the personal interaction, the desire to make an improve your supply chain life, um, and get careers going. That’s what organizations like CSC MP does we care? I know we’re noble it, but we’re passionate

Scott Luton (44:32):

About it. We care about this discipline. We care about everybody in it. We care about the young professionals and then the long loyals and more senior level people were always given back. You can count on them to be, be there for you. And that’s, that’s the essence of CSC P yeah. And, and you need a place to go for things like this. I love it. Uh, I love the passion, uh, and, and huge opportunity for folks. So Rick I’m, so I know you’re, you’ve got several full plates. I’m so glad that you carved out some time to spend with us here. It’s been a pleasure. And, and I hate to, I hate to kind of want the interview down because it feels like three of us could go grab a cup of coffee and have a fascinating couple hours long conversation, but we’ll save that for another day.

Scott Luton (45:14):

Uh, Rick Blasian president CEO of CCMP, the council of supply chain management professionals learn more@ccmp.org. And of course the big, uh, extravaganza coming up, CSC, MP edge.org. So thanks so much, Rick. Thank you guys. And thanks for the great work that you guys do is important to our industry. We appreciate it. Thanks for, thank you, Rick. Thanks for doing this, Greg, give you the last word before we sign off here. I mean, this is I’m ready to go run through some walls. How about you? Yeah, man. You know, it’s another one of those situations where you think, man, we need to get this cat back into industry running a supply chain. And I know no, that’s not in the cards, so hopefully it’s not anyway, um, for you, Rick, but, um, yeah, just amazing ex I mean an amazing recognition of the kind of skills that we’ve got in supply chain here, someone who long time practitioner, but still kind of like so many of us fell into it, fell backwards into the industry, found a passion for it, tied it to his core gifts and made his way in the industry all the way from some of the largest companies in industry to leading, guiding and, and, and educating companies like that now.

Scott Luton (46:28):

So really impressive path. And, um, we need to explore that guitar thing just a little bit more pizza, pizza pizza. Alright. So to our listeners, hopefully you’ve enjoyed this conversation as much as we have. Uh, you can learn more about us at supply chain, our radio.com, uh, and, uh, find us and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from. Hey, we wanna, we wanna wrap this up. Like we always do by challenging you, just like we challenge our own team and our own selves. Hey, do good. Give forward. Be the change that’s needed. And on that note, we’ll see you next time.

Would you rather watch the show in action?  Watch as Scott and Greg welcome Rick Blasgen to Supply Chain Now through our YouTube channel.

Rick D. Blasgen is the president and chief executive officer of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) in Lombard, Illinois, USA.  Blasgen began his career with Nabisco, working in a regional customer service center in Chicago, Illinois. While at Nabisco, he held various logistics positions of increasing responsibility in inventory management, order processing, and transportation and distribution center operations management. Blasgen became vice president, supply chain, at Nabisco in June 1998, then vice president supply chain for Kraft in June 2002. He joined ConAgra Foods in August 2003 as senior vice president integrated logistics. 

Blasgen has devoted much of his time to furthering a number of company’s supply chain management programs and initiatives. This experience has given him a solid foundation for his role at CSCMP where he has responsibility for the overall business operations and strategic plan of the organization.  His efforts support CSCMP’s mission of leading the supply chain management profession through the development and dissemination of supply chain education and research. 

Blasgen was designated by the US Department of Commerce in 2011 to serve as the Chair of the Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness (ACSCC) providing the Administration advice and counsel on issues and concerns that affect the supply chain sector. He continues to chair that committee.  He is a member of Northwestern University’s Transportation Center Business Advisory Committee and a past chair of the Grocery Manufacturers Association Logistics Committee, and a past president of the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC). Blasgen is a graduate of Governors State University, earning his degree in business administration and majoring in finance.

Greg White serves as Principal & Host at Supply Chain Now. Greg is a founder, CEO, board director and advisor in B2B technology with multiple successful exits. He recently joined Trefoil Advisory as a Partner to further their vision of stronger companies by delivering practical solutions to the highest-stakes challenges. Prior to Trefoil, Greg served as CEO at Curo, a field service management solution most notably used by Amazon to direct their fulfillment center deployment workforce. Greg is most known for founding Blue Ridge Solutions and served as President & CEO for the Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader of cloud-native supply chain applications that balance inventory with customer demand. Greg has also held leadership roles with Servigistics, and E3 Corporation, where he pioneered their cloud supply chain offering in 1998. In addition to his work at Supply Chain Now and Trefoil, rapidly-growing companies leverage Greg as an independent board director and advisor for his experience building disruptive B2B technology and supply chain companies widely recognized as industry leaders. He’s an insightful visionary who helps companies rapidly align vision, team, market, messaging, product, and intellectual property to accelerate value creation. Greg guides founders, investors and leadership teams to create breakthroughs that gain market exposure and momentum, and increase company esteem and valuation. Learn more about Trefoil Advisory: www.trefoiladvisory.com


Scott W. Luton is the founder & CEO of Supply Chain Now. He has worked extensively in the end-to-end Supply Chain industry for more than 15 years, appearing in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Dice and Quality Progress Magazine. Scott was named a 2019 Pro to Know in Supply Chain by Supply & Demand Executive and a 2019 “Top 15 Supply Chain & Logistics Experts to Follow” by RateLinx. He founded the 2019 Atlanta Supply Chain Awards and also served on the 2018 Georgia Logistics Summit Executive Committee. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and holds the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credential. A Veteran of the United States Air Force, Scott volunteers on the Business Pillar for VETLANTA and has served on the boards for APICS Atlanta and the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance. Follow Scott Luton on Twitter at @ScottWLuton and learn more about Supply Chain Now here: https://supplychainnowradio.com/


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