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Department of Business


The summit "World Class Supply Chain 2016: Critical to Prosperity", contributed to addressing a need that the Supply Chain Management (SCM) field’s current discourse has deemed as critical: that need is for more academia-­‐industry collaboration to develop the field’s body of actionable knowledge. Held on May 4th, 2016 in Milton, Ontario, the summit addressed that need in a way that proved to be both effective and distinctive in the Canadian SCM environment. The summit, convened in partnership between Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis School of Business & Economics and CN Rail, focused on building actionable SCM knowledge to address three core questions:

  1. What are the most significant SCM issues to be confronted now and beyond 2016?
  2. What SCM practices are imperative now and beyond 2016?
  3. What are optimal ways of ensuring that (a) issues of interest to SCM practitioners inform the scholarly activities of research and teaching and (b) the knowledge generated from those scholarly activities reciprocally guide SCM practice?

These are important questions for supply chain professionals in their efforts to make sense of today’s business environment that is appropriately viewed as volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. The structure of the deliberations to address these questions comprised two keynote presentations and three panel discussions, all of which were designed to leverage the collective wisdom that comes from genuine peer-­‐to-­‐peer dialogue between the SCM practitioners and SCM scholars.

Specifically, the structure aimed for a balanced blend of industry and academic input and for coverage of the SCM issues of greatest interest to attendees (as determined through a pre-­‐summit survey of attendees). The structure produced impressively wide-­‐ranging deliberations on the aforementioned questions. The essence of the resulting findings from the summit can be distilled into three messages:

  1. Given today’s globally significant trends such as changes in population demographics, four highly impactful levers that SCM executives must expertly handle to attain excellence are: collaboration; information; technology; and talent
  2. Government policy, especially for infrastructure, is a significant determinant of SCM excellence
  3. There is tremendous potential for mutually beneficial industry-academia knowledge co-creation/sharing aimed at research and student training

This white paper reports on those findings as well as on the summit’s success in realizing its vision of fostering mutually beneficial industry-academia dialogue. The paper also documents what emerged as matters that are inadequately understood and should therefore be targeted in the ongoing quest for deeper understanding of actionable SCM insights. Deliberations throughout the day on May 4th, 2016 and the encouraging results from the pre-­‐summit and post-­‐summit surveys have provided much inspiration to enthusiastically undertake that quest. The undertaking will be through initiatives that include future research projects as well as next year’s summit–World Class Supply Chain 2017.

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