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12/21/2001
08:22 AM
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He's Fixed On Keeping The Supply Chain Strong

Tyndall says trading partners should find ways to share information about every aspect of each business that touches the other, rather than stockpiling inventory or backing away from global sourcing.

Gene Tyndall takes a deep breath and looks out the window of his fifth-floor Miami office toward a stand of palm trees that flank the driveway of Ryder System Inc.'s sprawling campus. The man who unabashedly lays claim to coining the term "supply-chain management" in the early 1980s realizes that some business leaders are confused about how to deal with factors such as tighter border security and fewer air cargo flights that have slowed the supply chain since the Sept. 11 attacks. Many of them are stocking more parts instead of using just-in-time inventory models and are buying less from cheaper overseas suppliers.

Tyndall certainly isn't confused. It's an issue on which he wants to be heard, so he lowers his voice and fixes an intense gaze on his listener. "You don't abandon the most successful supply-chain business model there has ever been because of some uncertainty that can be resolved with information and with IT," says Tyndall, executive VP of global markets and E-commerce for Ryder, an old-style trucking and truck-leasing company that's using IT to reshape itself into a manager of clients' global supply chains.

When Tyndall talks supply chain, people listen. Dell Computer did, back in 1993, when it began developing a just-in-time inventory-management system that's the envy of all industry. So did numerous other companies-including Ford, Procter & Gamble, and Reebok-while he was a senior partner leading the supply-chain practice at Ernst & Young.

Gene Tyndall, photo by Tom Salyer
Tyndall, who's spent two decades evangelizing an IT-driven, lean-inventory model, fears that a return to the old way of managing inventory creates great risk. An unfortunate example is Cisco Systems, which wrote off $2.2 billion of excess inventory in April, a loss that Tyndall blames on a basic failure to balance supply and demand. "If one of the companies best-known for managing its supply chain can take a hit like that for holding too much inventory, how can anybody else see that as a strategy they want to pursue?" he says.

Education
Bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from the University of Maryland; MBA from George Washington University

Experience
As a Naval officer during the Vietnam War, Tyndall was assigned to the Pentagon in the mid-'70s to work on the logistics of moving supplies and materials out of Vietnam

Credit Due
Co-authored "Supercharging Supply Chains: New Ways To Increase Value Through Operational Excellence," a 1998 book that helped spark the quest for real-time supply-chain execution

He's pushing the idea that, instead of stockpiling inventory and backing away from global sourcing, trading partners should share information about every aspect of each business that touches the other. He says that in the future, companies not only will share information about where a part is and when it will arrive, but will plan together for how they'll react to disruptions. Such collaboration requires trust, though companies don't always put the importance on that relationship that they should. Once broken, Tyndall warns, trust "is never repaired."

Companies want the information Tyndall talks about, but they aren't willing to make the leap of trust needed to get there, says Christopher Gopal, VP of global supply-chain services for Unisys Corp. and co-author with Tyndall of the book Supercharging Supply Chains (John Wiley & Sons, 1998). "Companies want the ability to disassociate, to go somewhere else if they want to, and the concern is, 'how will it hurt me if the company I want to stop using has had access to my information?'" Gopal says. But the idea of replacing inventory with information is too appealing to keep down. Even in today's more-cautious environment, Tyndall's reputation for success means his voice will be heard. "When Gene talks about creating business relationships that are built around what seems like extreme collaboration," Gopal says, "people are listening."

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Photo by Tyndall by Tom Salyer

Join us Jan. 8-10, when Gene Tyndall will lead a roundtable discussion on supply chains: informationweek.com/869/chain.htm

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