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Brian Gibson, Glenn Richey, Harbert College Supply Chain Management faculty and students drive key industry discussions.
The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) EDGE 2021 Supply Chain Conference and Exhibition, held September 19–21 at the Georgia World Conference Center in Atlanta, was truly an Auburn University Harbert College of Business event through and through. With 25 Harbert Department of Supply Chain Management faculty and students participating in this annual global event—many of them serving as presenters, panelists and moderators—no university made a bigger impact than Auburn.
Brian Gibson—Wilson Family Professor, executive director of Auburn’s Center for Supply Chain Innovation and CSCMP Board of Directors Chair
The Harbert College of Business sat down with Brian Gibson—Wilson Family Professor at Harbert, executive director of Auburn’s Center for Supply Chain Innovation and CSCMP Board of Directors Chair—and Glenn Richey, Harbert’s Department of Supply Chain Management Chair, to review the event, discuss Harbert’s leadership there and outline what it all means to students and faculty in Auburn University’s highly ranked Supply Chain Management program.
HCOB: Let’s start with your role in this event as Chair of CSCMP—can you give us a brief overview of your responsibilities in organizing EDGE 2021 and during the event itself?
Gibson: As CSCMP Chair, I was actively engaged in delivering an outstanding in-person event, helping select key speakers, promoting attendance and leading the CSCMP Officers Meeting and the quarterly CSCMP Board of Directors meeting the Saturday prior to the event.
I gave the Chair’s opening speech on Monday morning to more than 1,000 attendees and hosted the Chair’s reception on Monday night. I moderated two conference panel sessions—the general session attended by more than 750 people on Tuesday and a mega session attended by more than 100 people on Wednesday. I also coordinated the attendance and participation of 12 Harbert students at the conference.
HCOB: That’s quite a load. Glenn, can you give us a sense of the broader participation and contributions of Harbert Supply Chain Management faculty and students at this year’s event?
Glenn Richey—Department of Supply Chain Management Chair
Richey: Sure, but before I do, I have to note that Brian’s contribution to this event goes well beyond the formal leadership roles he cited—as impressive as those are. I took a look at his schedule for pre-event activities and during the conference itself—there wasn’t a moment in which Brian wasn’t deeply engaged in key aspects of the conference.
One thing he left out was the Academics Research Symposium portion of the event, which was another area where his leadership and the participation of other Harbert faculty set the tone. His role in the CSCMP Annual Business Meeting also comes to mind.
Beyond Brian, the leadership and participation by Harbert SCM faculty and students was equally impressive. In addition to Brian and myself, five other Harbert SCM faculty participated on panels, including Beth Davis-Sramek, Rafay Ishfaq, LaDonna Thornton, Marcia Gibson, and Alex Ritenbaugh.
Two of our students also contributed to this year’s event via their participation on panel discussions—senior Jarrett McMeans and PhD student Ian Slazinik.
HCOB: That kind of participation in such a seminal academic and industry-focused event obviously doesn’t happen overnight. Can you speak to how Harbert has managed to play such a critical role in CSCMP, beginning with how you became Chair of this leading SCM organization?
Gibson: To begin with, it is a long, dedicated process we’ve undertaken on behalf of our Supply Chain Management program to engage our faculty as leaders in supply chain management education. It begins with becoming committee chair and then an officer, which I did four years ago when I was elected treasurer. Officer terms last five years, so this year I serve as Chair, and then next year I will serve as immediate past president—my last year as an officer.
In the role of Chair of the Board of Directors, I serve the 7,000+ individual and corporate members of the CSCMP organization by coordinating the work of the 17 board members who oversee a multi-million-dollar organizational budget. I also work with the organization’s CEO on strategy and revenue growth programs.
HCOB: Harbert’s representation in CSCMP doesn’t end with you, though, right? Glenn, can you tell us who else from Harbert serves in leadership roles in CSCMP, including your own editorial responsibility at the Journal of Business Logistics, the group’s highly regarded research publication?
Left to right: LaDonna Thornton, Tyler Morgan and Beth Davis-Sramek.
Richey: In terms of CSCMP leadership, we have LaDonna Thornton representing Harbert on the Research Strategies Committee and Tyler Morgan as a member of the Sustainable Supply Chain Committee. These are two of the most critical areas of focus for our industry and, in turn, for our supply chain management program at Harbert.
As for the Journal of Business Logistics, I am honored to serve alongside my colleague Beth Davis-Sramek as co-editors of this premiere research-focused logistics and supply chain management journal. Our role is to identify, qualify and promote the very best of research globally—the studies that generate the highest-quality insight and define the managerial priorities needed for success in our rapidly changing field.
HCOB: That’s a great segue to a final question—how does Harbert’s prominent position as a recognized leader in an organization that serves supply chain management professionals translate into student success?
Gibson: There is a strong, direct connection between the involvement of our—or any college’s—faculty in the real-world issues of the industry and our ability to prepare graduates for the workforce. That’s what we do. It is incumbent upon higher education to stay tightly connected to the evolving issues of an industry as vibrant and rapidly changing as supply chain management. It’s a no-brainer for us—get involved, stay involved and bring the benefits of that industry involvement back to the classroom as soon as possible.
Richey: Brian pretty much summed it up. Our role as educators of the next generation of supply chain management professionals demands a deep immersion into what our increasingly important field needs. Immersion of faculty and students into actual supply chains and industry events like CSCMP provide a level of updated understanding that can’t be experienced in the classroom alone. Students and faculty need to be out in the field rather than simply sitting in a lecture hall or stashed away in the ivory tower.
Supply chain management used to be a mystery to customers and a necessary evil for most businesses—that has changed dramatically. Did the pandemic bring this to light? Absolutely. But let’s be clear, the importance of strategic supply chain management in today’s global business environment has been growing well before the pandemic. Powerhouse companies like Amazon and Walmart have built their market advantages on logistics and supply chain excellence. Other businesses are discovering that solely focusing on efficiency and cost reduction may be a risky decision resulting in disruption, customer loss, or eventual bankruptcy.
It is difficult to find positives related to the global pandemic. But, if companies now realize their vulnerabilities and will take the crucial steps to incorporate responsiveness and contingency planning into their partnerships and processes, we will all be better served.
And it’s about time.