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3 Must See Supply Chain Optimization TED Talks of All Time

Michael Wilson | Dec 3, 2015

One of the most beneficial aspects of the Internet is the free flow of ideas. Anybody with Internet access can learn about the most obscure topics with little effort that were ...

supply-chain-optimization-TEDOne of the most beneficial aspects of the Internet is the free flow of ideas. Anybody with Internet access can learn about the most obscure topics with little effort that were once previously only available to niche experts. One organization dedicated to disseminating valuable information is TED (short for Technology, Entertainment, and Design). Founded in 1984, the organization now publishes talks on just about every subject imaginable, and they do it in over 100 languages.

Our experts have looked at a lot of TED Talks, and after countless all nighters here are the top 3 videos we think everyone in supply chain optimization and strategic procurement needs to see:

1. Esther Ndichu: Hunger Isn’t a Food Issue. It’s a Logistics Issue

If you’ve ever felt that the importance of supply chain optimization is underappreciated, this is the TED Talk for you. Esther Ndichu explains how hunger isn’t about the lack of food; it’s about logistics: storage, transportation, packaging, roads, and other potentially limiting factors. Ndichu reports that an estimated 1/3 of the food produced in the world is wasted: rotting at customs or stuck in the field without a truck. In India, 30% of fruits and vegetables harvested rot before they get to the people who need them, due to lack of refrigeration. In sub-Saharan Africa, farmers lose 30 to 40% of crops after harvesting due to rain, insects, rodents, and mold. The food wasted in Africa alone could feed 49 million people. Ndichu challenges professionals involved in supply chain optimization and strategic procurement to figure out better ways of getting food to market, safely storing food, encouraging trade, and using technology to solve the “last mile” problem. 

2. Karen Eng: How to Get Vaccines to the Right Place at the Right Time

This one is more of a “TED Read” than a “TED Talk,” in that it’s an article rather than a video. But it uses the global imperative of vaccinations to discuss some truths that apply to supply chain optimization in every vertical. Eng talks about using mobile phones, GPS, proprietary apps, and temperature-sensitive, color-coded stickers to monitor vaccines every step of the way from origin to destination. While the topic is about the best way to get much-needed vaccines to remote populations, the principles can be applied in many areas of supply chain management.

3. Andreas Raptopoulos: No Roads? There’s a Drone for That

Here in the U.S., we’re spoiled with a solid transportation infrastructure. But that’s not the case worldwide. Globally, one billion people don’t have access to all-season roads. That means that one-seventh of the world’s population is completely cut off during some parts of the year. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, there are 40 million miles of unusable roads. That’s a logistical nightmare, both for the people who desperately need goods and services as well as for the companies that deliver them. In this TED Talk, Andreas Raptopoulos talks about one potential solution: drones. He’s experimenting with using drones to deliver goods to remote areas in Africa, and the results have been astonishing: Drones can deliver products weighing up to two kilograms over a 10-kilometer distance, in 15 minutes, for less than 24 cents. That’s amazing, and it’s all due to optimization of vehicles, landing stations, and routing software. Not every logistics organization, of course, deals with such life-and-death issues, but there are lessons to be learned even for those who deliver more common day-to-day products.

TED Talks represent one of those Internet black holes that can suck up hours of your life before you even realize what’s happened. But some of those talks can be both informative and inspirational. If you want to be inspired by the possibilities inherent in supply chain optimization, these are the ones to start with. You’ll end up feeling really good about doing what you do.

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