I just returned from speaking at and attending the Association of Operations Management (APICS) International Conference in Pittsburgh. It was an interesting conference as there were some new, innovative ideas presented (including one game-changer from my perspective), fresh approaches related to supply chain fundamentals, and intriguing keynote speakers. I also had a long conversation with a book editor and gained some new perspectives on what’s important in the book world.

A few emerging trends pop to mind from synthesizing the presentations and discussions at APICS 2011:

1) Demand driven MRP – an exciting combination of MRP, Lean and TOC (theory of constraints). Every exceptional planner knows that none of these approaches “work” alone yet no systems or typically known best practices addres the issue. I’ve been implementing demand driven MRP for many years as the most successful method to combine what makes sense of MRP, Lean and TOC in order to consistently achieve the optimal inventory, service and efficiencies; however, I didn’t have a “name” for it until now.

2) Supply chain sustainability – although I view much of this topic as common sense (again combining what makes sense of best practice manufacturing concepts, lean, green, etc.), there is an increased interest and heightened awareness in today’s new normal business environment.

3) Supply chain risk – undoubedly, we’ve proven that supply chain risk is not something to ignore (Japan’s earthquake, East Coast hurricanes, the San Diego power outage, port issues etc.) yet how to proactively address is not quite as simple. The best in class companies are not only thinking about this topic but also are partnering with universities like MIT to develop solutions.

4) Fundamentals – as important as it is to stay on top of the latest trends, the fundamentals remain VITAL to success. Of all of my clients, very few need anything beyond solid fundamentals to return a significant bottom line profit.

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