Episode 100: Brian Fugate and Daniel Stanton Discuss Being Thought Leaders in the World of Supply Chain

December 2 , 2020  |  By Matt Waller

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On this week's episode of the Be EPIC podcast, Brian Fugate and Daniel Stanton join Matt Waller to discuss the importance of thought leadership in the Supply Chain field.

Brian Fugate is a professor, Oren Harris Chair in transportation, and chair of the Department of Supply Chain Management at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Daniel Stanton, known as “Mr. Supply Chain”, is a supply chain project management expert who teaches for LinkedIn Learning and wrote the bestseller “Supply Chain Management For Dummies”. On this week's episode of the Be EPIC podcast, Brian Fugate and Daniel Stanton join Matt Waller to discuss the importance of thought leadership in the Supply Chain field.

Episode Transcript


00:06 Matt Waller: Hi, I'm Matt Waller, Dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Welcome to Be EPIC, the podcast where we explore excellence, professionalism, innovation and collegiality, and what those values mean in business, education, and your life today. I have with me today Daniel Stanton and Brian Fugate. Daniel Stanton, also known as Mr. Supply Chain is quite well known in supply chain management, and he had a career at Cat®, and he also had been in the US Navy and many other experiences as well. He now is the president and CEO of his own company, and he's been involved in startups, and he's a supply chain futurist with IBM, and I've known him for quite a long time. Daniel, thank you so much for being with us today. I appreciate it.

01:10 Daniel Stanton: Matt, thank you so much for having me.

01:12 Matt Waller: And I also have Brian Fugate. He is chair of the Department of Supply Chain Management here in the Sam M. Walton College of Business and a professor in the department. He also holDaniel Stanton the Oren Harris Chair in Transportation, and under his leadership, the Department of Supply Chain Management became the number one undergraduate supply chain management program in the country, based on the Gartner ranking, which is the most authoritative ranking for supply chain departments. Thanks for joining me today, Brian.

01:49 Brian Fugate: I'm glad to be here. Thank you, Matt.

01:51 Matt Waller: So the three of us have known one another for quite a while, we've been in the supply chain and logistics area. Daniel, I think I first met you when you were at Caterpillar, if I remember correctly, and you would come out here to Northwest Arkansas periodically to our supply chain management research center, and I'd see you at CSCMP and other places and always enjoyed visiting with you. I wanna start out just on a little different track here. I know, Daniel, you really have been a thought leader in supply chain management for some time, and I know that you have a huge number of followers on LinkedIn, I think it's over 50,000, which is quite remarkable. There are very few people with that many followers, and would you mind just sharing a little bit about... And I know you're humble, but how have you developed into the thought leader that you are?

02:52 Daniel Stanton: First of all, to have Dr. Matt Waller call me a thought leader is one of the most humbling things that I can imagine, so thank you for that amazing compliment. But as supply chain folks, we're always looking for metrics, and so you hit right on one that a lot of folks use in the world of social media, which is the number of followers, and for me, it is genuinely less about how many people there are showing up in that metric than about how many people there are who are interested in the same things that I'm interested in and truly engage in conversations about stuff that matter to me. So I can kind of look at that group and say, okay, well, in that community of followers, 'cause that's really what it is, is it's a community of folks that have some overlap, some intersection of interest with mine, I think the vast majority of them are tied into supply chain. There's another big group that has a real interest in military stuff and veterans issues, and certainly there's some overlap between supply chain and military and veteran stuff, and then there's another community that's around, I'll say, students, people making career transitions, people trying to get ahead in one way or another.

04:35 Daniel Stanton: And so, you know, the things that I talk about on social media, well, that tenDaniel Stanton to be it, right? It's a lot of stuff about supply chain, a little bit about military, National Defense, innovation, opportunities for veterans, and then a lot of stuff about how do you get ahead, how do you learn, how do you advance yourself and the people around you. And then I... So I think that's really reflected then in the people that are drawn into the stuff that I talk about. So being out on social media, I know, that there are a lot of hacks, there are a lot of gimmicks, there are a lot of things that people do to inflate the metrics, I guess is probably the right way to say it, and I've looked at those and I understand them, but genuinely, what I've found is, getting a bunch of people who are either not real people or are not interested in the stuff that I'm interested in talking about in that community, well, that doesn't do anybody any good. And so... I love your observation that when I put something up there, there tenDaniel Stanton to be a lot of conversation about it, and the reason for that is because that's my tribe, right? That's where I'm having conversations about the things that matter to me with other people that are interested in those same things.

05:53 Matt Waller: Well, I know... I think that's one of the reasons why we became frienDaniel Stanton quickly was, I remember the first time I met you, we had a really interesting conversation about supply chain management and leadership, and I think that sometimes people can be good at that in person but they aren't so good at it electronically through digital, and vice versa, but you clearly are both. And so to some degree, that's the topic of what we're talking about today, is really thought leadership, and there's a reason for that that I wanna talk about it. But the Walton College vision statement says that, through our teaching, research and service we're to be thought leaders and catalysts for transforming lives.

06:38 Matt Waller: And that first piece, I just thought it would be interesting to have you two on because you're a practitioner thought leader, and Brian is a academic thought leader. And the other thing that you two have in common is LinkedIn. He has half as many followers as you do, but 25,000 is a lot, in my opinion, way more than I have. But Brian, one of the reasons we were really thrilled to have him come in, not only as a professor but as the chair of the department is, we knew that we had lots of talent in our department, but we needed a leader in that department that could really drive our thought leadership portion of our vision statement, as well as the... The serving as a catalyst for transforming lives. To drive thought leadership right, there's the research component, there's the teaching component, and there's the service component. But Brian, with your experience, you picked up a lot of experience with process improvement. One area that you brought us thought leadership in the teaching area was, you created a class where students used process improvement techniques to improve advising, which we needed. Would you mind speaking to that a little bit?

08:08 Brian Fugate: Yeah. So my background is process improvement, and Lean and Toyota production system, and the auto industry, and that whole world. And so we had taught process improvement in our program, you guys had, in classes but we didn't have a stand-alone class. And so the opportunity to create a course like that presented itself and, of course, I jumped on it. When it came to this process improvement course, talking with... With our senior associate, Dean Anne O'Leary Kelly about it, she asked, "Hey, could we apply it in our college?" And one of the reasons that jumped out at me as a good opportunity is, hopefully, it drives process improvements thinking within our college, both in our faculty, our staff and our students as well, and then hopefully they'll take some learnings from that and apply it in the rest of... In the rest of the college. And so... When we started, we had... It was just your typical process improvement approach where, at the beginning, we visibly saw lines and lines of students outside in the hallway. I have pictures of students standing out there waiting, and I went up and talked to them, and they were frustrated.

09:29 Brian Fugate: And then after the advisors really went through this, the advising team led this with our core students, after they went from the where it was to the future state and started working towarDaniel Stanton that, the next time around, during registration, there were still some students out there but nowhere near as many. But you also... Whenever you talk to the advisors, you hear them thinking and talking about what next, what else can they improve. Jeff Hood went from, and he'll tell you, someone who pushed back on this to start with, to someone, he'll tell you, he loves process improvement now, and he's constantly looking at it.

10:07 Matt Waller: Well, sticking to the theme of thought leadership and teaching, Daniel, I know you have a number of best-selling courses on LinkedIn Learning. Supply Chain Basics for Everyone, Supply Chain and Operations Careers, Careers in Supply Chain Operations, Job Skills, Implementing Supply Chain Management, and many others. And on top of that, you are the author of Supply Chain Management for Dummies. Your accomplishments in both of those regarDaniel Stanton , with LinkedIn Learning courses and your book, are quite remarkable. Writing books is a lot of work. What inspired you to write Supply Chain for Dummies?

10:55 Daniel Stanton: I'd love to say that I had this vision, I had to write the book and I pitched it. And there's some truth to that, but honestly, where it started was back at Bradley University in Peoria, when I was working for Caterpillar. They... I'd worked with the marketing department there on creating an undergraduate program for supply chain. So I... Very much like I had been at the University of Arkansas, I was on the advisory board, because they were right up the street, I was able to take a more active role there. And we mapped out sort of the journey that an undergraduate would need to take to get this broad exposure to supply chain, and then to be able to go into depth in the areas that were of particular interest to them, and I think Brian's a great example of it, I am too, somebody that started off in engineering, moved over to the business side, and that sort of really a great skill set for supply chain. So that was our vision at Bradley was, how do we bring both the engineering students and the business school students together from the beginning to talk about what supply chain is and to understand that, and then to be able to take their own independent journeys depending on which college they were in.

12:10 Daniel Stanton: When we got done with it, and the department had turned to me and said, "You are gonna teach the introductory course for us now, right?" That put me in the position of saying, "Okay. Well, I have to go find a textbook. I've got this vision for a course that is a broad introduction that'll work for either engineers or business students, and maybe even folks that aren't really gonna study supply chain, but are gonna need to understand supply chain to apply it in a career in marketing or professional sales. Where's the best textbook for that?" None of them really fit well for what I needed to accomplish. And so I more or less created the outline for my own textbook for that course, but I did something different. Instead of sitting down and writing the textbook, I created the outline, and then every week I made each of the students basically write a chapter for themselves. So each of the students came out at the end of the class with their own textbook that they had written that covered all of these key topics. And so I did that for a couple of years. It worked really, really well. I felt like the students learned a lot and enjoyed it and got a lot from it.

13:17 Daniel Stanton: And then down the road, the folks from Wiley reached out to me and said, "Would you consider writing a book for us? We're looking for somebody to do a Supply Chain Management For Dummies? And I said, "Well, I know exactly how I do it. I've already got the outline written, I know what neeDaniel Stanton to go in every chapter." The real takeaway from me for that whole experience is there really was a need for this introductory book to supply chain, and the for dummies brand was our perfect place to do that. It's a common frustration in the supply chain community that we have so many career opportunities, and we struggle to attract young people into supply chain careers intentionally. And by having the opportunity to write the Supply Chain Management for Dummies book, what I found is an excellent way to target a lot of those people.

14:14 Matt Waller: Absolutely. And you mentioned a lot of people don't know about this discipline, many times they major in other things and realize they should have gone into supply chain or wish they would have, because they wind up in a supply chain job, and Brian your department recently rolled out the new Masters of Science in Supply Chain Management, and truly help these people that maybe they majored in something else and they wind up in a supply chain position, and they can come into the program and get geared up to be a professional in supply chain and they don't have to do it full-time, you can do it part-time. But you just started this program this semester, how are you working to make sure that the Masters of Science and supply chain management is at the same level of quality as the undergraduate program?

15:13 Brian Fugate: From a curriculum perspective, there's a similar approach that we did at the undergraduate level, where we worked with our supply chain management research center partners, so our partner companies, and let them engage with us and we engage with them to understand what's important right now. And so we had a lot of qualitative research, if you will, discussions with them. And then we've gone back and we've done a survey to a lot of potential candidates out there and companies out there to understand what companies are needing, and then we've taken that and we followed up with really psychographic interviews to understand what potential students might really want out of a program. And so it's that continuous, continually learning, engaging with industry, discussions with great folks like Daniel Stanton to understand what is it that we should be driving and then just continually adapting the program that way.

16:13 Brian Fugate: So if I can, I'm gonna ask a question to Daniel based on something he mentioned, and it really gets a little bit to your question Matt, being in Northwest Arkansas, which some would say is kind of the epicenter of supply chain management perhaps, you would think that students coming into our program, undergraduate students coming into our program would know what supply chain management is, but we still struggle with that. How do you think we as a discipline can communicate that better to those at that stage in their life?

16:48 Daniel Stanton: We've been having the same conversation as long as I've known both of you, in lots of different places, the joke is always that supply chain management, it's like Rodney Dangerfield, right? We get no respect, but at the end of the day, it's... Everything in our lives depenDaniel Stanton on supply chains, I will tell you, I think the single most useful marketing tool for supply chain management has been COVID-19, right? It's just amazing as soon as everybody runs out of toilet paper, that is like, "Where does that come from? And why can't I get it now?" And so, honestly, I think that's one of the things that we should all be doing right now, not in a negative opportunistic way, but in the way of... It's a teachable moment to say, listen, this is what supply chains are, this is where they work, this is how things move around the world, why things move around the world and how the things that happen in our environment and the choices and the decisions that we make, end up having some pretty far-reaching consequences. It's pretty hard to sell a product that a customer has never heard of and doesn't know that they want, but I would argue... So many of the things that I see in the news around politics and economic policy reflect a pretty serious un-awareness of how the global supply chains work.

18:30 Daniel Stanton: And how dependent we all are on one another. And I guess you can have a philosophical argument that buying things from other countries is wrong, and we should buy and make and create everything in our home countries, but that's sort of a rejection of 250 years of economic development, it really then takes out of the equation a lot of the things that we enjoy about modern life. Supply chains give us access to things that we couldn't have under different circumstances, right? So bring that down to more practical examples, you can go into a grocery store in Cincinnati, Ohio and buy bananas 365 days of the year. That doesn't happen without a global supply chain.

19:25 Matt Waller: Well, you know, when we were growing up, there were so many things you couldn't get. I mean, I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. We didn't have very much variety of fish available and the cost was high.

19:39 Daniel Stanton: And you, guys, you said that you're in the epicenter of what's driven a lot of this transformation, Northwest Arkansas has played a huge role in giving the world access to whatever it wants, whenever it wants it really, pretty cheaply. So really, I mean, for the last six months, since February, I genuinely lost count of the number of media appearances that I did, Fox News and MSNBC and CNBC, because it was like everybody heard the term supply chain for the first time. And suddenly having the nickname Mr. Supply Chain, [chuckle] it just means that I rank well in Google, so they're like, "Well, where do we find somebody that knows this? Well, that guy probably could talk about it." [chuckle]

20:27 Matt Waller: So when your parents named you, did you feel this pressure to go in that direction? [laughter] I wanna shift gears just for a moment here, still talking about thought leadership. Brian, you were editor-in-chief, co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Supply Chain Management, one of the top journals, academic peer-reviewed journals in the field for four years. I think your term just went up, but one of the things that I know from my experience in academics is that being nominated and put into the position of editor-in-chief of a journal, especially the top journal, is a huge vote of confidence. But your effort there was clearly helping us from a thought leadership perspective with respect to our vision, but that was a lot of work. And I know that your journal gets hundreDaniel Stanton of submissions and very few ever make it into print, but as editor-in-chief, you have to review all of them that are coming in to some degree, and then you have to assign them to associate editors for further review and they eventually go out to other academics for review. Given what you saw coming across your desk, do you feel like there really is progress being made in terms of our understanding of phenomena associated with supply chain management?

22:06 Brian Fugate: Well, absolutely, I think, if you look at the history of our discipline, the understanding of supply chain phenomenon has gone deeper and really multiplied, gotten much broader. One of the ways that we saw that at the Journal of Supply Chain Management was the number of citations. So other journals that were looking and reading our research and our journal and the supply chain journal that were coming from other disciplines, economics and from some new areas such as ethics and sustainability, from technology-related disciplines, a lot of the blockchain and all of that, how they would cite our journal. And so that's one indicator that we are doing something of value that people outside of supply chain are paying attention and building off of what we do in our discipline. I believe that the research has become more rigorous and we continue to be highly relevant, I believe, and I think you can see that in practice as well today.

23:30 Matt Waller: Well, Daniel, along those same lines, you are recognized by IBM Watson Supply Chain as a supply chain futurist, so you're contributing to advancing the field from a research perspective as a practitioner in a different way. What are your thoughts on this? Do you feel like knowledge is advancing, is it advancing slowly, quickly? What are some gaps that you see?

24:03 Daniel Stanton: It seems like one of the real challenges is... There is so much ground to cover in supply chain management, and that perspective and that understanding is so unevenly distributed among the folks that are affected by it. If you think about the role that supply chain management would play in a company like... Well, who are the people in a company that need to understand some of these basic... You guys use the word phenomenon, so things like the bullwhip effect, things like supplier segmentation and Supplier Relationship Management, collaborative innovation. Who in the company actually neeDaniel Stanton to be versed in those things in order to make good decisions and to do it consistently? And I think a lot of times you figure out the answer's like everybody, [chuckle] because when you run into places where they have influence and decision-making authority and they don't have that whole picture, it screws it up for everybody. And so we're kind of finally making progress raising awareness of what supply chain management is, pulling it down to the level of being able to explain it in a dummies book. So that you can sort of have everybody on the executive staff read it and then do a book club with all the people on their teams, and now everybody sort of understanDaniel Stanton what you're trying to get to, but that takes time.

25:34 Daniel Stanton: That's a lot of information, that's a lot of change of perspective it doesn't happen overnight, and at the same time that we're just trying to get everybody on the same page, things are changing so quickly around us. What, if you would ask me a year ago, what's driving the change, I would have said, well, it's mostly technology and then a bit around supply chain disruptions. And if you ask me in 2020, it's a lot of supply chain disruptions, and by the way, some technology in there too. And so I guess the thing that I see as a challenge is just our learning capacity. So on the one hand, it just feels like we really need to hurry up and get everybody on board and teach them this stuff as fast as we can, as many people as we can... Just so that we can have conversations about it and strategize and plan and execute, and at the same time, that really opens up the opportunity to innovate, which in many cases means to automate, to transform using digital stuff. And this is... The conversation now we're having, it's a great example, Matt you and I first tried to have this conversation in Nashville at a CSCMP conference, and we got sidetracked because we had so many other things to talk about, [chuckle] but here we are in 2020, that same conference is a couple of weeks away. Under normal circumstances, we would have just done it now, or done it this year at the conference. And instead saying, "Okay, you know what? Let's just do this virtually."

27:11 Matt Waller: Yeah, it'll be interesting to see. It's our first... All of us, it'll be our first time to go to CSCMP virtually, I can't imagine, but I'm looking forward to seeing what it's gonna be like. Well, Brian and Daniel, thank you so much for taking time to visit with me today about thought leadership, particularly in supply chain management. I'm fortunate to be able to know both of you, two really world-renowned thought leaders in supply chain. Thanks for listening to today's episode of the Be Epic Podcast from the Walton College. You can find us on Google, SoundCloud, iTunes, or look for us wherever you find your podcasts. Be sure to subscribe and rate us, you can find current and past episodes by searching beepicpodcast, one word, that's B-E-E-P-I-C podcast. And now Be Epic.


Matt Waller

Matthew A. Waller is dean emeritus of the Sam M. Walton College of Business and professor of supply chain management. His work as a professor, researcher, and consultant is synergistic, blending academic research with practical insights from industry experience. This continuous cycle of learning and application makes his work more effective, relevant, and impactful.

His goals include contributing to academia through high-quality research and publications, cultivating the next generation of professionals through excellent teaching, and creating value for the organizations he consults by optimizing their strategy and investments.