The following article was prepared by Mike Taylor, C.P.M., for distribution to ISM affiliate newsletters.

Conference Notes

Observations and comments about the Pacific Northwest Purchasing Conference in Portland October 24, 2011.

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in the Pacific Northwest Purchasing Conference along with approximately 150 other Supply Chain Professionals. People attended from as far away as Alaska and Colorado to be a part of the conference. We heard informative speakers, participated in many interesting discussions and networked with professionals who work in businesses ranging from health care cooperatives to multi-national pharmaceutical manufacturing.

As always, my favorite part of any conference is the chance to talk with a diverse group of people. Benefits range from something as simple as differences in contract language to alternative contract structure and solutions to logistics problems. On a personal level, itís always helpful to hear about different backgrounds, required skills and career opportunities. Following are a few of my take-aways and observations:

My friend Lee Buddress, Ph.D., Director of the Portland State University Supply and Logistics Management program, played a key role in developing program topics and presenting programs about Supply Logistics Management. In his closing remarks, Lee talked about the world-wide changes affecting supply chain management. His point that our professional and our business is changing made it clear that we have to keep our heads up and change with the marketplace.

In addition to Lee, we also heard Jerry Baker, retired executive officer of NAPM who is now teaching Supply Management courses on line for Shoreline Community College. The inclusion of Lee, Jerry and other supply chain faculty, made it obvious that continuing education is a high value for the upcoming members of our profession. Younger participants in the conference and many of the young people I know are working on degree programs, continuing education classes and expanding their world-class knowledge base. In talking with Lee and Jerry about program graduates, they made it clear that the people they are training are effectively competing for a limited number of supply chain jobs.

I met and enjoyed listening to supply chain consultants Anja Bump and Heather Deibele. They both are actively involved with multi-national pharmaceutical manufacturers. Their message included emphasis about the importance of communication and proactive management particularly when the logistic challenges include obtaining critical materials. Not a new issue, but, as they pointed out, supply contracts more often extend internationally today than ever before Ė sometimes without our direct knowledge. They emphasized that the time to develop a good supplier relationship, is before the inevitable problems arise.

This international connection was highlighted again in another program I attended by lawyer J. Douglas Wells. He spoke about contract terms, and in particular the change from depending on UCC contract law in the United States, to using the UN Convention for the International Sale of Goods (UNCSIG) and INCOTERMS. Since Supply chains are increasingly global Ė our standard contract terminology for something as simple as FOB point, is no longer a default Ė and may be superseded when our supply chain crosses borders. He pointed out that the way the UN convention is written, members countries (including the U.S.) agree that the CISG applies to contracts by default unless specifically removed and replaced with something else.

The net result could be something like this example: A contract with a supplier in Canada goes wrong and we want to bring suit because the Canadian firm did not honor our FOB contract term. Unfortunately for us, in international contracts, FOB does not mean what it does to us in every other U.S. contract. Buyer loses! [INCOTERMS a new concept to you? Learn more by Starting with my notes in this newsletter] Also some more details and references in this previous conference report.

I presented a workshop on writing service contracts, in which I spoke about key issues that should be considered and addressed when writing service contracts. Writing a service contract is not rocket science, but it does take quite a bit of thought to be sure all contingencies are covered. You can view my presentation here.

I also presented a program about using technology. In the workplace, proficiency in software tools is no longer an option. Job candidates, who are under 30, take it for granted. Unfortunately, 20-years of experience, isnít worth as much in a job competition as being able to hit the ground running and figure out the increasingly complex electronic workplace. I outlined what I think are the top 10 things each office worker should know about Office software. See how many you know.

Chairing and running an effective meeting, was the topic of my 3rd presentation at the conference. Unfortunately, Iíve watched too many very strong professionals, fall short when it comes to planning and running an effective meeting. View my presentation here.

Bottom line: I consider participation in conferences one of the most valuable activities that people can take to improve their long-term career outlook. Anyone who will be in our profession for more than 5 more years, will like change jobs and/or at least see competition from younger more technically adept candidates.

You can read about all of the speakers and programs in the full conference brochure posted at the link below. 

One tradition at the conference that is very important, is the recognitions of people who have volunteered and helped so many of us in professionally. Ben Milam, chair of the NW Purchasing Education Council, presented the Sid Brown Award of Excellence to Lee Buddress and Jerry Baker. Both men have been educating, promoting and supporting Supply Chain professionals for many years and are well deserving of this award. Read more about the Sid Brown award and other recipients here.

Thanks to conference co-chairs Sid Brown and Ron Brown and their team of volunteers for a successful conference.

P.S., While in Portland, I had the chance to spend some time with a young friend, who at the early stages of her career now works at the Nike world headquarters. Itís a beautiful, huge campus. She is working her dream job interfacing with international divisions and said she could imagine retiring with this company [~30 years from now?]. My point? She is also still working on her MBA. Sharp as a tack, continuing education, technically savvy, energetic and with international contacts Ė my friend is a great example of exactly the kind of candidates we will have to compete with for our dream job.

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