When HARDI reassessed two related focus conferences last year – operations and logistics, and purchasing optimization – it determined that the linkage was strong enough to combine both into one event and pack it with experts. That is precisely what it did at the Supply Chain Excellence Focus Conference in Phoenix, March 26 – 28.

The catalog of speaker topics ranged from the impact of digital disruption to why distributors need a transportation management system.

HARDI constantly urges, with commendable merit, that if you’re on the supply chain and operations side of the distribution business, this focus conference — and those in the near future — are fertile ground for honing your skills and provide a more strategic view of this area of specialty. If you were there, you know what I mean. If not, pencil in plans for next year. You won’t regret it.

Analytics & Metrics for Supply Chain & Operations

Randy MacLean, president, Waypoint Analytics

Randy MacLean, president, Waypoint Analytics, centered his presentation on efficiency measurements. He also offered tips on how companies beat competitors and the discussed the importance of the “new” guy in an organization.

According to MacLean, beating the competitor requires:

  • Targeting the best accounts and markets in your area;
  • Creating service and price advantage;
  • Developing operational excellence; and
  • Increasing productivity through efficiency and not cost control.

He emphasized the positive benefits linked to being that new guy (or gal). That person is less likely to be hamstrung by tradition and should be willing to ask questions and bring new experiences to the table, especially if he or she is outside the HVACR industry.

Winning in Any Economy: Using Big Data to Gain Customers and Generate Cash

Greg White, president, Blue Ridge, and Jennifer Priestley, Ph.D., Statistics & Data Science, Kennesaw State University

Greg White, president, Blue Ridge, and Jennifer Priestley, Ph.D., Statistics & Data Science, Kennesaw State University, first explained what is big data during their presentation.

“The condition present when the volume, variety and velocity of data exceeds an organization’s capacity for accurate and timely decision-making,” according to White and Priestley.

Those in the HVACR industry can make big data actionable with a five-step plan they shared with the audience. The suggested distributors who take advantage of big data will have predictive maintenance, remote diagnostics and improved customer experience, increase energy efficiency and gain the ability to monetize data as an asset.

Transportation Today: Why You Need a TMS to Thrive

Tom Cannizzo and George Muha, KDL, Freight Management Experts

Both Tom Cannizzo and George Muha focused on the lower cost and increased capability of application programming interface or API over the more standard electronic data interchange technology. That’s a recent competitive advantage for distributors who only have an EDI system. The latter is slower and doesn’t provide real-time information compared to API. They noted that “shippers that implement [a] TMS solution, compared to traditional methods of transportation management, perform far better in terms of service levels and freight savings. Surveys show that more than 63 percent of TMS users gain at least an 8 percent savings in freight costs, with more than 23 percent of users decreasing costs by 10 percent or more.”

Supply Chain Risk Management, An Emerging Discipline

Gregory L. Schlegel, founder, Supply Chain Risk Consortium

What’s the risk? The perennial question for every business, and Gregory Schlegel, founder, Supply Chain Risk Consortium, adjunct professor of Supply Chain Risk, Lehigh University, and vice president of SherTrack LLC, addressed it in his presentation.

He described supply chain risk management as “implementation of strategies to manage everyday and exceptional risks along the supply chain through continuous risk assessment with the objective of reducing vulnerability and ensuring continuity. One way to view SCRM is to think of it as the intersection of supply chain management and risk management.”

While the idea of risk management might seem minor to some distributors (it won’t happen to me), Schlegel pointed to the greater frequency at which incidents are occurring. For example, the EventWatch 2016 report described the top five supply chain events of 2014, which resulted in 339 notifications. In 2015, it rose to 741, and climbed even further in 2016 with a total of 1,494. These notifications included mergers and acquisitions, factory fire or explosion, reorganization or management change, earthquake and business sale or spin-off.        

Schlegel says his goal is to alert distributors to the fact that beyond the usual examining of one’s supply chain, it is prudent to consider what a supply chain’s disruption can do to business. He urged distributors who wanted more information to visit https://thescrmconsortium.com/.

Go with your Gut: Effective Decision−Making in an OverThinking World

Shelley Row, P.E., Leadership Expert

Shelley Row, an engineer by training and the author of Think Less, Live More, doesn’t deny the need to think through business decisions. But she noted that everyone, from minor middle management to the executive suite, often overthinks decisions. She offered a checklist of items that will remind you when overthinking takes hold of your decision making. These include:

Taking too long;

  • Making it harder than necessary;
  • Need that one more piece of information; and
  • The repetitive, “we’ve been over this again and again.”

It culminates into a nagging feeling that something is still missing or the need to make the final call.

Row said you can combine both sides of the brain — she termed it infotuition — to not only make the decision but to halt the stress afterward.

HARDI Government Affairs Briefing

Jon Melchi, HARDI’s Vice President of Operations and Government Affairs

Jon Melchi gave everyone an update on the legislative activity affecting our industry. He conceded that the most frequent questions he gets are about the Trump administration and its direction. (Read his most recent overview on page 28.) He also reiterated the importance of the HARDI Congressional Fly-In, May 23-24, as distributors visit their legislators in Washington, D.C.