The 2015 MHI Conference – reviewed by Supply Chain Station

The annual MHI conference has just taken place at the Sawgrass Marriot, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and Supply Chain Station is pleased to bring your our review of the event.

From a broad supply chain point of view the annual MHI conferee has taken on more significance since the decision last year to open the event up to non-MHI members. It’s all part of MHI’s revised strategy under new CEO George Prest, to become more aggressive in its approach which was heralded last year with the creation of the “US Roadmap for Materials Handling and Logistics”, a document that despite its limited interest sounding title, took on a much broader supply chain approach.

This year’s conference however still shows there is some way to go in terms of attracting a more general audience of general supply chain professionals, as the percentage of non-MHI member attendees was still very much in the minority.

Disruptive innovation in the virtual world of the supply chain

One of the keynote presentations at this year’s conference, the one given by David Roberts on the subject of “Disruptive Innovation,” was particularly interesting, making reference to the success of China’s Alibaba operation that carries no inventory; Uber, the taxi provider that own no taxis, and Airbnb- highly valued as a hotelier but that doesn’t own any hotels.

The point that David Roberts was making was the opportunity that exists in the virtual world; saying that perhaps it can apply to global supply chains too, something we here at Supply Chain station saw when we reported a few months ago on the virtual platform that had been launched for training forklift drivers without the use of forklift trucks.

Supply chain risk assessment

David Simchi-Levi of MIT was also here giving a presentation on his supply chain Risk Exposure Index (RSI), a new tool that has been created to calculate the recovery time for any particular supply chain that goes into melt-down mode in any of its sectors.

The RSI tool can also be used to indicate how long a company can survive, how long it can continue to service demand, and how long it will take to switch production when any component in a supply chain goes down. All-in-all it seems to be a pretty useful supply chain risk assessment tool.

Improve supply chain visibility and dispense with “fire-fighting”

So called “fire-fighting” and the need for complex contingency planning, and how to minimize both phenomenons, was the subject of a presentation given by Patrick Murzyn of Caterpillar. Mr. Murzym explained via a slide show, how vastly improved visibility across their supply chain has given Caterpillar the ability to spot potential disruptions much further ahead and take avoiding/corrective action early.

Supply chain strategy and transformation – 9-step plan

Paul Dittman from the University of Tennessee gave any interesting presentation on supply chain strategy and transformation, opening up with the statement that only approximately 18% of large businesses have a formalized supply chain strategy. He recommended his 9-step plan for putting a formal policy in place. It comprises:


  • Evaluate current/future client requirements
  • Compare current supply chain capabilities against client requirements
  • Assess supply chain game changing scenarios
  • Compare competitors’ supply chain capabilities
  • Investigate current supply chain technologies
  • Add in supply chain risk mitigation
  • Plan to build-in missing supply chain capabilities
  • Re-evaluate the metrics that will be required
  • Formalize the business case

Breakout sessions disappointing

Unfortunately the breakout sessions held nothing particularly worthy of report. Most were run by panels and demanded focused concentration in order to take anything away. It’s something MHI will need to work on to take future conferences into the “not-to-be-missed” category.

If you visited the conference and you have any ideas on how future events can be improved, please post your comments below and we will share them with your peers.

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