Innovation Improves Reverse Logistics Redeployment in The Middle East: Lessons Learned

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 05/14/2020 | 11:08 AM

2017-12-12 15.10.12

Guest Posting by Emmet (John) Fritch, American Public University System, Full Time Faculty

Redeployment of equipment in the Middle East was cumbersome. Innovative ideas presented by ground troops created an efficient movement of equipment.

Reverse logistics in military operations is governed by DoD procedures that provide guidance on handling equipment, supplies, and personnel. Redeploying these resources was fundamental to Middle East operations in recent years.  The complexity of combining movement, serving multiple locations, and facing logistics movement in areas where combat was present were challenges faced by armed forces in the Middle East.  Several important factors prevented efficient reverse logistics operations.  Cycle time was affected by the factors addressed in this lesson.  One of the lessons learned from Middle Eastern operations was the value of creative and innovative ideas that come from organizations.  Modifying rules and practical application of new ways of doing things is illustrated in this lesson. The practical application of innovative techniques improved efficiency. Reduced cycle times and improved security resulted from changes.

Large numbers and varieties of equipment presented challenges to military logistics operations in the Middle East.  A force redeployment consisting of over 22,000 personnel and over 14000 pieces of equipment illustrates how innovation can be employed to address challenges.

Challenges facing an infantry division included:  (a) an extension for deployment time, (b) timing, the division needed to share logistics redeployment resources with another division. (c) a change to the destination the division was to move to, (d) A shortage of security resources,  and (d) a lack of manpower and equipment because of dual missions.

 DoD procedures for redeployment provided little in the way of guidelines for consolidating equipment and assembly operations.  For example, methods did not address tactical equipment moves.  An attempt by multiple divisions to coordinate efforts was hampered because of a lacked efficiency and poor communications.

 "On-the-fly" methods for resolving issues helped reduce waiting time.  The methods resulted in a new way of consolidating equipment. Instead of traditional "centralized" staging locations, the division created several, smaller, more agile processing centers (consolidated tactical assembly areas).  Treating the activities in the assembly functioned as a combat operation.  Acknowledging the dangers of operating in the zones helped personnel to focus.  Typical marshaling zones are administrative functions.  The “on the fly” method allowed flexibility for changing needs resulting from localized combat operations needing equipment.

Handling equipment was needed to conduct operations. Detailed records were coming in and departing from each location allowed for accurate accounting of location and quantities of material.

Daily communication transmitted among each location and movement schedules of equipment to locations with the use of video teleconferences.  Officers from various services kept up to date with the

A dedicated escort unit for each convoy strengthened security.  The armed escort units allowed faster and more efficient operations and additional trips resulted in better use of assets. 

Personnel redeployment was also affected.  Reconfiguring cargo planes from bases transporting equipment allowed troops to return to major bases.   Multimodal equipment options and scheduling with a multi-service control team monitoring all movement and coordinating activities among service branches. Helicopters replaced 5-ton trucks in areas with dangerous roads. The control team provided flexibility and rescheduled according to conditions.  The control team resolved schedule conflicts.

The innovative ideas created in the field, allowed the division to redeploy with no lost equipment and with all personnel arriving safely.  Confidence by users of redeployed equipment increased.  Additionally, backlogs of items waiting for processing in staging areas reduced.  The innovative actions of field commanders illustrate the degree of creative and innovative thinking in the field can create environments more adaptive to local conditions than formal doctrine. Lessons learned from this redeployment experience should be incorporated into the official DoD doctrine.  This process also illustrated the value of continuous improvement and of isolating specific problems, focusing on causes, and applying brainstorming techniques to provide continuous improvement. 




Kindberg, S. B., & Gallo, A. L. (2006). Innovation in redeployment: The 1st infantry division returns from Iraq. Army Logistician, 38(3), 30.

Continued Growth in the Field of Reverse Logistics

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 05/30/2019 | 11:47 AM

Reverse Logistics

The field of reverse logistics continues to grow as there is a greater awareness of what causes people to become loyal customers.  Sales and marketing are certainly important to customers; however, several companies are looking at long term satisfaction rather than immediate sales.  A single sale is no longer the key driver to business.  The long-term satisfaction of customers is the only way for large companies to continue to grow.  This long-term satisfaction is where reverse logistics becomes critical.  

Reverse Logistics covers everything that happens after the sale.  Reverse Logistics is all about keeping the customer after they have purchased a product.  Reverse Logistics handles the returns, the reuse, the recycling and repairs of projects.  For too long companies view these functions as cost centers, when there is ample opportunity to these areas into revenue centers.  Here is where the opportunity lies, because the more organizations understand this need, the more organizations will invest in skilled indicates to lead them to success.  Organizations understand if they want to increase sales, increase the sales department.  If you want to be successful in reverse logistics, hire people that are skilled in reverse logistics.


Why growth?

There has been greater interest in reverse logistics as the market is growing internationally as well as domestically.  More organizations are looking to add people with these skills to the organization in order to develop new and efficient reverse logistics organizations.  Reverse logistics experts are needed to look at the fundamental elements and assumptions of an organization.  For example, every manufacturing company should be engineering products that have a full life cycle plan.  The recent failure of the Samsung bending phone shows the lack of engineering expertise and long term understanding of Smart Phone design. 

Apple has successfully engineered products that are not only efficient but are engineered with a life cycle plan.  In the past, Apple would not buy back your old phone, causing consumers to either keep them in a draw or to find an aftermarket retailer that will buy the phone.  Pretty soon, it became clear to some of these aftermarket companies that the parts could be worth more than the actual unit.  Apple would start to design their Smart Phones that would use older parts so that those parts would have a longer life cycle.  Apple would also design items that were easier to disassemble which helped with repairs but also with replacement phones. 

Furthermore, reverse logistics experts can help redesign processes and policies to improve customer service.  Many companies feel that returns are bad and most of the time people are trying to cheat the company.  I must agree that there have been cases of fraud in the past, but that should not lead to assuming that everyone is a charlatan.    Redesigned processes can help make returns efficient and effective.  Better and faster returns lead to satisfied customers and satisfied customers become loyal customers. 

People with experience and education in reverse logistics can flip the script when it comes to changing how companies keep customers.  It is important to not only understand the needs of the customer but to grow with the customer.  Remaining stagnant is no longer an option.  No one told Amazon to make Prime One day rather than Two-day, but Amazon understands that if they are not innovating, they are falling behind.


The future of reverse logistics

High profile companies are adding jobs to the reverse logistics sector making the reverse logistics more marketable for specialized roles.  Just look on Indeed.com and you will find thousands of jobs that have a component of reverse logistics.  Hiring skilled experts in supply chain and reverse logistics is an organizational imperative.  Reverse logistics is no longer the future, it is the present.

Autonomous Vehicles and Their Impact on Business and Society

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 12/17/2018 | 9:15 PM

Guest Post By Dr. William Oliver Hedgepeth

Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics Management, American Public University

General Motors Corporation made headlines recently when it announced it was planning to close or alter production at five auto plants in the U.S. and Canada and lay off as many as 14,000 workers.

GM is abandoning “many of its car models and [restructuring] to cut costs and focus more on autonomous and electric vehicles,” the Associated Press explained. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are dependent on Artificial Intelligence to function.

Writing in Techemergence, Daniel Faggella says defining Artificial Intelligence (AI) is difficult due to the various interpretations of what is intelligence. However, Merriam-Webster defines AI as “a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers” and as “the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.”

The words “simulation” and “imitate” are critical to understanding today’s AV research and its return on investment (ROI). After all, we could be describing a robot when we talk about simulating or imitating human behavior.

 However, the “robot” behind AVs consists of smart software, databases and network connections to the Internet of Things (IoT). All are meant to simulate or imitate human behavior behind the wheel of a vehicle or at the control system of a drone.

There are many advantages to autonomous vehicles.  The advent of AVs will have multiple advantages. They include:

Automatic Braking and Reduction of Crashes

Several newer automobile models can automatically stop the vehicle before it strikes a parked car or the vehicle ahead that suddenly slows or stops. That is a safety feature that should be welcomed by the National Transportation Safety Board, traffic safety experts, and the police.

Driver Rest Opportunities

Fatigued drivers are prone to collisions. In an AV, the driver could doze during long commutes to and from work, drink a cup of coffee, or even read a newspaper. That driver might also check on email messages or text colleagues – if current state laws against texting while driving are changed. Currently, text messaging while driving is banned in 47 states.

Pollution Reduction

AVs could join electric car models and be powered by batteries, which would eliminate the pollution caused by burning gasoline. In fact, there would be no need at all for a muffler and other fuel systems on electric driverless vehicles; another boon for the environment.

Health Maintenance

AVs could improve health. Under normal circumstances, not having to actually drive could reduce current highway stress and perhaps assist in running persistent errands. In fact, driverless vehicles are already being used to deliver food in Japan and China.

The Negatives of AVs

While AVs have their advantages, there would also be some disadvantages that would need to be overcome, for example:

Proper Safety Programming

An AV might be a safer alternative than having a human behind the wheel. But even humans who know the rules of the road still sometimes fail to stop for a school bus, a stop sign or a traffic light turning red.

AVs would have to be programmed to obey visual highway instructions and know how to distinguish among them. Until all vehicles are AV and “talk” to one another electronically, accidents will continue to occur. Also, would an AV recognize and understand the perils of black ice on a highway or standing water in the road?

Obsolete Auto Parts

A modest downside of AVs would be the loss of tangential businesses. If AVs have no mufflers, for example, then manufacturing them would be redundant. Also, if AVs are able to “talk” to one another, there would be no need to equip cars with turn signals. Automakers are already modifying vehicles, manufacturing equipment and processes for hybrid cars, all of which affect their supply chains. There would need to be considerable retooling for AVs.


Who Is Doing Research into AVs?

Across the country, research into AVs and drone technology is ongoing. The Center for Innovative Technology, the Department of Aviation and the Autonomous Systems Center of Excellence are just three of the research facilities in Virginia.

Arm is another organization advancing the science and practical use of AVs. It is a research and development organization pursuing innovative ideas that range from new ways to use the Cloud to the Internet of Things (IoT).

Uber Technologies, Inc. is patenting a host of AVs and drones to deliver goods to your home or office. For example, Uber is working to create a meal delivery service, UberEats, to send meals to users within five to 30 minutes of an online order.

Amazon is experimenting with the use of drones to deliver its hundreds of thousands of daily orders faster to your doorstep.

Advances in Robot Technology

Robots today are more autonomous than ever. According to The Wall Street Journal, robots have been developed that resemble snakes, lizards, and other animals and insects. These small robots are more than just cute toys. They are being used for disaster relief and recovery missions and are designed to work without human intervention or connection to a central control station.

A snake robot, for example, was used in a 2017 earthquake in Mexico City. The robotic snake went into the cracks and holes of a collapsed building to look for trapped victims who may still be alive.

Switzerland’s Biorobotics Laboratory has built four-legged creatures that can move on water and land. The lab has also built amphibious robots.

Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy in Pittsburgh is another leader in robotics. It is part of their STEM curriculum, where students study and research the cultural implications of using robots as well as building robots.

The University of Pennsylvania has developed a six-legged robot called RHex that appears to be useful walking on sand without getting stuck, as a truck or vehicle might.

The AV industry is affecting segments of society in ways that will improve our lifestyles, safety, and security.

Artificial intelligence has become a foundation for almost all aspects of our daily lives, whether we are working or playing.


About the Author

Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth is a full-time professor at American Public University (APU). He was the program director of three academic programs: Reverse Logistics Management, Transportation and Logistics Management and Government Contracting. He was Chair of the Logistics Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Dr. Hedgepeth was the founding Director of the Army’s Artificial Intelligence Center for Logistics.


How Supply Chain Management is Affected by Human or Natural Causes

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 09/25/2018 | 1:59 PM

Guest Post By Dr. William Oliver Hedgepeth

Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics Management, American Public University

If you are not into logistics, supply chain management, manufacturing or warehousing, you might not ever think about where products begin. Each element is important and a part of the often invisible supply chain for all products. The items you purchase in a grocery store, for example, represent the end product of a complex spider web of raw materials and finished products in constant motion.

The Vanilla Shortage and Supply Chain Management

Our food supply chains can be affected by manmade incidents and Mother Nature’s disasters. If you love to visit your favorite bakery, you may have noticed the price of donuts increasing over the past few years due to the rising cost of vanilla.

The price of vanilla beans was $100 per kilogram in 2015. By the end of 2017, vanilla cost $500 per kilogram and its price is likely to increase further in 2018.

The problem for vanilla is that 80% of the crop comes from a special orchid grown in one place, Madagascar. It takes five or more years for the crop to replenish itself before it can be harvested again.

The collapse of the vanilla supply chain was compounded by another supply chain element, the living things that pollinate the orchid. In all parts of the world, a key worker in the fields is the bee. The enemy of the vanilla flower were the rains that ripped across Madagascar and destroyed acres of plants, creating a shortage of vanilla beans.

Honey Bees Offer Lesson in Proper Supply Chain Management

Dr. Wayne Surles has studied the honey bee for over 20 years, looking into what helps and what hurts the bees in the making of honey. He examined pesticides that affect honey production as well as other agricultural products. Dr. Surles says that 30% of the honey bee population is lost each winter and in the summer months. 

The Richmond Beekeepers Association keeps statistics and information on how to protect honey bees so they can do their job of pollination and produce honey. Currently, there appear to be nearly two and a half million beehives in the U.S.

When it is time to pollinate fruit trees and other crops, bees are often shipped around the country to do the all-important job of fertilizing crops. However, it seems that bees are dying from a lack of the proper amount of nectar and pollen that sustain them.

Also, a mysterious illness known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has destroyed untold numbers of beehives. A survey of nearly 5,000 beekeepers across the United States found a third of the bees they managed died from this disorder between April 2016 and March 2017. 

As a result, the natural swarming of bees in time for the growing season is in decline and a new supply chain has emerged. If the honey bee was the beginning of that jar of honey in its supply chain, now we have to extend that supply chain to a new origin – the beekeeper. 

Beekeepers now travel around the county to the farms with hives of honey bees, the starting point of so many agricultural products, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reports. Those transportation costs and the upkeep of beehives must then be added to the cost of gathering that honey or other foods. The extension of the supply chain starting point for honey is now longer and more complex. 

Pesticides Also Affecting Supply Chain Management

But there is another enemy of this new starting point besides CCD. It comes in the form of pesticides that are resistant to insects, including the honey bee. Currently, companies that produce great agricultural products, such as Bayer and Monsanto, also continue to manufacture pesticides to control weeds and kill bugs that destroy crops.

There is a large and growing chorus of people against the increased use of such pesticides and herbicides, which could also contribute to the spread of CCD. The starting point of the new fruit and vegetable supply chain in the U.S. is under attack from a manmade enemy, even more so than from too much rain, wind, and sun.

I own an old farm with fruit trees. The farm used to have a huge blackberry bush that attracted bees and bugs. I killed the bees and bugs with pesticides and sprayed so much Roundup on the weeds that the blackberry bush died and the pesticide got into the soil. As a result, my fruit trees have not produced but a handful of apples, peaches, and pears in the past five years.

I am part of the man-made problem responsible for the new food supply chain beginning. Have I learned my lesson? Yes.

But others need to earn to be careful too. Supply chains are useful, but they are vulnerable to the whims of Mother Nature and human actions.


About the Author

Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth is a full-time professor at American Public University (APU). He is the former program director of three academic programs: Reverse Logistics Management, Transportation and Logistics Management and Government Contracting. Dr. Hedgepeth was a tenured associate professor of Logistics and chair of the Logistics Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He has published two books, RFID Metrics and How Grandma Braided the Rain.

Individual Consideration Leadership Style Obtains Positive Results in Supply Chain Management

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 09/04/2018 | 4:00 AM | Categories: Current Affairs, Web/Tech, Weblogs

Guest Post By Emmet (John) Fritch, Ph.D

Associate Professor, School of Business, American Public University

The shipping company DHL reports that 58 percent of supply chain and operations companies have trouble finding the right combination of leadership and analytical skills in employee candidates. These companies experienced particular difficulties locating qualified candidates for supply chain management positions.

According to university professors Stanley Fawcett, Gregory Magnan and Matthew McCarter, “People are the key bridge to successful collaborative innovation and should therefore not be overlooked as companies invest in supply chain enablers such as technology, information, and measurement systems.” 

However, adversarial relationships are common among companies in supply chains. In 1998, professor Edward Morash documented a progression from silo organizations, moving from independent organizations such as production, logistics, and marketing to integrated organizations combining each organization into an intra-organizational process. Morash also noted the presence of inter-organizational collaborative structures connecting multiple company organizations into one integrated supply chain.

Supply Chain Performances Suffer When Traditional Management Techniques Are Employed

Many companies rely on conventional management styles using techniques such as planning, organizing, implementing, and control. In intra-organizational structures, such as supply chains consisting of several companies, traditional methods do not achieve the same degree of cooperation and performance as organizations with transformational leaders. As a result, supply chain performance suffers.

Supply chain managers control internal company relationships through a position of power. Managers with this power have direct authority over employees.

In multiple-company supply chains, this power is not as effective. Managers do not have control over those employees who are not reporting in the same company chain of command. A different dynamic is in play with outside supplier organizations.

Where managers do not possess a position of power, leaders must be capable of motivating employees across multiple company organizations. Transformational leaders should achieve results through personal motivation instead.

Literature over the past decades supports the idea that CEOs of companies with a dependency on strong supply chain management benefit when the leadership style of senior supply chain management contributes to company success. However, understanding the type of leadership style associated with supply chain performance has not been widely reported. Additionally, there are few empirical studies on the effectiveness of supply chains based on leaders’ styles.

The Importance of Transformational Leadership in Supply Chain Management

According to Bruce J. Avolio and Bernard Bass, transformational leadership is a leadership style in which followers form an emotional attachment to leaders and are motivated to perform as a consequence of the way leaders behave. Transformational leadership has long been recognized as an effective way to lead organizations.

In 1985, Bass defined three types of leadership styles: transformational, transactional, and laissez-faire. Each style has its own characteristics and sub-categories. The five elements of transformational leadership are described in the following table.

Summary of Transformational Leadership Styles

Leader Trait



Individual Consideration

Leaders who understand the personal and professional needs of employees. 

Leaders in this category typically go out of their way to support both personal and professional needs of employees. They strive to change cultures and improve performance.

Idealized Influence (Attributed)

Leaders who stress to employees the need to achieve goals.

Leaders in this category typically stress a sense of organizational mission and encourage the use of power to accomplish department objectives.

Idealized Influence (Behavior)

Leaders who encourage pride of the department and stress the importance of demonstrating strong commitment.

Leaders in this category

use role modeling to demonstrate expectations.

Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella is an example.

Inspirational Motivation

Leaders with inspirational motivation traits provide employees with a set of shared goals and the vision necessary to attain them.


Intellectual Stimulation

Leaders with intellectual stimulation traits motivate employees to rethink prior situations and problems in new ways.

Employees are encouraged to examine they how they feel about prior assumptions and are encouraged to work with leaders in identifying new ways to address problems. Intellectual stimulation is in contrast to traditional management styles that rely on Fredrick Taylor’s scientific method of job definition by industrial engineers.

Source: Langston University study on transformational leadership

Survey Assessed How Supply Chain Performance Improves with Leaders Using an Individual Consideration Leadership Style

A survey of supply chain professionals that I conducted revealed supply chain performance improves when the leaders conduct their leadership with individual consideration. For this study, professors Kenneth J. Peterson, Gary Ragatz, and Robert Monczka established the supply chain performance variables. These included:

  • Product costs – measured by comparing actual prices paid over time
  • Delivery – measured by the degree on-time shipments improved or did not improve over time
  • Quality – the degree suppliers did or did not improve on meeting specifications

How the Research Survey Was Administered

Eight hundred participants were selected from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) membership. Eighty-two fully completed surveys were returned and assessed by a systematic sampling technique.

The study involved two different questionnaires. One questionnaire provided participants’ perceptions of supply chain management leaders’ styles. The second questionnaire assessed supply chain members’ perception of their company’s performance.

Company performance was based on participants’ perception of their company performance for product cost, delivery, and quality. A correlation and regression test was applied to establish relationship values and statistical significance.

Results of the Survey

The results indicated relationships between each of the five transformational leadership sub-categories. The survey found that leaders exhibiting individual consideration could be expected to achieve 17% better supply chain management results than leaders not exhibiting individual consideration.

Overall, according to the perceptions of supply chain professionals, CEOs who appoint top-level supply chain leaders scoring high on individual consideration will see increased supply chain performance.

About the Author

Dr. Emmet Fritch is a full-time associate professor in the School of Business at American Public University. He holds an M.S. in technology management from Pepperdine University and a Ph.D. in business administration from Northcentral University.

APUS Collaborates with APICS to Close the Skills Gap in the Logistics and Supply Chain Field

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 05/26/2018 | 12:05 PM | Categories: Current Affairs


Guest Post by Dr. Stacey Little
American Public University, Faculty, Transportation and Logistics Management

Almost daily, all of us have some experience with transportation and logistics. They are the distribution elements of the supply chain that bring the products we desire to the places we shop or dine, or directly to our door. Logistics is a fundamental component of most businesses. Consumer demand, coupled with globalization, has boosted related career opportunities.

Logistics and supply chain are among the fastest-growing job markets in America, creating a high demand for qualified individuals to fill those positions. Given this rise in demand in the sector, American Public University System recognized the need to expand its Transportation and Logistics Management program to keep pace with industry needs. As a result, APUS recently announced a partnership with APICS, the global association offering highly respected and industry-recognized certifications. Through this partnership, APUS will offer an instructor-led online preparation course for the APICS’ Certified in Logistics, Transportation, and Distribution (CLTD) designation.

Logistics professionals seek the CLTD designation because it “sets the global standard for best practices in logistics, transportation, and distribution.” The credential provides a distinct advantage in an increasingly competitive global market as many employers give preference to applicants with industry certifications. In fact, the 2018 APICS Supply Chain Survey not only found that compensation continues to rise for supply chain professions, but also that practitioners place great value in such industry-related certifications.

APUS stays abreast of industry needs and has an ongoing commitment to help prepare the transportation, logistics, and supply chain management workforce. The CLTD preparation course will benefit current APUS students by complementing several APUS learning paths at both the certificate and degree level. Organizations seeking to improve performance and add to the bottom line can also benefit from employees with CLTD designations since these individuals are equipped with knowledge of resource optimization to reduce costs and improve profitability. We’re proud to collaborate with APICS to offer this additional element as part of our flexible, career-relevant programs.

Autonomous Freight Vehicles: The Impact on Supply Chain Management

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 04/05/2018 | 7:07 AM | Categories: Current Affairs

Guest Posting By Russell Parker

Student, Transportation and Logistics Management, American Public University


Automation in the transportation industry has been around for years, mostly in public transportation and in-house transports within company grounds. Autonomous freight vehicles, a new level of automation, will soon put driverless freight vehicles on public roads and highways. 

Vehicle automation adds value to transportation because it reduces the normal costs associated with moving goods. Automated freight transportation will change the global supply chain industry in value added, outsourcing requirements, congestion, environmental concerns, safety, and lead-time.

Is There a Need for Automation in Freight Transportation?

According to the American Trucking Association, 70 percent of goods consumed in the United States are moved by truck, but the industry needs to hire almost 900,000 additional drivers to meet the rising transport demand. And as current drivers retire, newcomers are hard to find. The result is retailers delay non-essential shipments or pay higher prices for delivery. The shortage of truck drivers motivated Alex Rodrigues, the CEO, and co-founder of Embark, to pursue self-driving technologies.

Autonomous vehicles can assist drivers or operate on their own without human interaction.

Autonomous drones are used by the military and private industry. With the aim of improving safety, reducing environmental impacts, increasing efficiency and relieving the shortage of drivers, numerous companies are now involved in the race toward this technology because the demand and profitability are high.

Autopilot technology would require truck drivers to work as airline pilots do. The autopilot would control aspects such as acceleration, braking, lane-centering, and cruise control, as well as a myriad of certain traffic situations and conditions. Truckers would still be required to monitor these functions while maintaining high alertness should something go wrong with the system.

Embark has worked with technology that allows its trucks to move highway exit to exit without any human interaction. This technology uses artificial intelligence (AI) with a combination of radars, cameras, and depth perception sensors, but the technology still requires an operator to take control of the vehicle once it exits the highway and starts operating within city limits.

One advanced automation system currently in testing is driver-assisted truck platooning (DAPT). With this technology, one driver operates a truck, and its sensors, radar, and vehicle-to-vehicle communications operate several trailing trucks in convoy acting as a single unit.

Peloton, a pioneer in this technology, conducted a live demonstration of DAPT on December 1, 2017, in Michigan. The technology worked successfully and reduced fuel costs. This technology is also being tested by the United States Military with the Oshkosh Terramax Unmanned Ground Vehicle Technology. One operator can direct up to five vehicles in a single convoy.

What Are the Impacts of Autonomous Freight Vehicles on Supply Chains?

Autonomous vehicles will change supply chains globally. This new method will encourage new outsourcing requirements and companies, enhance the flow of materials, cut back on highway congestion and add value to transportation.

Automated freight vehicles mean more electronics and fewer engines and fuel consumption. Also, this autonomous technology would assist the supply chain industry to meet the International Kyoto Protocol’s 60 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.

Autonomous freight carriers are the way of the future for supply chain operations. As the driver population decreases and demand increases, and costs rise for both suppliers and consumers, autonomous vehicles will offset those conditions and allow the industry to continue operations.

Logistics companies need to prepare for automation sooner rather than later because this emerging technology is moving ahead quickly and those who fail to adapt will find themselves overrun by new suppliers and logistics providers who do embrace autonomous vehicles.

About the Author

Russell Parker is a Marine Corps Captain logistics officer and currently stationed at 29 Palms, CA. A Cleveland, Ohio native he has deployed four times in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom as a motor transportation platoon commander, company commander, and a joint staff officer. 

APICS Conference 2017

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 10/26/2017 | 10:03 AM


Guest Post by Dr. Stacey Little, Program Director for Transportation and Logistics Management, American Public University

Dr. Stacey Little, Program Director for Transportation and Logistics Management at American Public University attended the APICS conference in San Antonio, TX from October 15-October 17th. The APICS Conference hosted more than 2000 attendees from 50 different countries.  During the conference, there were several opportunities to meet and network with other supply chain professionals, students, and educators. 

The Conference offered over 60 educational sessions based on the SCOR model (Plan, Source, Make, Deliver, Return, Enable), 10 hours of Spot Light Sessions with specially curated content and two industry recognized Keynote speakers. Stacey presented on the topic of Post-Military Career transition to supply chain careers at a spotlight session.

The keynote speakers for the conference this year were interesting and engaging.  During the opening session, we heard from John Mackey of Whole Foods.  He highlighted the importance of focusing on the customer.  We later heard from Derek Kayongo, an expert in environmental sustainability. Derek is also the founder of the Global Soap project, where donated hotel soap is purified, reprocessed and redistributed to vulnerable populations around the world.

During the APICS Conference, there were networking lunches and receptions permitting attendees time away from the session to network and meet new people.  Finally, there was an Expo Hall set-up with over 50 exhibitors featuring education, technologies, supply chain solutions, and information regarding APICS membership and certifications.  American Public University was one of the educational exhibitors at the conference.

APICS offers a way to give back to the APICS community through a mentorship program.  At this year’s conference, Stacey served as a “Mentor a Scholar” by mentoring three students during her time at the conference.  For this program, mentors are matched with their students before the conference.  The mentor reaches out to the student prior to the conference for an introduction and plan for connecting at the conference.  The first meeting is a pre-conference Welcome Reception for new members and volunteers.  Outside of program sponsored events, mentors meet with the students at least an hour a day to share their professional and APICS experiences with the students.  It is a way not only to give back but to meet the best and the brightest supply chain students.

Lean Manufacturing leads to greater efficiency

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 08/14/2017 | 8:39 AM

Guest article by Dr. Keith Wade, American Public University System

Lean Manufacturing leads to greater efficiency

Lean manufacturing or Lean production is termed as a systematic approach that is used for elimination of waste within any given manufacturing system. Also, Lean considers wastes that are created through overburden and wastes being generated through unevenness in workloads. Lean is said to be based on making standard functionalities that add value by reducing any given element. Various benefits and risks are associated with Lean manufacturing. Below is the discussion entailing these advantages and risks (Myerson, 2012).

Improved quality and fewer defects

In Lean manufacturing, when batching and lot production are put away, there is always a less chance to manufacture defects. The reason is that the quantity time will be just one. Besides that, there will be no mountains of inventory to count, store, move and pick. Another reason is based on the single flow in Lean manufacturing that makes sure that any given problem that might be existing in the production is identified and rectified. Batch processing eliminates hours that are isolated to test other materials in the same production run to assess if they meet the necessary threshold (Myerson, 2012).

Lean manufacturing leads to reduced inventories

By implementing single section, flow needs each operation only to yield what is required by the subsequent process. When monitored properly, the process tends to remove any given opportunity to build ahead. Hence, inventories tend not to be permitted to accumulate. Since inventories levels are reduced, the reduced inventory results in less space being used.  The results in reduced human resources which are always required to store, count, deliver, stock and manage it. Besides that, single piece flow ensures there is manufacturing cells that squeeze machines into a single operator that has the capability of overseeing numerous pieces of equipment with the least number of walking motion (Myerson, 2012).

Lean manufacturing increases workers morale

Because there is the single piece of flow results, then the production issues that might be identified are solved on time, and team members can receive instant feedback on their respective work. Production feedback gives workers more ownership in their respective production areas. Besides that, due to the presence of Lean production workers tends to lead in solving their different efforts by focusing on the approaches and not in individuals. Through this method, there is more trust in managers (Myerson, 2012).

Lean Manufacturing leads to a safer environment

Lean production means there are fewer inventories that imply the presence of lighter on production methods and less clutter. Because all the stakeholders know the individual repeating tasks, this means there is less opportunity for sudden movements that lead to chances of accidents.

Risks Associated with Lean Manufacturing

Customer Dissatisfaction risks

Since Lean manufacturing process is dependent on supplier efficiency, the presence of any given disruption in the supply chain can be a problem that might affect overall stakeholders. Besides that, delivery delays can lead to sustainable marketing issues that can be hard to overcome.

High costs involved in implementation

The application of Lean manufacturing method means that the previous physical infrastructures and systems will be ultimately be dismantled. Besides that, the process of training of a new set of workers can be the length and the acquisition of managers who are experienced to deliver quality services might be expensive since even the payroll to maintain their salaries is also high. When focusing on machines that are needed to support Lean production, the setup of smaller work cells usually leads to long-term debts. Small and medium-sized businesses might be subjected to costs changeovers to Lean manufacturing that ends up being prohibitive (Myerson, 2012).

Costs of Failure

It is said that under the worst conditions, it is usually simpler that Lean production will not prove to be successful. The change to Lean requires a permanent overhaul of the company. As a result, workers might be lost because there are poor relationships and services with suppliers that might deteriorate. Also, it might not be feasible to backtrack to the old method of doing things; this usually leads to the ultimate failure of the business (Myerson, 2012).

Over-Focus on Waste

Lean production approach mainly focuses on elimination of waste that tends to override other concerns. Besides that, Lean strives to make sure efficiency and productivity primarily through cutting flab, however, in the process, this manufacturing method ends up ignoring other critical parameters such as wellness of workers and corporate social responsibility that are crucial factors needed to develop a good relationship with employees. Therefore, Lean manufacturing fails to address other critical concerns that end up making it ineffective to be fully implemented in any given production firm (Myerson, 2012).


In a nutshell, even though Lean production has got some benefits and risks at the equal measure, it is important to have solutions to the real risks that are in the Lean production. The move to Lean will increase the levels of success of any given firm. When overall production method is rectified then, the companies can get more profits and manage their business more efficiently.



Myerson, P. (2012). Lean supply chain and logistics management. New York: McGraw-Hill.

RFID technology is rapidly becoming a staple in the consumer industry

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 01/29/2017 | 11:03 AM

Guest Post by Kandis Wyatt, Associate Professor at American Public University

RFID technology is currently utilized at many Disney Theme Parks, and yes, some call it magic, but it is RFID technology. The customer is given a wristband that is read when you pass by a RFID reader. Using the wristband, you can pre-order food and have it delivered directly to your table, without standing in line. This technology transmits up to 40 feet, so your preferences are read by readers as you walk into a store, restaurant, or hotel. 

Here’s another way to think about RFID technology. Think about never waiting in line to check out. Can a cashier-free society become a reality? Amazon and its new Amazon Go Pilot Store offers this vision of a new reality. Customers download an app and using RFID technology, all the products in your shopping cart are scanned, your total is calculated, and your credit card is charged (Dignan, 2016). Think about how much time you would save if you did not have to wait in line, deal with cashiers, and swipe a credit card. How can this technology be expanded to the retail industry?

Imagine RFID technology in the automobile industry. RFID technology can be embedded in tires, car batteries, and engines. Using a standard RFID reader, you can perform a diagnostic check of your vehicle in record time, regardless of the manufacturer. No need to go to the car dealership and wait in line. Imagine the freedom of knowing when it is time to replace tires, get a tune-up, or replace major parts of your vehicle? A simple RFID reader can provide you with a wealth of information. There is currently a push to create a global standard for the automobile industry for RFID technology.

If you have ever driven on a major interstate highway in the United States, chances are you have paid money to drive on a toll road. These roads charge vehicles in exchange for ‘supposedly’ faster, smoother rides. Many toll plazas are using RFID technology to read a device in the car and automatically charge the customer. This RFID use saves time because the vehicle does not have to stop. Also, this cuts down on the number of toll plaza employees needed at each station. The technology is advancing more, and some brand-new cars already have the RFID technology built into their operating systems (Baars et al, 2015). The tags can be recharged depending on the use.

RFID technology has also expanded into the airline industry. Imagine having a RFID reader in your checked luggage? You could track the whereabouts of your bag always via the airline’s RFID reader system. Also, this new technology may alleviate the need for a paper ticket to track your checked luggage. Likewise, this technology can be expanded to paper tickets in the future. Instead of having to download a special application (app) for every airline you choose to travel, simply having a RFID reader installed can identify you and decrease your time at the TSA checkpoint. No need for TSA Pre-Check! This technology is currently being tested in New Delhi (TNN, 2015).

RFID technology is rapidly advancing, and becoming a staple in our everyday lives.

Baars, H., Kemper, H.. Lasi, H., and Siegel, M. (2015). Combining RFID technology and business intelligence for supply chain optimization scenarios for retail logistics. Proceedings of the 41st Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 2008. ISBN ISSN:1530-1605 , 0-7695-3075-8.

Dignan, L. (2016). Amazon Go: here are the takeaways business tech execs need to know. ZDNet. Retrieved from: http://www.zdnet.com/article/amazon-go-here-are-the-takeaways-business-tech-execs-need-to-know/

Hedgepeth, W. (2007). RFID Metrics: Decision Making Tools for Today's Supply Chains. Taylor and Friends Group.

TNN, Economic Times (2015). Get ready for tagless travel as airports planning to phase out cabin baggage tags . Retrieved from: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/55889765.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Dr. Robert Lee Gordon

Dr. Robert Lee Gordon

Dr. Robert Lee Gordon is program director of the Reverse Logistics department at American Public University. Dr. Gordon has over twenty-five years of professional experience in supply chain management and human resources. He holds a Doctorate of Management and Organizational Leadership and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix, as well earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from UCLA. Dr. Gordon has spent more than 14 years teaching reverse logistics, transportation, project management, and human resources. He has published articles on reverse logistics; supply chain management; project management; human resources; education, and complexity. He has also published four books on Reverse Logistics Management; Complexity and Project Management; Virtual Project Management Organizations, and Successful Program Management..

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