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ASCM Insights

ASCM CONNECT: North America kicks off in Louisville, Kentucky!


Supply chain professionals from around the world have come together for essential education, collaboration and network-building.  

Don't miss Monday's top 5 takeaways: 

1. The conference began with expert commentary from Elliott Harris, chief economist at the United Nations, and former U.S. Ambassador John J. Sullivan. They spoke with ASCM CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE, about supply chain recovery and resilience with a global perspective.

Key topics of the general session included the megatrends of trade tension and emerging technologies. Together, the speakers considered which is most important to supply chain: “Emerging digital technologies are the driving force of the transformation of supply chain and the very structure of economics,” Harris noted.  

Sullivan added, “It’s the intersection of technology and trade — coupled with human involvement. This leads to trade tensions that are inevitable, significant and not going away.” 

The three also voiced concern over relationships among governments becoming increasingly confrontational and lacking in trust. This compounds issues related to essential raw material shortages; food security and, as Harris put it, “the sanctity of the supply chain”; as well as environmental and climate policy. He also noted that climate action requires more collaboration and encouragement from governments. 

All these issues are made even more challenging by today’s escalating velocity of change. As Sullivan said, “This increasing speed puts a burden on all of the people working within supply chains.” 

To respond effectively, there’s no doubt that industry professionals must become even more flexible and able to make decisions under pressure. This week at ASCM CONNECT will be an exciting time to prepare for what’s next. Read on to discover some of the key takeaways that will enable participants to help their organizations compete and thrive. 

2. Conference attendees got a sneak peek at the top 10 supply chain trends coming in 2024, based on extensive study by ASCM’s Research, Innovation and Sensing Committee. Members of the committee, joined by Matt Talbert, ASCM senior research manager, revealed the following.

  1. Digital supply chain will require more businesses transforming their networks into connected, intelligent, scalable and nimble digital ecosystems.
  2. Big data and analytics are poised to help even more supply chains identify inefficiencies, reduce costs, improve customer service, and strengthen resilience and agility.
  3. Advances in artificial intelligence will increasingly be used to make predictions and decisions about demand forecasting, quality control, new product development and more.
  4. Essential investments in systems and people will create a culture of innovation and encourage employees to share ideas that lead to real supply chain success.
  5. Supply chain visibility and traceability are set to enable more networks to track the movement of goods and materials through every tier of the supply chain, as location intelligence provides essential context about the current state of their networks.
  6. With supply chain disruption now the norm, more companies will prepare with effective risk management that involves identifying and assessing risks, effective stakeholder communication, developing mitigation strategies, and testing and rehearsing plans.
  7. Essential agility and resilience will require new tools, skilled employees to program and work alongside advanced tech, and cross-functional teams to collaborate and problem-solve.
  8. Smart supply chains will safeguard their networks by tapping into cybersecurity solutions, training and awareness to address an alarming increase in data breaches, delays and shortages, reputational damage, and financial loss.
  9. To achieve green and circular supply chains, effective businesses will prioritize partner collaboration, educating employees, setting clear targets, measuring impact and reporting on progress to be held accountable.
  10. Geopolitics and the deglobalization of supply chains will bring about simpler networks through nearshoring and friend-shoring, which should improve security and resilience but also raise prices, limit choice and reduce innovation due to smaller market sizes.

3. Jill Hays, CSCP, CPIM, CLTD, senior supply chain manager at AWS, explored advanced tech at Amazon. She said digital supply chains don’t happen overnight; they evolve over time. "You have to go through the what if's,” she explained. “Digital supply chain was, is and will continue to be iterative.”

    Hays shared the process at Amazon, which includes team members coming up with multiple what-if statements, brainstorming solutions, piloting them, probably failing a few times, then rolling out. “It’s ok to grow with it. As the tech grows, the new ideas grow, and your teams grow as their skillsets improve.”  

    When implementing collaborative technologies, objectives should include automating elements of certain tasks to enable people to focus on more creative and interesting tasks, think more deeply about how to prevent issues, and make more meaningful decisions. Hays noted, “At Amazon, collaborative tech such as machine learning has multiple impacts: team growth, greater efficiency, increased supply chain speed, lower costs, less expediting and higher customer satisfaction.” 

    4. New this year, ASCM CONNECT: North America featured TECHTalks, a resource for thought leadership, analysis and exploration of critical supply chain priorities. A diverse lineup of C-level executives, tech experts and start-up visionaries shared advice, best practices and fascinating case studies.

    One TECHTalk focused on improving supply chain visibility in health care. The presenter told the story of a leading provider of cell and gene therapies, which dramatically improved its supply chain visibility by implementing a logistics operations control tower. Attendees learned about control tower design, development and implementation strategies that can be applied in any industry. 

    Another TECHTalk looked into supply chain maturity based on the Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR) model. As automation, the internet of things, blockchain, supply-chain-as-a-service and artificial intelligence emphasize the need for well-defined business architecture, the speaker explained how the SCOR framework can provide the necessary building blocks. Participants also learned how to tap into the new SCOR-based qualitative assessment, which evaluates maturity and readiness. 

    A discussion about supply chain resilience showed participants how to amplify faint signals of changing risk exposures and transform them into a true competitive advantage. Attendees discovered how PwC is helping supply chain organizations reconstruct, visualize and analyze their upstream supply chains. They also came away with an understanding of how to achieve extended supply chain resilience through data-driven decision-making, collaboration and innovation. 

    5. Amid all the world-class education, attendees also enjoyed plenty of networking and fun, both during the day and after hours. The Expo Hall was a popular place to meet new people and reconnect with old friends, with leading exhibitors showcasing the latest supply chain technologies and solutions.

    A networking lunch provided with delicious food and interesting conversation, as people from across the globe connected over traditional Louisville sandwiches and desserts. Then, as day 1 came to a close, attendees headed down the street to the After-Dark party featuring The Crashers Band. It was a great way for these dedicated supply chain professionals to let loose and enjoy some well-deserved fun after all of their hard work.  

    Stay tuned: There’s lots more to come this week, including a movie night, a sundae bar and the must-attend closing reception! 

    Don't miss a moment of ASCM CONNECT: North America!  

    These stories are just the beginning. Be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn to be a part of all the fun. And mark your calendar for next year’s premier supply chain conference, September 9-11, in Austin! 

    About the Author

    Elizabeth Rennie Editor-in-Chief, SCM Now magazine, ASCM

    Elizabeth Rennie is Editor-in-Chief at ASCM. She may be contacted at

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