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Joel Sutherland | Professor of Practice in Supply Chain Management | Knauss School of Business at the University

Joel Sutherland: Bequeathing Future Visionaries of Supply Chain

The supply chain profession continuously evolves, creating more intricate systems to handle. In addition, the recent Pandemic outspread brought more challenges piling on the existing ones, demanding innovative solutions to rise from the precarious landscape of difficulties. Understanding the profession’s ins-and-outs is essential to guide the potential talent to face these hurdles. With over four decades of experience in the supply chain profession, Joel Sutherland educates the future supply chain talent with his profound knowledge. He is the Professor of Practice in Supply Chain Management at the University of San Diego, developing and delivering industry workshops and seminars, sharing his extensive knowledge as an industry speaker, and securing/overseeing consulting projects to enhance experiential education for students.

An Uphill Climb

Joel earned an MBA from Pepperdine University and a BS degree in logistics management from the University of Southern California. Since 2006, Joel has been in academia full time, first at Lehigh University, where he served as Managing Director for the Center for Value Chain Research. From 2011 to 2021, he served as Managing Director for the Supply Chain Management Institute and Professor of Practice in Supply Chain Management at the University of San Diego.

Joel has worn multiple leadership hats as a supply chain professional holding executive-level positions for many well-known organizations. One of the many milestones that he achieved was becoming the first American vice president for Denso – a Toyota Group company and the second-largest automotive parts supplier globally. Joel also held executive-level positions at International Paper; ConAgra Foods; Formica; AmerisourceBergen; and CSX Rail and Sealand Services.

In the late 1990s, Joel joined JB Hunt Transport as the founding member of Transplace, one of North America’s most significant transportation management and technology providers – acquired by Uber Freight in 2021. Joel closed the curtain of his professional journey as the President of Air-Road Logistics, providing time-definite transportation services between the U.S. and Mexico.

Joel asserts that the primary challenge was, is, and will likely continue to be convincing senior executives of the “value” of supply chain management. He says, “There is a mindset that this profession is focused on reducing costs – and when something goes wrong, the blame falls on those functions generally assigned to supply chain management.” In his opinion, those functions are sourcing and procurement (i.e., raw materials and components), production (converting something into a finished product), and logistics (getting the product to the end customer). He adds, “Supply chain management should be recognized as a competitive advantage, better serving the end customer results in greater market share and reduced costs – the “optimal” result.”

Cherishing Excellence

Joel was recognized for his extensive expertise. Below are a few of his achievements.

  • CSCMP Distinguished Service Award.
  • Professional Achievement Award from Logistics Management magazine.
  • Top 20 Logistics Executives by CLO magazine.
  • Inaugural member of CSCMP’s Circle of Excellence.
  • CSCMP Hall of Fame.

Implying New Methodologies

Akin to visionary leadership, Joel’s career has been defined by innovation. At Denso, he mastered the Toyota Production System. He dedicated his career to creating innovative techniques, processes, and solutions to improve supply chain effectiveness and efficiency. He also identified and “preaches” on the ‘The Seven Deadly Wastes of Logistics’ adopted from the principles of the Toyota Production System and published in Supply Chain Management Review.

At International Paper, Joel created and published a first-ever paper on the Cost of Quality Failure, quantifying various failure costs that transformed the mindset and management practices. Continuing his journey, Joel proved himself to be instrumental in developing a competitive advantage in Collaborative Transportation Management, leading to the creation and publication of the first definitive paper on the subject. As Chair of VICS Association committee, Joel defined and advanced the understanding of this evolving practice – adopted at Transplace as well as numerous retail and CPG companies around the world.

United Approach

Joel states that the Supply Chain Management Institute (SCMI) supports the development of exceptional supply chain professionals sought after by industry and the public sector alike. SCMI is committed to developing and disseminating Supply Chain Management knowledge & best practices in three areas:

  • Collaborative Relationships: Create a fertile environment where scholars, students, and external partners collaborate to advance knowledge, drive thought leadership, and create practical solutions for the greater supply chain profession.
  • World-Class Education: Support undergraduate, graduate, and executive education by providing relevant educational programs focused on the benefits attainable through effective supply chain management.
  • Applied Research: Identify and propose real-world strategies, processes, and systems at the forefront of efforts to improve performance in supply chain management.

Instilling Technology

Joel expresses that Industry 4.0, and all its associated elements including AI, robotics, big data analytics, 3D printing, IoT, machine learning, and much more, will fundamentally change the practice, efficiency, and effectiveness of the management of global supply chains.. He says, “I believe that this will lead to greater visibility of the supply chain – from end to end – enabling greater integration. Already, our curriculum at USD is being transformed to include these important enabling capabilities as we develop tomorrow’s talent.”

Farsighted Goals

Joel aims to see himself as a champion for the supply chain management. Walking on a path in the industry since the 70s, he is recognized and appreciated for his efforts. Though, in 2019, when COVID impacted global trade, the supply chain term was used a lot in the press. Joel mentions, “While the term is being thrown around as if it was clearly understood, the reality is that few people truly understand it, including practitioners. In my most recent graduate course (summer 2021), each of my students interviewed three people at their respective workplaces, asking them to define supply chain management. Almost all the responses were unique to what they did versus an accurate definition. We have a long way to go!”

Joel states that USD’s School of Business has already embarked on achieving a future vision for supply chain management. The university recognized that other disciplines have a close relationship to supply chain management and has created a center of excellence to include supply chain management, economics, and data analytics. providing a unified platform to conduct research, teach, and disseminate knowledge. Industrial engineering, residing within the School of Engineering, also plays a significant role in optimizing supply chains and contributes significantly to this vision.

Receptive Paths

It has always been a struggle to attract students, as they are drawn to traditional programs such as management, marketing, accounting, etc., shying away from majoring in supply chain management. Joel advises the upcoming talent to open their minds to the possibilities a career in supply chain management can offer. He asserts that the practice is global and can be applied to any business. The US is considered a leader in this profession, and the demand for talent is greater than the current supply. Joel asks, other than joining the navy to “see the world,” why not pursue a career in supply chain management to see the world? “As a supply chain professional for 40+ plus years, I have had the opportunity to visit more than 80 countries, work in and live in four countries, and travel to all 50 states,” Joel concludes.