The Total Scope of Supply Chain Management

Join the supply chain conversation at Think Supply ChainDefining the total scope of supply chain management—as an association professional, advocating for supply chain professionals—is one of my biggest challenges.

@ Supply Chain Management is an excellent blog run by Chris Jacob, a senior consultant for IBM. I am a little behind on my reading, so only today did I come across his post from February 11 in which he reproduced a graphical history of logistics and supply chain management originally published by It is a really interesting and valuable chart; however, it fails to present supply chain management as a holistic discipline that is more than the sum of its parts.

We do not share a common definition of supply chain management across the industry. Just take a look at the various professional associations to which you belong. Procurement organizations and logistics associations alike claim supply chain management as their expertise. And to be fair, APICS, which defines supply chain management from end to end, has its roots in planning and production. Even so, the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional designation uses the SCOR model to validate candidates’ knowledge and skills from planning through returning.

Defining supply chain management

The APICS Dictionary, 13th edition, defines supply chain management as “the design, planning, execution, control, and monitoring of supply chain activities with the objective of creating net value, building a competitive infrastructure, leveraging worldwide logistics, synchronizing supply with demand, and measuring performance globally.” This definition of supply chain management first appeared in the 9th edition of the APICS Dictionary in 1998. As we are in the midst of producing the 14th edition of this reference, it is a good time to ask: Is this an accurate definition of supply chain management? Does it adequately capture the scope of supply chain management today?

Innovation: a noun or a verb?

Join the supply chain conversation at Think Supply Chain“I am starting to cringe when I see the word innovation. I have placed this word on a list of terms that I maintain that are so overused that they begin to lose their meaning.“ I know where Bob Trent, who commented on my last post, is coming from. In the world of business education and communication, most of us are guilty of picking up on trends in nomenclature and beating them to death until pointed in a new direction by different trends. The problem with naming is that it allows us to seemingly embrace concepts without really understanding them. We can lose the complexity or richness of meaning.

So perhaps it is best to focus on innovation as a process as opposed to an outcome. What is required for innovative thinking and action to become a part of the way firms do business? Jennifer Kevlin, Value Stream Manager, WW Client Supply Chain & Delivery Solutions at IBM, shared this weekend how IBM seeks to create a culture of “collaborative innovation” through the use of technology. IBM Jam Events allow individuals from all over the world to think together about issues in different ways, taking different perspectives. These are structured, facilitated events where the input received is carefully culled through and evaluated. The outcome of these events can be new projects that drive value to the customer, the firm, or society.

Harnessing social media to facilitate collaborative thinking is a powerful way to embed innovation in process. Yet gathering input is not the end of the process. Companies still need to be able to not only make sense of all the input received, but transform it into something that is actionable and that ultimately drives value to the customer.

What ways are companies creating a culture of innovation in their organizations? Is value being created as an outcome?