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SCRC Event April 29-30: What's the Deal with Black Swans?

The 21st Semi-Annual Supply Chain Resource Cooperative (SCRC) Meeting will take place on April 29th and 30th at the McKimmon Conference Center at NC State University in Raleigh, NC.  The theme of this meeting is related to the current economic and operational uncertainty that many organizations find themselves in today and which renders scenario planning, budgeting and supply chain logistics decisions increasingly complex.  Given this complexity, we will spend some time at the meeting discussing the following theme:  Minimizing the Impact of Uncertainty and Disruptions in the Supply Chain.

Although organizations have established forecasting processes in place, many are recognizing that there are many events that are not only impossible to forecast, but which are also impossible to plan for.   As such, the issue becomes not so much to establish accurate forecasts, but to create effective forecasts that broaden one’s perspective to include overlooked possibilities and exposing unexamined assumptions about hoped-for outcomes.  The notion of a “black swan” event serves as a useful metaphor.  These events are impossible to forecast, have a major impact and, with hindsight, could have had a reduced impact if planned for ahead of time.  These types of events have been written about in general management books and articles, but have not been explored extensively from the supply chain perspective.     

Unfortunately, many organizations have been punished severely by unplanned disruptions or, in other cases, have had “near misses.”  In this meeting, we explore some of the lessons learned from these experiences and identify some of the resulting approaches that organizations are applying to develop better plans, more effective forecasts and explore impact scenarios that serve as a baseline for improved business continuity and responsiveness to these issues. 

Some of the questions we will explore at this meeting include:

  • What are the potential sources of uncertainty that organizations are not including in their planning processes?
  • What tools can be applied to better visualize the future and the changes that may lie on the horizon?
  • What are the mitigating elements that can be established to deal with uncertainty?
  • How can past events be used to understand the future trajectory of the supply chain, and what can be done today to influence that trajectory?

The meeting is a private forum for an open discussion of problems faced by executives with a common interest in driving intelligent solutions to a very difficult business environment.   Anyone interested in participating must be registered and should contact Susan Clark at

The meeting agenda will include:

  • “Understanding the Impact of Black Swan Events on the Supply Chain,” Rob Handfield, SCRC.  This presentation will present recent research results from an IACCM-sponsored benchmarking study on pandemic planning.
  • Industry Speakers:
    • “Balancing Lean Supply Chains with Risk,” Dan Hanback, Corporate Director of Supply Chain, CAT Production Systems, Caterpillar.
    • “Managing Global Logistics under Conditions of Uncertainty,” Phil Priest, Director, Zebulon Manufacturing Facility, GlaxoSmithKline.
  • Interactive panel discussion focusing on key organizational issues to address in order to manage supply chain MI.
    • Bill Knittle, Global Procurement Director, BP
    • Dawn Pettit, Power Delivery- Emergency Planning Manager, Duke Energy
    • Melissa Seymour, Director of Compliance, Biogen Idec
    • U.S. Marine Corps
  • Student company project presentations, including:  Bank of America, Biogen Idec, BP, Caterpillar, Chevron, Duke Energy, Ministry Health Care, and Lenovo.

The themes and lessons learned from this meeting will be shared on this blog following the meeting.