Supply Chain Management Professor John Bell expects globally-sustainable supply chains to take center stage in 2016 and beyond. Is your supply chain ready for the future?
The upcoming Supply Chain Outlook Summit will feature 10 different speakers who have their fingers on the pulse of the most important changes impacting supply chain management over the next 2-3 years. At the event, John Bell will discuss the value of creating and cultivating a sustainable supply chain.
Demand & Supply Integration (DSI) Forums Distinguished Scholar and Associate Professor of Supply Chain Management at the University of Tennessee, Bell has taught on the faculties at the Air Force Institute of Technology and Georgia College & State University. Bell’s research interests include supply chain networks, natural resource scarcity, vehicle routing, facility location, and supply chain risk and he’s the co-author of the book, Global MacroTrends and their Impact on Supply Chain Management.
In this Q&A with Supply Chain Outlook, Bell discusses how social, economic, and environmental impacts are pushing companies to look more closely at the sustainability of their supply chains.
SCO: Why is sustainability an important topic for today’s supply chain leaders?
Bell: Supply chain management is a dynamic area where things are constantly changing. Companies are looking within themselves and outwardly to competitors to get a handle on these changes, but I also try to get managers to look at larger, global trends and how those trends might impact their companies down the road.
SCO: What are some of those larger, global trends?
Bell: Traditionally, supply chain managers worry about supply chain design and answering questions like where are the warehouses, where are the vehicles, and how are we going to deliver these goods? These concerns are now changing due to urbanization, emerging economies, increased environmental policy and other trends. Supply chain managers now have to worry about things like having a customer in Central Africa and how to deliver products there, or how to get a truck into downtown Chicago via a congested street.
SCO: How do these trends impact supply chain sustainability?
Bell: The fact is, no one really knows what’s going to occur in the future; there’s no crystal ball. We can’t see perfectly where demand is headed, where technology will take us, or how the world population is going to grow. These are all variables that impact supply chain sustainability and risk. Supply chain managers have to invest in the fact that alternative situations may occur. In fact, the long-term survival of their firms depends on this ability to manage risk. So while Wall Street rewards based on quarterly earnings, we really also have to consider how things will change a few years down the road and invest in the risk management now to address these issues.
SCO: What do companies get in return for their tighter focuses on supply chain sustainability?
Bell: During my presentation, I’ll discuss some real-life stories of companies that have used research models to deal with issues like resource scarcity and urbanization. Put simply, when they come up with new mitigation strategies for dealing with issues like urbanization, emerging economies, population growth – all of which lead to supply chain problems like food safety, water scarcity, and trucking shortages – companies can build solutions that help them avoid or at least manage these problems.