InMarket: Driving innovation

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TCU’s Driving Innovation in the Supply Chain Conference

This week, while the Texas Christian University baseball team is trying to stay competitive for the College World Series, the school will be hosting another group of top flight players, only at this event the team they’re fielding will consist of supply chain and logistics professionals.

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How important is the supply chain and logistics industry to Fort Worth? Plenty important, says Morgan Swink, executive director of the Supply and Value Chain Center at TCU. Just think about BNSF Railway, American Airlines, Alcon, Lockheed, Frito-Lay, FedX, UPS, and the whole Alliance corridor.

“The BNSF Logistics Hub is one of the largest, if not the largest, inland port in the country,” says Swink. “A ton of freight goes through here going north and going east. The supply chain and logistics industry is a very strong part of the economy here.”

TCU’s Driving Innovation in the Supply Chain Conference will be Wednesday June 3 to Friday June 5 and will be broken up between an Innovation Best Practices Forum and an Innovation Research Symposium.

The Innovation Best Practices Forum will host a couple of recent award winners in the supply chain world.

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Flextronics International Ltd., a design, manufacturing and supply chain company best known for serving technology firms like Dell Inc. and Apple, will discuss its state-of-the-art center that offers one-stop total supply chain solutions designed to help both startups and larger firms bring new products to market in days rather than months.

“They’re able to use 3D printing and packaging technologies to allow their clients to set up a space and do prototyping and co-design and then rapidly produce a working prototype,” says Swink. “It’s a whole new business model for them.”

Also demonstrating an award-winning innovation is a fairly old-fashioned business, the office supply store.

Staples Inc. and Packsize International received a first-place award in the 2013 Supply Chain Innovation Award competition at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ (CSCMP) Annual Global Conference.

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If you’ve ever made an order of various products from an online retailer such as, you’ve probably received packages of varying sizes and – often – wasted packaging.

Staples, which sells a lot of products online, initiated a “Smart-Size” packaging program with Packsize. By doing so, they were able to reduce their use of box material – called corrugate in the industry – by more than 15 percent while also using an average of 60 percent less packing materials and improving less-than-full-case average cube utilization by 20 percent, according to the CSCMP. It was also a “greener” solution, reducing the carbon footprint by more than 25,000 metric tons.

But it’s not just manufacturing and distribution that have found benefits by innovating in the supply chain. The Sisters of Mercy Health System, a hospital chain in St. Louis, launched an initiative to optimize its supply chain to the patient’s bedside to improve health care, save money and create a safer environment for patients. Mercy ROi, the supply chain initiative, became so successful that the Sisters of Mercy Health System has spun the business off.

“They got so good at managing their own supply chain they decided they can sell that competency,” says Swink. “They’re changing the traditional distribution models in the health care industry and they’ve transformed their operations from a cost center into a successful new business model.”

Swink notes that supply chain and logistics was once thought to be the purview of large companies who could use it to improve reliability and quality.

“But now it can be a competitive weapon and a revenue driver and important to any business,” he says.

Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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