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Supply Chain: More Than Moving Things on Trucks

Dr. Rob Handfield of North Carolina State University, shares his thoughts on supply chain, social media and sharing information

By  Jessica Hadley

Fri Jul 20 2012

The author of the blog Supply Chain View from the Field, Dr. Rob Handfield, has spoken to BusinessBecause about how blogging enables him to communicate with a much wider audience, and complements the global implications of supply chain.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I took my degree at the University of North Carolina, then moved to Michigan State University where I was Associate Professor at the Eli Broad School of Management, working in global benchmarking. I am now a Professor at the Poole College of Management, and work with a supply chain research cooperative.

How did you get into blogging?

Blogging seemed a great way to enable industry, faculty and students to work together, sharing research and ideas. I’ve now been blogging for about one and a half years!

How do you make supply chain relevant to a non-specialised audience?

When most people think about supply chain management, they pigeon hole it by assuming it’s all about shipping and providing raw materials, but actually it’s also concerned with global issues, sourcing talent, building and managing relations – all the wider issues that concern anyone in business. We work with everyone from food and beverage companies, to companies in financial services: supply chain isn’t just to do with shipping things about on trucks!

What’s the best thing about your experience of blogging?

I enjoy the opportunity to have a broad network of contacts and readers, and to expose myself to a variety of industries, whether it be healthcare, manufacturing, or global statistics.

I’m a compulsive note-taker, and I love capturing my first thoughts after a conversation or event on paper. By giving this an outlet on my blog, I’m able to share my thoughts, and gain a variety of perspectives on them from my readers. It also give me the chance to reappraise and revisit my initial reactions.

How has the web changed the way you approach supply chain management?

It might be easier to ask how it hasn’t changed! The internet enables greater transparency and flexibility, allowing a better understanding of global and regulatory issues. Of course, it’s also a great tool for communication.

I think there’s further to go, however: the use of blogs and social networks are still on the rise, and we’re just beginning to understand how we might be able to exploit them to their greatest advantage.

So do you think social media are a powerful tool for businesses?

Social media are absolutely a force to be reckoned with! It allows people to connect with each other so much more easily than before. People are precisely what allows supply chains to function, and we’re able to let others know about supply chain disruption far more quickly.More generally, I think using social media increases your awareness of your global position, and expands your cultural horizons.

Do you have any messages for our readership?

I would encourage people to interact more with my blog – visit it even if you don’t think you’re interested in supply chain, because you’ll probably realise quickly that it’s actually extremely closely related to all sorts of different business sectors!

Also, I would love to get more replies. Sometimes people are nervous of getting in touch, but engaging in the conversation is exactly what allows blogs to thrive.