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Dealing with the uncertainty and risk in the supply chain industry caused by the tough economic climate in Europe is a priority for supply chain leaders around the world.

Executives gathered in Paris this summer to discuss best practices on addressing the situation during the European meeting of the Global Supply Chain Forum, organized by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The ESSEC (École Supérieure des Sciences Économiques et Commerciales) Business School in Paris and Singapore co-sponsored the event.

Three major observations from forum participants were:

  • Supply chain management is becoming an increasingly important part of corporate strategy, as the tough European economic climate requires companies to provide higher levels of customer service at lower costs. Yet companies are being pressured to preserve profit margins.
  • Similar to US companies, European companies are now aggregating more business functions, such as logistics, transportation, and distribution operations into supply chain management organizational teams. However, US companies have been more likely than European companies to include the procurement function under this umbrella. Forum participants emphasized that procurement activities need to be integrated into supply chain management organizations to allow companies to better capture the increased revenue and margin opportunities that result from using modern supply chain management best practices.
  • Participants acknowledged that many companies do not have a well-developed strategy for the managing and developing of supply chain talent. In addition, supply chain career paths are not well defined, and no major improvement appears to be on the horizon.

The forum’s purpose was to provide a venue for leading supply chain executives, academics, and students to discuss the future of supply chain management. The consortium hosted about fifty business executives representing more than thirty companies across a range of industries, market sectors, and countries.

Participating firms included Alstom, Bearing Point, BIC, Carrefour, Caterpillar, Geodis, Mars, Master Lock, Nexans, Peugeot, Philips, Sanofi, as well as faculty from UT and ESSEC.

“The European meeting of our Global Supply Chain Forum provided a vehicle for European companies to learn about current best practices in supply chain,” said Shay Scott, director of UT’s Global Supply Chain Institute. “It also allowed our faculty to deepen their knowledge on current European market conditions that they can bring back into our classrooms.”

UT’s Global Supply Chain Forum meets semiannually in Knoxville and annually in key global business regions, including Europe (Paris, France), Asia (2012 launch in Singapore), and Central/Eastern Europe (2012 launch in Budapest, Hungary).

To learn more about the forums, visit the Global Supply Chain Institute’s website.


Cindy Raines (865-974-4359,