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        Alumni, Industry, Supply Chain Management

        Supply chain professionals share best practices during pandemic

        October 30, 2020 By Joe McAdory

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        "We have worked extensively with our suppliers to ensure we are doing a better job of forecasting demand and changes that could be coming down the pipeline in order to meet inventory demands in the future." -- Conor Gattis, Georgia-Pacific

        The Harbert College is dedicated to partnering with companies and alumni to engage industry and improve business practice.

        Be creative with sourcing and negotiation techniques. Improve forecasting consumer demand. Minimize inventory inaccuracies. These are three areas seasoned supply chain professionals discussed during a special webinar, “Sourcing, Forecasting, and RFID Technology,” presented Wednesday, October 28, by the Harbert College of Business' Department of Supply Chain Management.


        Dr. Shashank Rao

        The webinar, part of the college’s weekly series “Reshaping Business in 2020,” was moderated by Dr. Shashank Rao, Assistant Professor in Supply Chain Management at the Harbert College of Business and featured the expertise of  Justin Patton, Auburn RFID Lab Director, Natalie Walker, Harbert Vendor Relationship Analyst, and Conor Gattis, Group Purchasing Manager at Georgia-Pacific. The entire webinar can be seen here.


        Conor Gattis

        How has COVID-19 influenced business planning? “I don’t think we have a better example than the toilet paper crisis that occurred earlier in the year,” said Gattis, a 2013 Harbert College graduate in Supply Chain Management. “For us, it was working together as a company to figure out what kind of resources we can move around to meet customer demands. We have worked extensively with our suppliers to ensure we are doing a better job of forecasting demand and changes that could be coming down the pipeline in order to meet inventory demands in the future. This might include ensuring we have adequate PPE, sharing runtime data, or sharing usage data on spare parts so that we can get ahead of future disruptions.”

        Walker, who earned a degree in Supply Chain Management from Harbert College in 2016 and previously worked in sourcing at Cox Enterprises, said it can be necessary to use alternate resources when sourcing products. But what categories should be focused on?


        Natalie Walker

        “Maybe it's our technology. Maybe we need to make sure that our infrastructure can handle everyone working remotely,” she said. “Luckily, Cox Enterprises, being a large organization, we were able to maintain systems and everyone can log in from home and beyond the VPN and still working and being productive, not dealing with system failures and issues of that nature. I'm sure that's something a lot of businesses had to rethink. ‘How are we collaborating across our teams?’ Do we need to invest in different platforms to still engage in and work collaboratively together?’”

        Patton, an expert in inventory tracking, said that retailers must continue to evolve the supply chain and in-store experience “in a vastly accelerated pace.”

        “One of the things that's happening now is inventory control and inventory accuracy,” he said. “Our experience is that store inventory systems are not that great. Those types of things used to be an inconvenience when people went to the store. Now they feel that the store told them something that they didn't follow through on, and everybody's kind of going back and focusing very heavily on inventory accuracy.


        Justin Patton

        “How do we fix this? How do we make the supply chain where it's accessible again? There's a lot of things that are happening in a short time to try to shore up that inventory, get it right, and make sure people have access to it and new ways they didn't in the past. But it's been hard. 

        “We have a full shift in the supply chain coming in probably in the next five to 10 years, and it's going to be massive.”

        The final installment of the webinar series, “Cybersecurity Now & Later,” will be presented by the Harbert College Department of Systems & Technology on Wednesday, November 4 at 11 a.m. CST. Dr. Casey Cegielski, alums Quinn Tucci '19, Woody Parramore '16, Jay James ’15 and Jason McKinley '17 will discuss the importance of cybersecurity, the future of jobs in the field, and more. Register here: