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"Supplier-Led Innovation" – Theme for Upcoming SCRC Meeting April 23-24, 2014

Our SCRC team sent out invitations to our next SCRC meeting on April 23 and 24, which will focus on a theme that is often discussed in the press, but which many people have yet to really define effectively: “Managing Relationships to Drive Supplier-Led Innovation.”

The concept of measuring and structuring supplier relationships to drive performance has been around for many years.  Prior studies on Supplier Relationship Management (SRM)  found that supply chain leads needs to build a solid basis for managing supplier relationships through measurement, leading to reactive improvement of the supply base, proactive and collaborative improvement efforts, and at the highest level, a true partnership to drive innovation and joint product/process/service development. However, have you ever wondered about what it takes to put the right pieces in place to get to this highest level of product and process innovation, leading to the purest form of collaboration in the supply chain?  Who are the companies that have managed to do this, and what did it take to get there?

If you’ve ever asked these questions, you’re not alone.  Very few companies succeed at driving new ideas from suppliers into the business because they are simply unprepared to engage suppliers. Companies that have succeeded in integrating suppliers into product development have implemented a well-defined process and identified the right team of individuals to lead supplier integration efforts.  Terms such as collaboration, partnering, relationship management, and others are often over used, without really defining the actions and individuals that lie behind the outcome of such actions.

In the last year I’ve had the opportunity to work on several studies related to supplier-led innovation. Some of the questions we’ll have an opportunity to discuss with individuals who have “walked the walk” include:

  • What is the role of trust when it comes to intellectual property, project risk, revenue sharing, and other legal issues that come up on supplier-led innovation
  • What are the characteristics of suppliers that make successful partners, based on past experiences and lessons learned?
  • How do you build a foundation upon which to establish supplier-led innovation?  What is the roadmap that leads to this outcome?  Is there a hierarchy of strategies and change that organizations must begin this journey with that will lead to this end state?
  • What is the role of talent, skills, and capabilities in the supply chain workforce required to be able to effectively manage relationships that will lead to successful innovation?

We will hear from leaders that I’ve been privileged to work with in the past year, who have established a roadmap to build supplier relationships that produce innovative products and services. I also had the opportunity to speak at a Webinar for the Management Roundtable this past week, and received a number of excellent comments and ideas from that session as well.

The SCRC meeting agenda will include:

  • An update on SCRC programs and services since the last meeting
  • Some of my thoughts on issues that are critical to managing suppliers to drive product and process innovation.  In particular, my comments will focus on the core attributes required to drive successful outcomes on supplier-led innovation.  My observations will be drawn from my interviews with executives at BMW, Clorox, John Deere, Intel, Union Gas, Suncor Energy,
  • Mr. Jason Schenker, Economist and President of Prestige Economics.  A regular presenter at the SCRC meeting, Mr. Schenker will share his thoughts and views on the current health of the economy and the impact of current geopolitical events on global business conditions.  Mr. Schenker has been recognized by Bloomberg News as one of the top economic forecasters in the world for eight consecutive quarters across multiple categories.
  • Mr. Dan Kettler, John Deere, will discuss some of his observations in working with suppliers through the Partner Integration program at Deere.
  • Mr. Gordon Heidecker, KPMG, will share his experiences on working in product design and prototyping with major automotive OEM’s for the past twenty years.
  • Mr. Mike Rosberg, Chief Procurement Officer at Hyster-Yale Inc., will discuss some of his recent experiences in managing supplier relaitonships to drive performance outcomes that are having a bottom-line impact.
  • Lowell Hoffman, a former CPO at Kraft Foods, National Can, and Colgate-Palmolive, will discuss his experiences in working wiht a global supply base, and structuring an organization to drive trust, innovation, and aligned behaviors.
  • A student ‘gallery walk’ showcasing graduate and undergraduate supply chain practicum projects completed with industry partners this semester
  • Formal student / company presentations, including: Caterpillar, Foodbuy, GlaxoSmithKline, John Deere, Lenovo and others
  • Supply chain professionals networking opportunities

This is shaping up to be a great meeting!  Anyone interested in attending please contact