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The message was clear from business leaders throughout the day for a packed room of attendees at Fusion 2022 regarding today’s supply chain challenges: You’re not alone.
The speakers provided more than just moral support, however, as a diverse group of senior managers and corporate officers offered insight and testimonies regarding their own success stories in supply chain management, a role now deemed critical in most industry leadership structures.
Fusion 2022 was the fifth annual supply chain symposium hosted by the Auburn University Center for Supply Chain Innovation via the Harbert College of Business. The early May event took place at the Auburn/Opelika Marriott alongside the Grand National golf course, with participants attending from throughout the Southeast.
Bill Good, vice president of supply chain for GE Appliances and a 1993 Auburn graduate, served as the morning keynote speaker and was candid in his assessment of today’s challenges.
“I have 34 years of doing this, and never has there been a more turbulent time in global supply chains than now,” he remarked.
Good began his career in Opelika working on a treadmill assembly line at Diversified Products “back in the old days,” he said. Now, he leads supply chain management for one of the world’s largest appliance providers.
“We spent millions of dollars in expedited freight in 2021,” he said, “to keep components coming to keep our plants open” in the face of a global pandemic, supply chain issues with shipping and transportation, and various other challenges.
In the world of supply chain management, “we were the means to an end just a few years ago. Now we’re just about the most important part of the business,” Good said.
GE Appliances weathered the storm of 2020-21 to become the fastest growing appliance manufacturer in the United States, he said.
Among its most recent changes, the company looked at moving inbound global components from the West Coast to the East Coast through the Panama Canal to Savannah, Georgia. “If we had not done that, 2021 would have been a complete disaster,” Good said.
Now, however, “Savannah is getting backed up,” he said. “Everyone else is saying, ‘oh my gosh, you’ve got to go to the East Coast.’”
GE Appliances also has a lively trade with American companies, Good said, having spent $2.8 billion with 5,400 U.S. suppliers in the past year.
Other topics addressed during the symposium included a panel discussion on “Managing the Explosion in Last Mile Logistics,” moderated by Harbert Supply Chain Management department head Glenn Richey; “Helping Those in Need,” which provided a comparison of challenges facing non-profit and commercial supply chain managers; and several others throughout the day.
Brian Gibson, executive director of Auburn’s Center for Supply Chain Innovation, served as the lead host and organizer of Fusion 2022 and used it to make a pitch to connect the more than 150 professionals in attendance with Harbert College of Business students.
“If you want to come to campus to recruit, if you want to come to campus to make presentations, we invite you to do so,” Gibson said. “We’d love to get you in our classrooms and do projects with us."
“Our goal is to help students be well prepared when they get out into industry working with you.”