Supply Chain: "The Switzerland of Today's Business" - Our Interview with Rick Blasgen, President and CEO of CSCMP

Our weekly Executive Spotlight Blog Series will showcase business leaders' perspectives on real issues facing our industry, and the lean best practices that help improve supply chains and grow organizations.



Rick_Blasgen.jpgWe sat down with Rick Blasgen, President and CEO of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) to hear his perspective on the hot-button topics in supply chain, and what leaders can do to be successful.


Tell us about CSCMP. What does your organization do?

CSCMP was formed in 1963, by forward-thinking academics – it was purely a professional association, no lobbyists or advocacy arms were part of the group. The mission was and still is to provide educational, career development, and networking opportunities to members and to the entire supply chain management profession.   It’s a community of professionals - we connect, educate and develop the world’s supply chain professionals.  Examples?  We do this at our annual conference and at our regional roundtable events,  which are the backbone of our organization. It is an organization for the members, by the members.

Tell us a little about your career path – how did you end up in the supply chain industry and at CSCMP?

I graduated from college with a finance degree right in the middle of a recession. I started at Nabisco as an inventory analyst, then worked as a distribution center (DC) supervisor, and found myself in a union environment where my team members immediately re-named me ‘college kid.’  As I took on other roles and responsibilities, a career was born for me at Nabisco: I held various logistics positions of increasing responsibility in inventory management, order processing, transportation and DC operations management, and finally -- became Vice President of Supply Chain at Nabisco in June 1998. I then moved on to become Vice President of Supply Chain for Kraft in June 2002. I joined ConAgra Foods in August 2003 as Senior Vice President, Integrated Logistics. 

Through this time I enjoyed learning about and understanding the field of supply chain. I was eager to advance my knowledge about logistics. But my choice of supply chain wasn’t planned - like many of us in our industry; I fell into it and was able to progress in my career by continuous learning.

What fascinated me was that my division, Sales and Integrated Logistics, was designed to face the customer not the manufacturer. We became very focused on customer service and generating revenue. We considered logistics one of our revenue generators, which was quite unique at that time. Controlling cost was an important aspect but it was more about service at that point. 

When I was asked to run CSCMP I welcomed the opportunity - I am passionate about logistics and supply chain and I’m deeply passionate about accelerating and advancing the world’s supply chain professionals and the careers of the individuals within this dynamic driver of global business today.

From a supply chain advancement standpoint, how is order fulfillment strategy aligned with overall business strategy in today’s businesses?

The more forward thinking a company, the more you see supply chain aligned with the company’s mission and vision.  There is no question that supply chain should be an ongoing part of the overall strategy – it’s the idea of order fulfillment not only being aligned but being embedded in the strategy while staying agile and innovative. As Dave Clark from Amazon said at the CSCMP Annual Conference in San Diego – “If we have a great idea, we’ll do it - we’ll get the costs right later.”  A great idea should not succumb to cost pressures to move the path forward.

  1. Does your organization operate by guiding principles? If so, what are they?

As Doug Conant, Former CEO at Nabisco used to say to me: “You as the supply chain function are “Switzerland”-- you make sure to balance all of the different functional areas that compose the supply chain while assuring lowest delivered cost with the best customer service. Supply chain leaders need to have a high level of integrity and ethics to bring together the partners to ensure the flow of information, goods and money that the supply chain encompasses. CSCMP’s main guiding principle is delivering value to our members.  We have to ensure relevancy – not only in terms of information and research, but also by connecting people and being the organization professionals can count on to further their careers. We strive to stay relevant by ‘skating to where the puck’s going to be,’ to quote the great Wayne Gretzky!

What supply chain challenges could you see arising in the future?

In 2015 the US logistics cost was 8.3% percent of gross domestic product – in 1990 it was 11% - it means our expenses have gone down 25%! We’ve gotten better at what we do and are more productive. We should be proud of that and optimistic for the future. Our challenges will be around globalization, technology, and talent.

Globalization opens many dealing with and operating within different markets, and considering issues like geopolitical conflicts and currency exchanges that can have a whiplash effect on commodities (oil prices are just one example). To be successful and stay relevant in a global world we have to become very astute business people; our knowledge of supply chain alone won’t suffice. We have to understand financials, cultural barriers, international commerce and much more.

Technology has been at the core of the modern-day logistician to become more productive allowing the redeployment of assets to more value added areas.  With emerging trends and developments such as 3D Printing, Uber for Transportation, Drones etc., we have a very interesting future ahead of us. 

TalentWe have a talent gap in supply chain. Universities are currently placing all supply chain graduates into jobs well before their graduation date. Yet the field is not chosen by enough students. How do we get our field into lower levels of education to be considered as a future career?  We need more people to enter the supply chain management profession - it’s an exciting and dynamic industry that people can take advantage of.

Identifying, hiring, and retaining top talent will continue to be at the top of corporate agendas as well, as supply chain management becomes a core competency in progressive organizations. Today’s talent will be valued not only for their cost-cutting skills, but for their expertise in doing the things that grow their companies, such as implementing and managing efficient operating processes, and creating revenue through innovative, tailored solutions with customers.

Don’t stumble across your supply chain career like I did, make it your destination.


Ready to jump into supply chain management or want to learn about supply chain training? 

 Browse Training Courses



Posted by LeanCor, A Transplace Company

blog author

We Teach. We Consult. We Do. LeanCor is a strategic supply chain partner that provides managed transportation, supply chain consulting, and corporate training programs. These three, integrated solutions help businesses better serve their customers by eliminating waste, decreasing costs, and building cultures of continuous improvement.

LinkedIn Google+



NEW! Transportation Management Project Resources

Free Template Library

Issuing an freight carrier bid? Trying to resolve issues with suppliers? Need to improve your receiving dock schedule? We’ve rounded up some of our most-used project templates for daily continuous improvement in transportation management. Free for download!

Browse and Download Templates

Subscribe Now!

Recent Posts

Supply Chain Brief