Growing the awareness of the supply chain

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 12/12/2016 | 4:22 AM

Guest Post by Stacey Little, Program Director, Transportation and Logistics Management, American Public University System

Ever wondered why when a junior high or high school student is asked about their career aspiration that they rarely mention logistics or supply chain?  On the rare occasion we hear that they want to be in logistics or supply chain, yet usually, it is because they know someone or one of their parents work in the field.  In fact, many students who do go into the profession admit that logistics and supply chain was not something that was on their radar while in high school.

What is the answer to this lack of awareness of this profession?  Why is logistics or supply chain not a sought after or dream job of a junior high or high school student?  I have often heard that logistics and supply chain jobs are associated with negative stereotypes and are not attractive to students.   Alternatively, the supply chain profession can be difficult to describe to young children. 

While attending an APICS Conference, I learned of an effort to bring awareness to Supply Chain and Stem through an outreach program targeting elementary, middle and high schools.  This particular program is customizable to children as young as kindergarten and as old as seniors in high school. I saw demonstrations of fun activities in which the school children could participate.  There were hands on activities with toys such as legos and paper airplanes for younger children and more advanced activities with cell phone supply for older children. I learned the goal of this outreach program was to reach 100,000 students by 2020. The outreach program is an excellent initiative providing ways for Logistics and Supply Chain Professionals to get involved.  Volunteers are a huge factor to the success of the outreach program.

Another initiative aimed at increasing supply chain awareness is the #iWorkinTheSupplyChain Campaign.  The campaign allows supply chain professionals to share their stories in efforts to inspire the next generation of workers.   Not only does it honor those who are successful in the field it highlights supply chain’s role in our economy. Showcasing supply chain professionals demystifies the supply chain profession.

Supply chain is an attractive occupation with a talent shortage that needs to be addressed.  As baby boomers in supply chain positions retire, the question is who will fill these positions?  These jobs should be highly sought after as there are so many facets and career paths that students can take.   Included in the information shared around the supply chain profession should be the emphasis on the value and importance of the employee roles in this functional area. Information like this will bring awareness to the types of jobs available as well as the professional people who occupy supply chain jobs removing misconceptions around the profession.

What can supply chain professionals do?

  • Public speaking -Accept opportunities to speak to others about the profession including career days at local schools. Be proud of your strategic and exciting career.
  • Mentor- Pay it forward by showing others how exciting this career field can be. Sharing your knowledge and experience can help others see how valuable the supply chains jobs are to the organization and the global economy.
  • Volunteer- Offer your knowledge to a small business trying to get off the ground or volunteer at a non-profit organization.
  • Write- Highlight your knowledge and skills by writing a blog or contributing an article to a local paper.
  • Social Media- use social media to spread the word of the exciting career experiences and opportunities that are available.

In today’s global, competitive environment supply chain roles within the organization are gaining increasing importance.  Organizations want to have the best talent in these positions.  Addressing the awareness issue will help bring more talented individuals toward the supply chain profession.   Sharing your experience can help reduce the confusion and negative stigma surrounding the supply chain profession.  Take steps today to make a difference tomorrow.

Has technology made us less ethical?

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 12/05/2016 | 5:00 AM

Guest Post by Kandis Wyatt, Transportation & Logistics Associate Professor, American Public University

Technology is advancing at a rapid rate. As a result, it is easier than ever to capture a person’s words, thoughts, and actions. Video, voice recordings, and other technological means of information have led to a proliferation of the replication of knowledge. However, as more and more ideas are disseminated in the world, there is a greater temptation to copy the ideas of others rather than develop something new. Also, the more ideas that people are exposed to, the potential exists that similar ideas could arise in different people.

In the written form, a word-for-identical-word match is a red flag for plagiarism. Depending on the format used, there is a preferred method to use to signify the work comes from another source.  At the 2016 Grand Old Party National Convention, Melania Trump was accused of plagiarizing portions of a speech given by Michelle Obama in 2008.  Ultimately, the speech writer took the fall for the incident, but what should be the consequences of not citing a person’s original work in print or a verbal speech?

There have been instances where the press has taken liberties with others’ work, and when they are eventually caught they typically leave the field in disgrace.  Just over a year ago, Brian Williams embellished a story about being fired upon when traveling by helicopter. The embellishment of the incident and about the facts turned Mr. Williams’ long career in reporting sour to the point he lost his job, and he made an apology to the American people.

Original thought is a requirement in academia, but what about using works that are not as well known.  What about business ethics? Jack Welsh would proudly proclaim that he stole good ideas from other companies, such as Six Sigma from Motorola. Six Sigma had been in use at Motorola for some years, and when Jack Welsh wanted to overhaul the flagging General Electric Company (GE), Jack made Six Sigma part of the plan. During the period that followed, GE was driven by the tenets of Six Sigma and GE showed savings of $12 billion over five years.

Currently, there are multiple companies working to perfect the self-driving car. However, will this type of technology be disputed in the future? Is each of these companies in development truly unique or is there some technical overlap? Also, what role will corporate theft or espionage have in the future?

The question that persists is, how does society hold a person accountable for their actions? What, if any repercussions, should be established in the future? It is important to highlight the pros and cons of utilizing original work in both the verbal and written format. Specifically, how to relay original information, how to use one’s words, and how to let the listener/reader know the source of information.

Over 500,000 registered drones in the U.S.

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 11/21/2016 | 4:02 AM

To date, there are over 500,000 registered drones in the U.S., and there are over 20,000 registered commercial operators of drones.  The FAA advises that over 3,300 people signed up to take the aeronautical knowledge test, which is one of the new requirements to operate a drone in the U.S.  The FAA estimates that more than 600,000 commercial drones could be in operation by 2017. 

These clear statistics and projects are the first quantifiable evidence to support the 100,000 jobs and $82 billion-dollar economy that drones represent.  The evidence is overwhelming at this point that drone will be a de-facto part of our lives soon.  Although the 100,000 jobs and $82 billion-dollar economy number has been projected in the past, the registrations and number of companies that are being registered with the FAA offer massive potential for drones.  Some people in government and business have concerns about this growth and potential; there are already many different applications that are on the horizon. 

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) have already delivered medicine to remote areas, delivered burritos to hungry college students as well as being used to detect radiation and chemical leaks.  Current FAA rules require that drones remain within line of sight of the operator, the testing of UAV that operate beyond the line of sight are already being tested in The Netherlands.  Nokia is already working on technology to allow automatic flight control that can operate independently of a line-of-sight operator.  Nokia is working on an App that will allow for drone operations that can monitor drones in real time. 

Furthermore, the British Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy had a joint exercise in October where the navies of these nations tested unmanned, unarmed surface, underwater, and aerial vehicles.  With all this activity both commercially and with different militaries, is it any wonder that there appears to be a lot of potential in the future of UAV. 

Given all this activity by many of the major players in multiple industries, there is no doubt that the world of the drone is changing and changing rapidly.  Technology is moving forward faster than governments can legislate, making enforcement even more difficult.  However, this burning innovation will certainly help bring home many new technologies that will improve our lives.  The concern of some is how will these new technologies impact our future freedoms.  The nature and activities of drones and the impact on freedom remain an open question for the future.

Smarter cities of the future

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 11/01/2016 | 5:53 AM

Guest Post by Kandis Wyatt, Transportation & Logistics Associate Professor, American Public University

Traffic Congestion seems to be a common occurrence in major cities. Traffic Congestion, over time, can increase pollution rates, heighten noise levels, threaten economic growth, and increase commuting times. In fact, some studies have shown that traffic congestion can lead to health risks due to increased pollution levels.  Several techniques have been implemented to reduce traffic congestion including implementing telework policies for employees, widening roads, creating high-occupancy vehicle lanes, offering subsidies for employees to take mass transit to/from work, installing bike lanes, and carpooling. However, here’s another technology – smart technology- that can help lower traffic congestion as well.

How does it work?

Using smart technology, simple, everyday outdoor items such as a traffic light or a trash can help reduce congestion (Segraves, 2016). Trash cans will let the city know when they need to be filled. As a result, garbage trucks would be deployed on an as-needed basis. Also, motion detectors on street lights can help notify drivers when a parking spot is available. On a larger scale, cameras can monitor and predict traffic patterns. Think if this smart technology was connected to your phone or your vehicle – it could help re-direct you in real time. Smart technology has many advantages (Segraves, 2016). For example, motion detectors installed on street lights can save money over time. Also, the light can notify the dispatch location when they need to be replaced. All this technology can be input into a master system to optimize routes (Segraves, 2016).

Smart technology is already being developed by companies like SmartUp Cities in Europe to implement and deploy these smart technologies in urban centers.  In fact, Barcelona has already implemented many of these technologies and currently is one of Smartest City in Europe.  The advantages are clear, and so we should expect that more metropolitan areas will move to becoming smarter sooner than we think.



Segraves, M. (2016). D.C. Plans Streetlights that Save Money, Offer Wi-Fi, Help with Parking. Retrieved from http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/tech/DC-Smart-Streetlights-Save-Money-Wi-Fi-Help-Parking-Smart-Trash-Cans-397648271.html

Shipping Pilots: What happens next?

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 10/24/2016 | 5:26 AM

Finland has moved forward to declare that they will have autonomous vessels available by 2025.  Although this appears to be a bold statement, it will likely actually happen sooner.  Shipping has been behind in technology for a while, however, with just a push, shipping can move to the forefront of automation.  Navigational systems are already available that allow a single person to pilot a vessel.  That sounds pretty sophisticated, but when you compare it to new airplanes that can be landed by personnel in the tower, it seems that ships are a little behind.

Autonomous automobiles will become a fact of life in a matter of years.  Airplanes can already be landed remotely, so it will only be a matter of time before ships will no longer need a local pilot.  Alternatively, if a pilot is needed, the pilot would be able to take control of the vessel without ever having to endure the risky maneuver of climbing on board.    

The injury statistics are clear that the pilot transfer can be one of the riskiest parts of the job of a local pilot.  More pilots are killed while either boarding or departing the vessel, than in the performance of their duties.  After all, climbing a tricky pilot ladder in shifting seas can be pretty harrowing.  A fall from the pilot ladder can be fatal, although the different precautions and safety steps were taken in advance.   It would appear that given the dangerous nature of the operation, remotely operating a vessel would be a safer option.  However, shipping is not swift to embrace most technologies and so there would have to be significant testing and industry acceptance before such a leap of faith could be made. 

Although the safety of the pilot is important, the safety of the ship is paramount.  The question that regulators and nations will struggle with will be, is it safer than the current system?  Over time, there is no doubt that it will be shown to be safer.  After all, people are slowing accepting self-piloting cars and recently in the U.S. that once ‘evade and avoid’ systems are implemented, delivery drones will become a fact of life.

In the past, technology moved at a pace where governments had time to consider different restricting legislation and local laws.  Now, technology is moving so fast that both national and international governing bodies are struggling to keep up with the waves of innovation.  Clearly, there will need to be faster ways to implement new rules, and this will be one of the future challenges for governing bodies in the future.

APICS Annual Conference - Washington, DC

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 10/10/2016 | 6:00 AM

Guest Post by Stacey Little, Program Director, American Public University System, and Irv Varkonyi, President, Supply Chain Operations Preparedness, and Karen Pentz, Professor, American Public University System.

APICS Conference Picture

Photo: Dr. Stacey Little at APICS Conference

The APICS annual conference took place in Washington, DC from September 25th through September 27th, 2016.  Several members of the Transportation and Logistics Management faculty at American Public University attended the conference.  A great benefit of APICS’ membership is the ability to participate in the annual conference.  During the conference, there are several opportunities to meet and network with other supply chain professionals, students, and educators.  The keynote speakers for the conference this year were exceptional.  The first keynote speaker was Bill McDermott, CEP of SAP.  He highlighted the importance of focusing on the customer and customer service.  The second keynote speaker was Mel Robbins, author, commentator, and legal analyst for CNN.  She hit home with her explanation and challenge to make a change.

There were more than 65 educational sessions offered allowing attendees countless opportunities to engage in instructor-led sessions.  The learning paths this year were Collaboration and S&OP, Distribution and Logistics Insights, Operations Management, Risk and Resiliency, Supply Chain Analytics, Supply Chain Leadership and Supply Chain Strategy.  The topics in all the sessions were relevant, interesting, and timely.  It was challenging to select a session to attend because of multiple offerings being scheduled at the same time.  Sessions are designed to be engaging, and the presenters were experienced and knowledgeable.  During the APICS Conference, there were networking lunches and receptions permitting attendee time away from the session to network and meet new people.  Finally, there was an Expo Hall set-up with exhibitors featuring education, technologies, supply chain solutions, and information regarding APICS membership and certifications.  American Public University was an exhibitor at the conference this year highlighting their program offerings and certificates.

With the APICS 2016 Conference in Washington, for the first time in a couple of decades, it gave the opportunity for Federal Government and our military to send attendees. One session in particular which attracted this demographic was  "Humanitarian Logistics and the Role of the Department of Defense."   Irvin Varkonyi, CSCP, and part-time professor in Transportation and Logistics Management at APU/AMU, and Navy Cmdr. (ret) Jeffrey Brown were the session presenters. Vendors for state, local, and Federal Emergency Management organizations also attended as did the collaborative aid organization, ALAN (American Logistics Aid Network.) ALAN is composed of several associations including APICS and CSCMP.  A key takeaway was the incorporation of best practices to deliver humanitarian aid and how DoD organizations, such as the US Northern Command, have organized itself to support emergency management organizations. The "Humanitarian Logistics and the Role of the Department of Defense" presentation was a timely session given APICS' new credential, Certified in Logistics, Transportation, and Distribution (CLTD).  The new certification can provide and validate logistics capabilities for both commercial and public sector logisticians.

Dr. Karen Pentz, a part-time faculty in Transportation and Logistics Management, was also in attendance at the APICS Conference.  Karen enjoys the conference content as well as the networking capabilities. One of the interesting aspects of the conference is the ability to focus on a particular certificate program offered through APICS.  This year Karen's focus was on finishing the required electives for the S&OP and the Risk Management certificates. To do so, she attended some fascinating presentations over the three days offered by industry thought leaders. Karen stated, "APICS does a great job of choosing presentations that cover a specific path, but that also offer a variety of thoughts and aspects of the same or a similar topic."

The APICS Conference is beneficial as it allows for its members to enhance their membership by meeting new people, discussing best practices, and investigating new and emerging trends in the industry. The educational sessions are valuable, and some sessions (depending on topic) count as electives toward educational certificates offered through APICS.  

The future impact of autonomous ships on the maritime industry

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 09/30/2016 | 8:19 AM


Recently, Rolls Royce along with the government of Finland has announced that they would have the technology available to operate autonomous ships by 2025.  Although this is still nine years away, a shift like this can fundamentally change shipping as we know it today.  With technology, this means that even the largest most complex cargo vessels could operate with much smaller crews (or no crew at all) within a decade.  Consider the ramifications of this shift.

First, the human costs of operating the ship are often one of the highest costs.  Second, many ships operate under flags of convenience to hire an international crew.  Third, human error has been cited as the most common reason for shipping incidents.

Fully autonomous ships could technically operate without a crew and could sail between ports.  Ship technology already monitors all other targets in the area and so with systems to keep distance between vessels, there is a strong case to move to more technology with smaller crews.  This shift could drastically reduce the overhead costs for a vessel, allowing crew costs to drop down in costs, making it more attractive to maintain more national ships than international ships.  Even a minimal crew of three watch keepers and a cook would be substantially less than current ship manning costs.  This cost reduction would certainly change what nationality of the crew would be hired.

The flag of convenience benefit is lower taxes and the hiring of an international crew, which can be substantially less expensive.  Although the tax benefit would remain, the cost of crewing would still drop and offer the owner significant cost savings, which in turn can reduce cargo costs, given fully autonomous ships.  Even smaller crews would offer a significant reduction in labor costs, making autonomous ships more attractive to ship owners.  Another area of cost savings would come from insurance rates.  Smaller crews mean fewer potential legal labor disputes as well as increased technology and operations would reduce incidents and injuries.  Avoiding expensive legal settlements can be a boon to companies that operate in litigious societies like in the U.S.

Human error and shipping incidents have had a long association.  Although in many cases, there were multiple human errors that resulted in an incident or casualty, automation can help break this chain of casualty and avoid incidents.  Note that many ships already operate with an unattended machinery space, so there is already a case to avoid human intervention and monitoring. 

All of these upcoming factors could result in a shift in flag state of new or updated ships than embrace fully autonomous operation.  It is clear that new regulations must be developed and created and a flag state that swiftly moves can offer greater incentives to owners that embrace this technology.  Furthermore, operators that track and utilize this technology can build the insurance case that their operations are clearly safer and have fewer injuries and incidents than others. 

Ultimately, the objective is to move to lower costs of logistics and more efficient operations.  However, there will be a period of transition as society becomes more accepting of this technology.  Some people state that society will not accept it and that the change will never happen.  For those people, I remind them of this interesting story.   The modern elevator was initially operated and controlled by a person.  Elevator operators were common sights in tall buildings until around 1945.  Building owners for primarily cost reasons moved to fully autonomous elevators.  The public accepted the change and building owners moved swiftly to replace old elevators with autonomous elevators.    I suspect that society will do the same with regards to autonomous ships.

Ayoopa – Addressing customer needs while addressing the logistics challenges for an entrepreneur

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 09/19/2016 | 12:28 PM | Categories: Games, Sports, Travel

Ayoopa Logo Final

I had the opportunity to catch up with Wayne Lopez, the CEO of Ayoopa (www.ayoopa.com). For those that do not know what Ayoopa offers, they are a rental marketplace for outdoor/travel gear.  For example, why purchase expensive camping gear that one might use once a year when one could rent it and have it delivered to your location at a fraction of the cost.  Essentially, Ayoopa will become the go to rental platform when it comes to vacation/outdoor/travel equipment.

When first speaking with Wayne, I found that he had an overarching focus on two important entrepreneurial factors.  First, Wayne was looking to make the best customer experience to grow the reputation and following of Ayoopa.  Second, Wayne has a laser focus on controlling costs.  Both of these are essential for an entrepreneur. 

With regards to customer focus, Ayoopa is always looking to how to improve the experience of the customer.  Ayoopa wants to not only be able to offer a great experience, but Ayoopa also wants to offer the speediest possible service.  Ayoopa is challenged with time because given the current logistics environment; they can offer a competitive price and experience when they have more time.  Everyone knows overnight shipping is expensive, and so the rental experience becomes more complex when there is not a local agent that can fulfill the needs of the customer.

With regards to costs, Ayoopa is challenged with the cost of personalized delivery to the customer.  Finding the right mix of local and non-local delivery is a challenge for any entrepreneur.  After all, if the rental item is available locally, a very competitive price can be given to the customer.  If Ayoopa does not have stock in the area, it makes the cost of inbound and outbound freight more expensive.  In some cases, the cost of freight can become prohibitive because if the product is too far away, the cost of freight could be more than the rental. 

Although Ayoopa is making significant inroads with regards to market share and expanding their customer base, they are moving to expand their footprint into more areas as well as more markets.  Ayoopa is a pioneer in a growing market segment.  One clear sign of success has been that Ayoopa has been growing a following of repeat customers.  Once a person understands the value of the concept, they are more willing to rent in the future from Ayoopa.  Furthermore, they are willing to talk about it on social media and pass along the praises of the company to others. 

Ayoopa is part of a growing trend of entrepreneurial logistics companies that will change the way we shop or rent in the future.   With people looking to downsize their living space, why clutter one’s home with stuff that one does not use that often.  The freedom to rent at will can allow people to experience different outdoor adventures, without a significant financial commitment.  There is no doubt that Ayoopa can offer people a choice and freedom that was not possible before.

New FAA rules will change how last mile delivery gets done in the U.S.

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 08/31/2016 | 2:27 PM


Last week, New Zealand made the first commercial pizza delivery by drone,  and this week Mark Zuckerberg made a gift of a drone to the Pope.   I can only imagine these drone headlines have made Amazon pretty mad since they have been working on delivery drones for a while, and the reason for the delay rests squarely upon the shoulders of the FAA.  Although I recognize that there are some privacy issues with drones zipping around in my airspace, one needs to accept that the world is a changing and looking the other way is not going to change it. 

At 12:01 am EDT on August 29, 2016, the FAA got around to releasing the new rules governing drones.  The new small UAS Rule (Part 107) including all pilot and operating rules went into effect.  Although the rules are simpler (and clearer in my opinion), there are still going to be some people that are unhappy.  One major shift has been that the FAA has moved away from requiring a full pilots license to operate a drone.  This change opens up the field for drone operations.  Some might not be happy about this, but the US Airforce is anticipating a pilot shortage, so I was not sure where the FAA was thinking all these pilots were going to appear.  I do agree that drone pilots need to have some training and be able to handle their equipment.  I feel that requiring a drone to be in line of sight is prudent, but Tesla owners can remotely order their car’s to meet them without being in line of sight, so I am not sure how that is ok, but a drone is not.  I am sure that this aspect will have some more discussion shortly.

However, what is important to understand is that the FAA has allowed for expanded drone (UAV) usage in the U.S., and there is not putting the genie back in the bottle.  We can expect to see more startups that leverage drone technology for many different uses.  One can expect to see more drones buzzing around making deliveries to neighborhoods in the near future.

APICS and American Military University/American Public University Award PLS Designation to Promising APICS Members

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 08/16/2016 | 8:50 AM


Guest Posting by Ax Torres, APICS member, and former APICS Chapter President

On June 17th, 2016, select APICS members graduating from American Military University (AMU) and American Public University (APU) were awarded a Professional Designation in Logistics and Supply Chain (PLS) at the 16th annual American Public University System Commencement at the Gaylord National Convention Center. Through their hard work and perseverance, these members were not only able to graduate but also meet the necessary criteria to be professionally certified. This is a huge accomplishment in which more and more students and graduates are finding value. This perceived value is driven by a simple truth: the job market is currently experiencing an increase in college-educated professionals looking for work. As a result, some students and graduates are looking for a way to set themselves apart from their competition in the job market through professional certifications instead of starting a new degree program. Fortunately or unfortunately, there are so many certification options from which to choose that it can be hard to pick the right one; that’s where APICS comes in.

APICS is a well-known and highly- valued organization whose certifications and members are held in high standing in the logistics and transportation industry. AMU’s and APU’s  strategic partnership with APICS, in the form of a virtual APICS chapter (the only one in APICS at the moment), helps to drive that global value in an accessible way to its members. Members of the APICS Chapter at AMU/APU have access to the APICS member network as well as fellow students and alumni of the university that are available to answer questions ranging from professional and career advice to  certifications and  their associated industry ROI . In this informal setting, members are able to make smart decisions about which certificate may be right for them thanks to the guidance of the global organization and fellow members. The APICS Chapter at AMU/APU understands that often times it is the informal advice and mentorship of others that makes all the difference in important career decisions.

APICS certifications such as the PLS not only have the potential to help recognized employees get hired over non-certified candidates, but  to also potentially increase the base pay of those same employees. For these reasons and more, certifications are very valuable to students and alumni everywhere. The added benefit that students and alumni have at AMU/APU is a unique access to fellow students and alumni in the same career field through the virtual APICS Chapter hosted  by the university. Speaking from a personal standpoint, the chapter and the global APICS organization have certainly fostered my personal excellence and I look forward to learning from and working with our student and alumni members in the future in a mutually- beneficial way.

Ax Torres, PLS

APICS Chapter member and former President

For more information about the APUS and APICS educational partnership see the following link. StudyatAPU.com/APICS

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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