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Book Review: Supply Chain Construction
“This supply chain is the bridge between the customer needs of a market segment and the value-added of a product. If we can’t connect the two, then we have a show stopper.” (p. 4)
Supply Chain Construction: The Basics for Networking the Flow of Material, Information, and Cash by William Walker (CRC Press, 2016) is an impressive work that combines exhaustive supply chain planning considerations, processes, and figures with a narrative that keeps all of the information provided firmly rooted in reality.
I met the author in person at the February 2017 ISM Economic Forum in NYC where he participated in a panel discussion I moderated. Although Bill is an adjunct professor of supply chain engineering at NYU, the book is far from academic. It illustrates critical business principles through plausible real life examples that make their lessons easy to understand and recall long after reading them.
I thoroughly enjoyed the narrative that opens each chapter. A fictional, cross-functional supply chain design team (a composite of the career experiences of the author) is tasked with bringing a new product line to life – one that has the potential to make or break the division. The narrative stretches through the whole book. I decided very early on to just go through and read the narrative all at once. It is absolutely gripping, with realistic characters and interpersonal dynamics. My only disappointment was that we did not get to ‘eavesdrop’ on the conversation between Steve, the President of the Power Products Division, and Tom, the sarcastic, change resistant VP of Manufacturing, at the outset of chapter 3. I’ll bet it was the stuff that corporate gossip dreams are made of.
Whether you are designing a new supply chain, modifying an existing one, or shutting down a supply chain that is no longer needed, this book contains the disciplines and frameworks required to act efficiently and with broad consideration of everyone, including the executive team, finance, customers, and supply partners.
For every unexpected circumstance that arises in the narrative, there is an answer in the accompanying chapter. Cost modeling, international freight, and unpredictable competitors are all addressed with an impressive level of detail and thought. I came away feeling confident that as difficult as a situation might seem, few issues are actually new, which means that there are abundant examples of what to do and what not to do in response. Only the author’s decades’ worth of experience could allow him to address uncertainty with such confidence and broad perspective.
In the opening pages of the book, Walker explains that part of the genesis of this book was the struggle that his students had with texts that made supply chain design seem to theoretical. This book addresses that gap without sacrificing any of the foundational knowledge that needs to be imparted to the reader for them to succeed in the real world.