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A fantastic future. (In this Issue).

The future of supply chain management looks even more fantastic than the recent past. That's saying a lot considering how the convergence of Internet technology, heightened global competition, and the advent of lean practices has--in just a few short years--thrust supply chain management into the forefront of business disciplines.

The feature articles in this issue give a hint of just how fantastic that future promises to be.

For Kevin Ashton, the executive director of the Auto-ID Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the future is a place of ubiquitous communication--up and down the extended supply chain. It's a place where microchips with antennas, costing only pennies apiece, are embedded in items, allowing for real-time tracking anytime, anywhere. The auto-ID technology that makes this all possible, says Ashton in our exclusive interview, will revolutionize supply chain management.

Ashton's vision is complemented by a parallel view of the future put forth by three educators from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. In their discussion of intelligent logistics, Noel Greis, Jack Olin, and John Kasarda outline a not-too-distant future where intelligent software agents will process vast amounts of information to help human agents make more intelligent supply chain decisions.

There's only one possible hitch in the rosy scenario suggested by these visionary articles. And that's the ability (or really, inability) of supply chain partners to put parochial interests aside in order to capitalize fully on these technology breakthroughs. To date, the track record on collaboration has been mixed at best, as evidenced by industry's response to CPFR (collaborative planning, forecasting, and replenishment). As Joseph Andraski and Jack Haedicke write in their article, only a handful of companies have embraced this collaborative concept. Notably, those that have (Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble, to name just two) are among the most successful companies anywhere. Surely, there's a message here.

Going forward, supply chain professionals who can forge true collaborative relationships while at the same time leveraging the revolutionary technology coming online position themselves for great personal and professional success. But accomplishing this assignment won't necessarily be easy. The inherent resistance to change within organizations--whether this means adopting auto-ID technology or implementing a structured approach for supply chain collaboration--remains formidable. But with perseverance, supply chain managers can overcome the resistance--and in doing so, open the door to that truly fantastic future.

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Author:Quinn, Frank
Publication:Supply Chain Management Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2003
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