Successful manufacturers welcome changes such as the benefits that cloud computing can have on their supply chain.

Manufacturers have been unfairly portrayed as having a fundamentally conservative, "don't tell me, show me" outlook. That's surprising, considering the major innovations in production software, the birth of the global supply chain, and dramatic shifts in e-commerce, reverse logistics and business continuity.

Sustainability is at the root of supply chain risk - and opportunity.

There is increasing alignment between the risks and opportunities supply chain professionals are managing and those sustainability professionals manage. I'm not primarily referring to the issues of labor practice and worker treatment, though those are genuinely important issues to manage. Other significant global sustainability issues are disrupting supply chains ability to deliver and, thereby, impacting corporate profitability.

Each day, thousands of trucks carrying millions, even billions of dollars in merchandise traverse the United States. Traditionally, companies have used paper, or hand-key computer tracking programs to record each shipment’s progress as it moves through the supply chain.

When we first started working in RFID a little over a decade ago, typical questions from supply chain managers were: When should we replace barcodes with RFID tags? When will tags be cheap enough to use? Should we use high-frequency (HF) or ultra-high-frequency (UHF) technology? At the time, we had no good answers and only a vague idea that the questions were wrong.

If you were to review any of the current lists of top 500 growth companies across North America, dollars to donuts you will find at least two third-party logistics companies (3PL). It seems that our desire to build and retain logistics expertise internally is diminishing, and quickly. In 2011 for example, the 3PL sector grew at a rate of five percent and is expected to top six percent in 2012. It’s no wonder we are shying away from managing logistics internally if you consider the growing complexity of global supply chains, but the question we should be considering is whether outsourcing complexity – and the risk and rewards that go along with it – to those who seemingly have expertise in the area is the right thing to do for our organization.

Personally, I don’t think this is the best decision for most organizations.

UT’s efforts around supply chain management and logistics programs have led to high ranking by Supply Chain Management Review, AMR Research, U.S. News & World Report and Supply Chain Digital. UT offers undergraduate, graduate and Ph.D. supply chain management programs and provides executive education, industry forums, research initiatives, custom programs, global partnerships and corporate audits.

Like life in the Western frontier, bringing order requires visibility into conditions that can affect fuel retail success, the ability to impose a set of rules that achieve business goals, and ultimately a strong measure of determination as every day presents a new set of challenges. For fuel retailers to gain better control over their part of a volatile supply chain, it means real-time fuel management software and services. This approach gives businesses the ability to anticipate business-impacting problems and take remediating actions before they become expensive ones. In fact, automation can enable businesses to turn volatility into a competitive advantage in the market.

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