Supply Chain Now Episode 465

“To be able to get a data scientist who has an understanding of supply chain concepts or a supply chain professional, who has an understanding of data science, is magic that every recruiter’s looking for.”

-Ted Stank, Bruce Chair of Excellence in SCM & Faculty Director of the Global Supply Chain Institute, University of Tennessee

Today on this Supply Chain is Boring/Supply Chain Now cross-over, Chris Barnes spoke with Ted Stank, Faculty Director with the University of Tennessee Global Supply Chain Institute to discuss Tennessee / Alabama football and supply chains in the era of Covid-19 and beyond.

Chris Barnes (00:07):

Which the supply chain doctor and apex coach providing you insights and tools to better understand and apply the apex body of knowledge to everyday supply chains. In this interview, we spoke with Ted stank in faculty director with the university of Tennessee global supply chain Institute to discuss Tennessee, Alabama football and supply chains in the era of COVID-19 and beyond it all sounds pretty boring. So let’s see if Ted can prove me wrong, Ted. Thanks for speaking with us today. Hey Chris, thanks for having me here. Let’s talk about supply chain, disruption and the current COVID-19 pandemic, although it is a dramatic and sad event, you know, specifically for people who are suffering. But one thing that it has done is raised the level of awareness of supply chains in the everyday discussions. For example, pre pandemic, I would listen to the news and make a social comment. When someone mentioned the term supply chain back then I was maybe posting once every other week, but now I can hear supply chain mentioned everyday in the news, whether it’s company talking about strategy or government discussing protective plans. So from your observations, what are some of the changes our supply chains will face as a result of this experience?

Ted Stank (01:18):

Well, one of the themes I’m going to talk about Chris, as we go through today’s questions, is that a lot of trends that are already there are going to be accelerated by what we’re seeing with this crisis. And I think this is one of them is that companies have been recognizing increasingly that supply chain management is really their key to, to competitiveness. We, we can be geniuses in how we structure our financial markets. We can be geniuses and in our marketing, et cetera. But if you include particularly product design that end to end supply chain perspective, uh, has been targeted as impacting 70% of the people who work for organizations and credited with 70% of the economic value add. And I think that’s increasingly being realized and sad that it takes time a crisis for organizations to realize how important we are to value creation, but there you have it. And it, and it’s not a surprise. I think I’m former military, not a surprise that supply chain ideas and end to end integration were born in the military because I think they thrive. Those ideas thrive in crisis.

Chris Barnes (02:26):

Yeah. It’s interesting. Over the, you might be the past 10 years, I’ve seen executive level positions. I mean, I even see some organizations have chief supply chain officers too, which really raises the level of supply chain in companies. You’ve seen that.

Ted Stank (02:38):

Yeah, absolutely. And that is, that actually is another one of those trends that’s increasing. We’re seeing far more fortune five hundreds instituting that chief supply chain officer and making it a true integrated end to end. So areas of the organization that would never have been under an integrative control position are now they’re like manufacturing, chief procurement officers, et cetera, are all in this end to end integrated organization

Chris Barnes (03:04):

Structure. When this pandemic, uh, started, you know, it was probably a month ago. Now you saw a lot of consumers panicking, you know, through the, whether it was toilet paper and sanitizers, those supply chains were pretty much impacted do supply chains in general, in all the industries face some type of disruption.

Ted Stank (03:21):

What I’ve seen is, is one of two categories for companies. One is for central products there. This is, this is a case study of the bullwhip effect in practice in a way that we’ll probably not see in our lifetimes. Um, in some cases, companies are seeing 50, 60% demand increases for essential products, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, um, foodstuffs, paper products, et cetera. And then in the other category, firms are seeing demand just drop off the cliff, um, from non-essentials. And we’ve seen that happen in automotive, uh, furniture industries, such as that, that just aren’t critical right now as we face and confront this crisis. And so it’s really challenging our entire supply chain planning process and execution, the companies that are seeing this huge spike in demand. I mean, face it, these tend to be for products that are generally considered a, you know, in an apex segmentation, um, framework, kind of a products they’re ones that have pretty, um, stable demand, high volume, quick turn products.

Ted Stank (04:28):

And so we just kind of chugged them through in high volume. And there’s not a lot of excess capacity to devote to them when they spike 50%, because we’re not expecting 50% spikes in typical toilet paper products and things like that. So that’s been a big challenge again for the companies that don’t have essential products or for companies that are selling essential products, but maybe not seeing demand for non-essentials. We’re seeing a lot of, um, reduction in SKU. So companies can focus their capacity on the ones that are moving. I mean, frankly, at this point, consumers don’t care. What kind of packaging are around hand sanitizer, for example, they just want the product. So we’re seeing a lot of, a lot of reactions in that

Chris Barnes (05:11):

About respect. Yeah. You mentioned the term bullwhip that that is a big apex term. And I, I mentioned to you earlier in Brea called, um, I teach the ethics classes and I was teaching, uh, to a company, you know, in your neck of the woods, uh, Chattanooga bakery, they make the moon pie. I was explaining bullwhip for them and the person in the class, you could see the light bulb went off and he said, you know, we had that, we had something like that happen to us, a pretty constant product, but one, one season they had a significant spike. And it was during the eclipse. You remember a few years ago, the eclipse came right across North America. Right? Exactly. Yeah. And they realized they were there, they saw maybe 30, 40% increase in demand. And it was because anybody that was having a eclipse party was buying anything that to do with solar, whether it was moon pies or sunshine drinks or whatever it was, it was an interesting story.

Ted Stank (06:02):

Right. Very interesting. Yeah. And I mean, typically the way companies plan, um, for, for providing product to the market of those kinds of products is, I mean, they either have a plant dedicated to it or a couple of lines in a plant and they run them constantly because there’s not much changeover, et cetera. So when they have to really flex, um, to, to tremendous scale, uh, that’s, that’s a challenge if you don’t have additional capacity to run it.

Chris Barnes (06:28):

Sure. And that, that leads into my next topic. I read an interesting article recently on the shortage of toilet paper from a perspective more of supply chain. So when I, as I read the article, in my opinion, they correctly summarize that, that there wasn’t really a hoarding issue as much as it was a supply chain issue. And specifically you had mentioned it’s segmented segmented supply chains, and there were two primary drivers. One was given the product is mature. You know, toilet paper has been around forever. It doesn’t change much. And typically stable. The supply chains were designed to be lean efficient and difficult to change. That’s typically what that means. And number two, the overall the aggregate demand for toilet paper remained the same relatively constant. It’s just people were buying more at home at home as opposed to the commercial side of using it in the offices. And that just created challenges from an apex angle because we talk about Zuora, for example, having two different supply chains, one for fast fashion type of, you know, flexibility, short, smaller lots, and then others, another supply chain for khakis and kind of basic white shirts that are pretty predictable, you know, from your perspective on this concept or, or shortages in general. Um, anything there you can add. Yeah.

Ted Stank (07:40):

You know, that, that is a really interesting scenario that we’re seeing with, uh, with the toilet paper and that whole calmer conversation about whether it is hoarding clearly early on, we did see some consumer hoarding, but, but you’re right. There are two distinct supply chains. The institutional one that goes typically through large distributors, um, that don’t have the relationships, the channels, maybe even the, the equipment to service, um, say a consumer channel. And, and that is exactly what we’re seeing is that that re that institutional channel still has significant product because sales in that channel completely dropped off. And yet we’re struggling to, to provide the retail channel. I’ve also heard conversations from some of the manufacturers of these kind of CPG products, that it was also a capacity issue at the retailers themselves, not having enough people and handling equipment, et cetera, to be able to get products off the manufacturers trucks and into their DCS and then out to their stores. So it just stressed the supply chain all along the channel. I think that as we talk about resilience moving forward, probably one of the areas we’ll have to address is having ability to adapt different segments. I mean, why can’t a Cisco or some other kind of food supplier deliver truckloads of toilet paper to a Kroger’s distribution center or Republic. So I’m not sure why, but we’re struggling with,

Chris Barnes (09:11):

Well, you mentioned a good word supply chain resilience is a, that’s a key apex term. And we also talk about adaptability kind of two related terms. So Ted Mo, much of what we’ve been discussing revolves around effective inventory planning and even demand forecasting to two key picks terms. But I recall hearing an interview, you did a while back on inventory planning at a football game. That discussion really resonated with me specifically as a, as a fan of the apex body of knowledge. And I think you talked about things like postponement and anticipatory inventory. Could you mind taking a few minutes to retell that story?

Ted Stank (09:44):

Yeah. I mean, that’s a, it is a really entertaining story and I share it with a lot of the different classes that I, that I teach from undergraduates all the way to executives. And I happen to be a huge proponent of the, of the notion of segmentation. You mentioned Zara earlier with their fast fashion and then their basics. Um, what, why, why try to use advanced analytics and advanced demand forecasting for things that aren’t going to change are relatively easy to make. We can move them out in volume and if they don’t sell today, they’re still going to be in style tomorrow. So we’ll sell them tomorrow, no big deal. And you know, so you mentioned khakis and basic white shirts. And I use that example quite a bit in my travels around, but then with fast fashion, it’s really difficult to plan. We can’t forecast it.

Ted Stank (10:31):

There’s lots of areas of customization. The uncertainty levels are just so high. And if we tried to activate our typical long lead time supply chains and be able to have months of product in the pipeline to provide it, we would fail because we just can’t guess what’s going to move and what’s not going to move. And Zara really, wasn’t an innovator in saying we’re going to really shorten our, our cycle times so that we can respond quickly, move what’s out there when it’s hot and then move on to the next thing. So I’ve been talking about this for a long time, and it’s something that I have a lot of passion about. You’re right though, questionable about times like this, whether there’s some real downsides to it. But anyway, back in 2009, I’ve been at university of Tennessee since 2003. Um, you might recall when university of Tennessee had pretty good football program, that that’s seems like ancient history we’re coming back.

Ted Stank (11:21):

But probably one of the last times until maybe this past season that we really had a team that I would say overachieved, um, was 2009. A guy named lane Kiffin was coach in Tennessee, causes a lot of passionate reaction in Tennessee fans. But that year, that team didn’t have a whole lot in the cupboard. And I think he did a great job coaching and the team was very competitive. And in the third Saturday in October, it’s a very traditional Saturday it’s cause when, um, university of Alabama and university Tennessee play football and Alabama in Oh nine was just coming back. Uh, Nick Saban had been their coach. I think it was his second year. And Alabama was undefeated. Tennessee had maybe just a bit better than a, than a 500 record. And I have a friend who’s a professor at Alabama. And so my wife and I got tickets through him and we went down to visit them.

Ted Stank (12:14):

And we went to the Tennessee Alabama game the night before we were in a local nightspot in Tuscaloosa and the one, many people in the bar. And I ended up talking to this guy next to me and asked him what he did. And he told me that he was a t-shirt vendor. I said, Oh yeah, that’s interesting. Tell me about that. And he goes, well, I go to, um, some of the biggest sporting events in the sec and football season and basketball season, I can look at the schedule and I can predict what are going to be the big games pretty well. And I go there with t-shirts and I sell t-shirts to the crowd. So, wow. That’s really interesting. So tell me more about it. So he started telling me that there are really two kinds of products that he sells. The first one is university of Tennessee versus university of Alabama, October.

Ted Stank (13:00):

I’m making this data up. I don’t know the exact date, October 23rd, 2009. You can predict that in advance. He knows, well in advance it’s at university of Alabama. So he knows what the stadium holds. It’s probably going to be a sold out game. What percentage of the fans are going to be Alabama fans? What percentage are going to be Tennessee fans of those? He has historical data of how many people buy t-shirts. So he can, pre-print a bunch of Crimson and white ones that say Tennessee versus Alabama, that date, and a bunch of orange and white ones in appropriate volumes based on the crowd and where it is, et cetera. And they go around, that’s going to be a generally speaking, that will be a late afternoon game on one of the networks. So people will be tailgating a lot. And he’s got a crew of people that come in and go around to tailgates and sell those tee shirts that say 15 to $20 a piece.

Ted Stank (13:54):

And then I said, well, you know, what’s always interested me was coming out of a big game and having a tee shirt vendor at the exit to the stadium immediately after the game, selling a tee shirt that says university of Tennessee X and university of Alabama, why with a score on it immediately. And he said, yes, that’s my other line of product. Obviously you can’t predict the score. There are an infinite number of scores. And if you tried to do that, you’d have a lot of wasted product and probably not enough of the right product. So he uses some form of postponement. Again, he knows the relative numbers of Crimson colors versus orange colors. And so he can plan appropriately. And then he has very trusted employees. Oftentimes family members located in vans, strategically situated near big exits to the stadium with printing presses inside, just being able to print the numbers.

Ted Stank (14:48):

The rest of the stuff has been speculated cause we know it’s Tennessee versus Alabama and the date. And then they’re just going to postpone the numbers and he has himself and several other people in the stadium with cell phones, calling them so that as we get close to the end of the game, they’re saying, Hey, start printing. And this is a real example. Start printing Alabama nine, Tennessee seven, and they start printing it. And what actually happened in the game was with about a minute left in the game. Alabama had the ball fumbled on Tennessee’s 45 yard line, Tennessee got the ball. And over the course of the next minute, drove down to close to Alabama’s goal line and was getting ready to kick the field goal that would put Tennessee up 10, seven, and really are 10, nine. And then the game and give Saban’s team its first defeat. So of course he called his people and told them to hold the presses, Alabama, unfortunately blocked that kick and Tennessee lost. And then they started reprinting the nine to seven ones. And as very happy Alabama fans left the stadium, they could see Alabama nine Tennessee, seven T shirts and be charged $40. But they were happy to buy them because Alabama remained undefeated and it went on to be actually savings first championship.

Chris Barnes (16:05):

Yeah. That’s a great story. I think every, every apex person should hear that. So it even impacts, you know what you said right at the end margins. Right. So they were able to sell the shirt

Ted Stank (16:15):

And that’s it, that’s the key, right? Is, um, it’s a trade off of inventory versus operating costs. I’m sure he paid those folks in the van. More, his operating expenses were higher, but the trade off with a not having all that bad inventory and B being able to charge the greater margin.

Chris Barnes (16:32):

As I said, I think I’m going to, I’m going to try to get this in front of every apex person that I know, but then that’s obviously a very compressed, uh, supply chain there, but that’s a great example. You mentioned postponement and all those other things. So, you know, so far we’ve, we’ve talked to Ted about, mainly about exceptional events. I mean, you know, causing supply chain disruption, where are the biggest disconnects you see today in traditional supply chains that that may cause everyday disruptions?

Ted Stank (16:55):

You know, we continue to struggle with planning, uh, as much as we, um, we throw a lot of resources, a lot of talent at forecasting, it’s still a major challenge. I think that that remains a lot of times, it’s what we do to ourselves that we have data, but companies really struggle with data management and getting the right data to the right places so that we can use our advanced analytics to look at it. I think that kind of breakdowns and visibility on both internally and externally, from what I’ve seen are one of the biggest challenges we have in standard day to day operations. I think, uh, we continue to, uh, to cycle in the way we deal with really key relationships in good times, we tend to, to try to, to, to pinch pennies on our negotiating relationships with our supply base. And then when times tough and there’s capacity shortages, uh, we go to those same suppliers and say, Hey, can you help us? And they tend to help the companies that have worked with them collaboratively and not provide to those who need it. And one of the things I’m seeing in these war room calls with a lot of companies today, again, this is coming back to disruption, but one of the real benefits is when companies have great relationships with their both goods and service providers, because those companies will step up and, and really go the extra mile for the ones they have good relationships with.

Chris Barnes (18:21):

Yeah. That’s interesting. I was thinking, as you said, that we talk a little bit about relationships in our apex classes, but you know, maybe we can invest more time in that and less time on, you know, planning, ABCs and everything else, but

Ted Stank (18:32):

No it’s important, but boy, we just haven’t gotten the improvements in forecast accuracy that we would have hoped over the years.

Chris Barnes (18:40):

Yeah. So, so point of, well, you know, this point of sale and I think what you’re referring to a CPFR, they’ve been around for a while now, and it is visibility and sharing still a challenge.

Ted Stank (18:50):

It’s still a challenge. I I’m working. Uh, I’m working some major, uh, research projects with a couple of our big partners now, and it’s all, it’s really addressing a lot of the things that we’re talking about, how can they increase their, um, their flexibility, their speed of response, um, both upstream with their vendors, as well as in their manufacturing and distribution processes. And you can look at a lot of things in the facility itself about, you know, speeding, um, change over times and, uh, labor that has multi capabilities to move from one line to another, et cetera. And those are all important. But at the end of the day, what we see are the biggest bottlenecks are this lack of visibility and lack of being able to get the data to the right place at the right time. You know, I I’ve been doing this 30 years and you’re right.

Ted Stank (19:40):

We’ve been talking about a lot of these collaborative planning, um, techniques for a long time. I think the difference from when I first started to now is when I first started, we didn’t have the tools to capture the data and get it to the right place today. We have those tools and a either because we have broken processes or B, because increasingly today we find ourselves drowning in data and we can’t find the right information in all that data. We’re at the other end of that spectrum where we still can’t get the right information because we just don’t have the right processes. Or we don’t know where to go to be able to pull that data out and turn it into good info.

Chris Barnes (20:21):

So as you said, you mentioned data versus information, I guess there’s a big, big discrepancy.

Ted Stank (20:25):

Yeah. I mean, I, I think it’s something that firms still struggle with and not coincidentally, one of the biggest growing majors at university of Tennessee is business analytics and statistics. And again, you’re down in the Atlanta area, Georgia tech obviously is one of the pioneers in that area, but, um, it’s, it’s one of the biggest growing majors and biggest growing minor for supply chain majors at Tennessee is business analytics and

Chris Barnes (20:53):

Yeah, data. What was the one data scientist that seems to be a new field of study,

Ted Stank (20:57):

Right? And to be able to get a data scientist who has an understanding of supply chain concepts or a supply chain professional, who has an understanding of data science is, is magic that every recruiter’s looking for.

Chris Barnes (21:11):

So along those lines, um, you know, I hear predictive analytics and things like artificial intelligence discussed all the time. Do you expect these will, will have an impact on supply chains maybe in terms of demand forecasting or

Ted Stank (21:23):

I do. I really do. I think, um, I think that we are in relatively early stages of what is going to be a revolution. And I think, again, this COVID-19 crisis is going to accelerate a lot of those trends, but I think that demand planning, risk planning, risk management, and planning, manufacturing, scheduling, all those kinds of, of planning and resource allocation processes are going through a, a major revolution as we bring online more, uh, more digital technologies thinking technologies like AI administrative processes, like robotic process automation, RPA, things like that. You know, we’ve got some folks who are working on the ability to capture, um, natural language to be able to use that almost real time to predict changes in demand because people increasingly are tweeting their thoughts or putting it on Facebook, et cetera. I just read about a kid who literally just before our call, Chris, I read about a kid who’s a senior at Cornell who has put together an analytics tool that will scrape posts on Reddit in real time and be able to assess the success or failure. As far as fans are concerned of NFL drafts of the NFL drafts that are going to go live tonight or tomorrow night, you know, usually you can tell, cause it’s live and people will boo or cheer. So he came up with an analytical tool. That’s going to scrape real time, natural language data, and convert that into a negative one to one scale of applause or booing. So that in real time, we’ll be able to see how fans react to draft

Chris Barnes (23:03):

In your discussion. You mentioned a term that got me thinking about another interview. I did. You said asset management. I interviewed Ben consensually. I don’t know if you know him. He’s a professor at Emory more on the computer science side. I’ve heard the name. I believe he mentioned that supply chain management was really about two things, asset management and moving inventory. So keep, so he said, one thing is keeping things still and then keeping things moving. That was an interesting perspective. I’ll have to refresh myself on that one.

Ted Stank (23:28):

Yeah. And I agree with them. We, I mean, we call it movement and storage, but same thing.

Chris Barnes (23:32):

So I also just to switch gears a little bit on you, I, as part of an interview with, I think your colleague Alan, uh, online, uh, when he was with ups and he was doing work for three D printing, do you have an opinion on three D printing and how it might impact the supply chain? Yeah, I, um, we’re

Ted Stank (23:46):

Actually seeing some of our partners use it increasingly. It started with prototyping and it really sped the ability to, to look at different prototypes for products in product development and design. But, um, we’re seeing it increasingly used now in service parts management. I think that’s going to be an industry that gets literally revolutionized if you’ve ever, if you’ve ever been on a flight back when we used to fly on aircraft, if you’ve ever been at an airport like Knoxville, Tennessee, which is a, you know, kind of a very small spoke airport, waiting on a flight to Atlanta, for example, on Delta. And you’ve been delayed for a couple of hours because a latch on the coffee maker in the galley broke and we can’t take off because we don’t have a latch and it has to be flown in from Atlanta. Think about if the operating center in Knoxville had a three D printer that could make the latch for that coffee maker and in 10 minutes and we’d be off.

Ted Stank (24:41):

And on our way, a lot of aircraft manufacturing firms are using it in noncritical structures because you can make structural elements that are super strong, but also super light like, um, the internal cockpit or the internal, uh, cockpit structures and walls and things like that. I’ve actually seen it passed around a conference room and it looks like it would be really heavy and you pick it up very easily with one hand. So I think in, in those kinds of manufacturing environments, we’re going to see a lot of application. I’ve heard of automotive companies that are actually using it for some engine componentry. And again, that has tremendous implications for downstream, um, repair and replace. I think in some consumer settings, we’re going to see it increasingly going back to that whole t-shirt thing. I’ve, I’ve seen it in, uh, some clothing stores with the ability to make little consumer items with a, with three D printers. So it’s happening now in the COVID-19 every day you read about these high school kids that have a three D printer and they’re using them to make face cards for, for healthcare work. I think it’s going to turn a lot of what we know about inventory planning and targeting on its head in certain instances, not every,

Chris Barnes (25:52):

I think that’s a great example, especially service parts management, because, you know, from a, again, from an apex perspective, that’s very difficult to plan and manage. You have to store it. You don’t know if you’re storing it for one day or 10 years, you know, so,

Ted Stank (26:03):

And you have to store parts like in automotive for a, you know, a 1952 Ford, uh, you know, that may be terms as you said once every 10 years, but you still have to keep that part. So if you could shed a lot of that long tail of our inventory segmentation and just make it on demand now, how critical that was,

Chris Barnes (26:23):

It would be a good perspective so far. So as we kind of ramped down, you mentioned earlier a little bit of a supply chain risk. Are you doing any research or work in that space?

Ted Stank (26:32):

I’m not per se. Although we have folks on our faculty are working, uh, specifically in risk. One of the things that I’ve been working on over the last several years really is related to a global supply chain, supply chain, location decisions, and clearly risk is a, is a really big part of that. We’ve created a framework that we call Epic and Epic stands for economic characteristics P stands for political characteristics. So the nature of a country’s political structure, I is there a physical infrastructure, ports, railways highways, communications technology, and see his business competencies. What’s the nature of support industries like three PLS, um, managerial capabilities and talent, skilled labor, that kind of thing. And we’ve used it at to assess 60, I think, 64 companies or countries around the world and given them index scores on each of these categories. So that companies can pretty quickly, if they’re looking for opportunities for either vendors or manufacturing locations or distribution locations in a region, identify which countries in that region might be the ones to now start sharpening our pencils and look more closely at. So it’s pretty closely related to, to global rate,

Chris Barnes (27:46):

Is that something companies can volunteer to participate in, or is it an initiative where they have to partner with

Ted Stank (27:52):

The framework is available to the public. We’re actually going to launch our newest version of it. Um, and in a couple of days, people can find it on our And then there’s a pull down menu of research and it’s under white papers and we’re gonna, we’re gonna update that every year. So it’s publicly available and we’ve got a number of companies that are using it with their global supply management teams to try to understand where they can start diversifying some of their stuff.

Chris Barnes (28:26):

Okay. And as a, just an apex question is that, how does that tie in to score,

Ted Stank (28:30):

You know, what we’ve tried to do? We, it doesn’t link this doesn’t link directly into score, but what we’ve tried to do is look at characteristics of Epic, that impact, um, sourcing and the capabilities of vendors in a particular area. If a company wanted to set up its own manufacturing or joint venture manufacturing and distribution. So clearly it links to plant source make deliver as, as the score model would, uh, w

Chris Barnes (28:58):

So Ted appreciate your comments so far. Something I always like to conclude on is, is getting our guests perspective on the future of careers in supply chain management. And you’re probably in a good spot to offer any suggestions or guidance that you might have for two audiences, a student considering a degree in supply chain management, or an experienced professional, maybe considering a career change into supply chain management, any perspective there.

Ted Stank (29:23):

Absolutely. In fact, I just hosted a, uh, an online Q and a with about 200 of our graduating seniors this morning. And of course, they’re, they’re concerned with what the job market’s going to look like growing forward. Given given this disruption, I happen to feel that we are in the era of supply chain management in organizations, you could say that, you know, the 50, 60 seventies was an era of really recognizing the importance of understanding finance and, and, and how finance drives an organization. Success in the eighties and nineties were kind of a marketing era. I think that we are now in the era of supply chain and organizations recognizing how the key to competitiveness, the key to financial success lies in best class management of supply chains. And my feeling over 30 years, again, of being in this business is that companies right now can not find enough talented supply chain professionals to meet their needs.

Ted Stank (30:20):

And that’s increasingly true, crazy statistic, large complex state university, like university of Tennessee, 30,000 students, the largest graduating major at the university of Tennessee undergrads is supply chain management majors. We graduate over 400 a year. Psychology, you would think would be the largest, their second at like 280 graduates a year. And it’s because of this revolution of companies recognizing the need to get supply chain talent into their pipelines. So I think that, I think that this is going to continue for a long time. I think that really tragic events like what we’re going through today only heightens that recognition by organizations that they need more talented supply chain professionals. So whether you’re entry level or whether you’re somebody that brings a work experience and a skill set into it. I think that, um, the, the opportunities are, are really bright. I mentioned earlier that combination of analytics and data science with supply chain, and I think that’s a real area, particularly for somebody with some experience.

Chris Barnes (31:27):

Well, one thing’s for sure, from my experience in my networking, you know, being relatively close to the, to the, to your market is a supply chain management degree from university of Tennessee is pretty much a golden ticket.

Ted Stank (31:37):

Tell me one of the things we do is keep really close to folks like you and our industry partners, to make sure that we’re, we’re, we’re learning what they’re doing, and then teaching our students that too.

Chris Barnes (31:47):

And even on the, from the student perspective, I’m I manage the APA chapter in Atlanta, one of the biggest in the country. And I would say at least once a month, I’m getting a call from a professor from a new school, new university that wants to set up an apex chapter for their students. So, and we’re we’re right now about 30% of our members are our state.

Ted Stank (32:06):

Is that right? Yeah, that’s good to hear. Good to hear.

Chris Barnes (32:09):

And another thing for students is apex membership is free for students, as long as you can validate that you’re a full time suit. So that’s good to know

Ted Stank (32:17):

A great way for a student to launch their careers, to be able to have that kind of professional.

Chris Barnes (32:21):

How about experienced professionals, maybe people that have been out of school for a bit, you think it’s wise for them to try to make that change in the supply chain management?

Ted Stank (32:27):

I think so, you know, and I have direct experience with that. I have a son who is a computer and electrical engineer and worked in that field for a long time. I ended up going to work for a, a, a medium sized company in Nashville and is leading their supply chain analytics group, uh, really kind of standing up a lot of their analytics processes around planning and manufacturing, scheduling, et cetera. And eventually once we get past what we’re in right now, um, we’ll stand up that group with, uh, with more head count support. So, uh, so that’s a direct experience. Um, and I think that that applies for folks from a lot of different background areas in business that all contribute to supply chain. We’ve got accountants, finance, people, marketing people, all of whom have an interesting perspective that relates to supply chain management.

Chris Barnes (33:16):

You spoke about Epic, Epic already. So are there, is there anything else that you’re currently working on or anything maybe the audience could learn from?

Ted Stank (33:22):

Yeah, we, um, we stood up a group last year called the advanced supply chain collaborative. It contains, uh, right now, um, 11 of our partner companies, and they’re working with us really closely on five different research initiatives that our faculty are, are working with their folks to, to really explore issues that, that impact all of us. And we’re going to try to find some, some answers and understanding across these different areas. We’re looking at things like I’m using advanced digitalization for inventory targeting. I kind kinda mentioned that earlier. We’re looking at how we can improve both information visibility, as well as cycle times to enhance supply chain agility. We’ve got a couple of our management folks, uh, looking at how we can transform our workforce into being more familiar and able to use digital tools as we go into this kind of brave new world of digitalization, Alan Amling you rent mentioned Alan Amling, he’s leading one. I’m looking at the, uh, the true ROI of blockchain. We hear so much about blockchain. Where is it applicable? Where is the, the ROI? And then our last project this year is, uh, is really looking at that data strategies. How can we make sure data’s available in the right place at the right time, so that we can access it and turn it into usable information,

Chris Barnes (34:41):

Ted stank, thank you again for investing time with me and sharing your perspective. How can people get in touch with you if they’re interested?

Ted Stank (34:48):

I’m pretty simple, Chris. My last name is stank. There’s not a lot of those folks out there. So my email address is T stank T S T a N Thank you. Thanks Chris. This was fun.

Chris Barnes (35:02):

Thanks for listening to learn more about these and many other supply chain topics. Consider getting an apex certification. There’s a YouTube video where you can learn more about bootcamp style workshops at Georgia tech search on apex bootcamp courses, informational webinar. If you’re in the North Georgia, North Alabama Chattanooga area, check out the traditional class formats offered by the university of Tennessee Chattanooga center for professional education supply chain Academy. To learn more about general apex and supply chain happenings around the Southeast. Check out apex, Atlanta dot O R G optionally.

Speaker 3 (35:38):

The supply chain doctor and apex coach can bring supply chain certification workshops to your company. Just send a note to and remember supply chain is boring.

Ted Stank is the Bruce Chair of Excellence in SCM and Faculty Director of the Global Supply Chain Institute at the University of Tennessee (Ph.D., University of Georgia, 1994). He has authored over 100 articles and five books on various aspects of Supply Chain Management. He previously worked for Abbott Laboratories and in the US Navy, and has consulted with dozens of organizations including ABI, Dell, IBM, Mondelez, Walgreens, and Walmart. He is a Past Chair of the Board of Directors of the CSCMP.

Chris Barnes is a supply chain guru, the APICS Coach, and Supply Chain Now Contributor. He holds a B.S., Industrial Engineering and Economics Minor, from Bradley University, an MBA in Industrial Psychology with Honors from the University of West Florida.  He holds CPIM-F, CLTD-F and CSCP-F designations from ASCM/APICS, one of the few in the world. Barnes is a professional education instructor for the Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistics Institute’s Supply Chain Management (SCM) and University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Center for Professional Education certificate courses. Barnes is a supply chain advocate, visionary, and frequent podcaster and blogger at Barnes has over 27 years of experience developing and managing multiple client, engineering consulting, strategic planning and operational improvement projects in supply chain management. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn and reach out to him via email at:


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