The ISM Conference returns to a live setting


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It’s been a long three years for the leading supply chain associations. The Big Three of ASCM, CSCMP and ISM ended 2019 with a roaring economy, with digital transformation re-shaping our industry and creating new opportunities for supply chain professionals and with supply chain finally being viewed as a competitive differentiator rather than a cost center.

We all know what happened next: Instead of hosting big in-person events in 2020 and 2021, they were relegated to Zoom for two years. No matter how good the content, Zoom conferences make everything seem small—this coming from someone who puts on their own conference and had to go virtual for two years.

Things are beginning to change. I’m here in Orlando at ISM World Impact 2022, the association for procurement professionals’ first in-person event since the spring of 2019. By all accounts, attendance is a little lighter than pre-pandemic attendance, and at the Sunday night reception, ISM officials told me that about 20% of attendees opted for a virtual event. That makes sense given just how busy supply chain practitioners are these days keeping the wheels turning, and the fact that many organizations still have bans on non-essential travel, although that may have more to do with cost savings than the pandemic. I’m here to say that the opening keynote by Tim Mohin, the chief sustainability officer from Persfoni and a former Apple, Intel and AMD executive, was inspiring; the sessions I’ve attended were strong and the energy is high. ISM is back.

There is a two-pronged theme for this year’s event, and both are themes I’ll be following over the next months. The first is something we all know: As Tom Derry, ISM’s CEO put it in his opening remarks yesterday, we’re all “facing challenges and opportunities” in supply chain, and the opportunity “is to make a impact.”

The second prong that Derry talked about, and was the theme of the opening keynote, is that sustainability and social responsibility are now front and center in business. Many of us may struggle to name the three words in the acronym ESG and our organizations may be struggling to understand whether this current trend will be short-lived or is sustainable—Did Larry Fink really mean it when he said Black Rock will vote with its checkbook? But we do know that supply chain, and procurement in particular, will be “tasked with leading sustainability efforts and will be key to ESG reporting,” Derry said. He added it was his belief that “we can contribute to a prosperous and sustainable world.” 

Put me in the category of those who is voraciously reading the news and trying to figure out how government, business and supply in particular will balance the competing interests of never-ending disruptions, inflationary pressures and governmental instability with a new workforce and customers who expect corporations and their supply chains to deliver more than just profits.

As Derry said, it’s a time of challenges and opportunities for supply chain professionals who can balance the two.








About the Author

Bob Trebilcock

Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.


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