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Value chain symposium tackles globalization

Mike Santoro, co-director of Lehigh's Center for Value Chain Research

The Lehigh Valley has long been an active economic hub strategically located along the Northeast Corridor. So it should come as no surprise that, earlier this month, Lehigh University played host to a variety of prominent companies and business firms with a rather international flair—and a global focus.

Supply chain experts from such world-renowned companies as GE, Mack/Volvo, Hewlett-Packard, United Technologies and Boeing traveled to Lehigh’s campus to participate in the Center for Value Chain Research’s (CVCR) third annual symposium. They came to discuss perhaps the biggest challenge facing international companies—the rapid rise of globalization.

Titled “New Perspectives on Global Value Chain Alignment,” the day-long symposium featured presentations and break-out sessions that allowed more than 60 conference attendees to interact and exchange ideas on a variety of issues.

It was just the kind of event that the center has become known for.

“We think of the center as a machine that cranks out intellectual capital,” said David Wu, dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science and co-founder of the center. “Our goal is to influence long-term supply chain decisions that industry can absorb and take advantage of.”

An international impact

Mike Santoro, co-director of the center and associate professor of management at Lehigh, shares that vision and believes the center has already begun making contributions to the supply chain field. “Our goal is to continue building a research center that contributes and adds value to the bigger value chain community,” he said. “We think we’re in a great position to affect that change starting now.”

Their optimistic view may have more to do with the center’s structure than anything else. The CVCR is a collaborative, joint research initiative that aligns advances in engineering with new developments in business research.

It’s a cross-disciplinary approach to supply chain research that industry leaders appreciate. Internationally-renowned companies like Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, IBM, Air Products, and LSI (formerly Agere) have partnered in the past with the center on tailored research projects.

A one-stop shop

“The CVCR is becoming known across the U.S. and globally as a ‘value chain one-stop shop’—a single organization to turn to for researching, discussing, and learning about value chains,” said Larry Snyder, co-director of the center and assistant professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

A few of corporations listed above joined more than 15 other multinational companies and consulting firms that recently gathered at Lehigh’s Rauch Business Center to discuss how to adjust their supply chains to meet today’s global demands.

Ken Colbert, vice president of logistics at Church & Dwight, was a featured speaker at the event. His company exports to 115 countries worldwide and owns such household brands as Arm & Hammer.

“In order to compete globally, you need to have a range of sources of supply,” he said, adding that companies need to be more aggressive in strategically developing their international infrastructure.

“But in order to build a truly global supply chain, you need senior level commitment. It’s not a small task and it requires substantial transformational change, regardless of the company or the industry,” he added.

Understanding global challenges

Colbert was joined on the agenda by two prominent consultants in the areas of performance measurement and global security. Barry Brandman, president of Danbee Investigations, identified essential best practices in global security and explored the supply chain implications resulting from terrorism, economic catastrophes and cyberspace violations.

Cheryl Harrity, a principal of Supply Chain Visions, led an interactive session in which attendees rated their company’s current performance management program. She walked through a variety of performance indicators and benchmarks that companies should be using to help set goals, calculate performance gaps and develop roadmaps for success.

Lehigh’s Robert Trent, associate professor of management, also had the opportunity to report on recent research findings that explore how well companies have integrated and coordinated their sourcing and supply needs. Those findings may help international companies—like those that attended the symposium—refine their global supply management processes.

The center conducts two symposiums a year and has initiated quarterly newsletters and other benefits to aide its member companies and research partners. It also makes available a range of leading-edge white papers and research publications crafted by the 25 faculty members representing either the business or engineering college.

For more information on the CVCR, please visit the center’s Web site.

--Tom Yencho

Posted on Thursday, May 10, 2007

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