Logistics Roundtable Gains Visibility

February 11, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Western Michigan Council of Logistics Management (CLM) Roundtable is a lot more visible today since teaming with two other Michigan roundtables.

The Western Michigan, Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan roundtables got together last year and cooperatively launched a single Web site, www.mi-clm.org, which serves as a comprehensive source of logistics information for the entire state.

The roundtables’ emphasis is on the education, professional development and networking of people in the field of logistics management, said Timothy Wendt, WMR’s vice president of programs and the Web site’s creator.

Their parent organization, CLM, is an Oakbrook, Ill.-based nonprofit that runs a year-round program of activities, research and meetings focused on developing the theory and understanding of the logistics process and advancing the art and science of managing logistics systems.

All CLM roundtables are organized around the same basic structure and provide a forum for dialogue and education for logistics professionals.

But the 14,000-member CLM is neither a trade association nor a social organization; it’s a worldwide professional organization, Wendt said.

The Western Michigan Roundtable, formed in 1985, covers the western half of Lower Michigan and is based in Grand Rapids. It has about 500 members currently, Wendt said.

The Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan roundtables serve members in their respective areas of the state, but there are no restrictions as to which roundtable members can attend.

The joint Web site debuted last September, and the response has been overwhelming, Wendt said, adding that the site has really increased visibility and awareness of the organization.

“Instead of being just a traditional roundtable Web site, we were looking to give people a source of information that was comprehensive,” Wendt explained. “You don’t have to be an active participant in any of the roundtables to take advantage of the Web site.”

WMR President Bruce Ferrin, an associate professor of marketing and supply management at Western Michigan University’s Haworth College of Business, said it didn’t make much sense for each Michigan roundtable to have a separate Web site.

He pointed out that another thing the group wanted to accomplish through its Web presence was to make it as easy as possible for people interested in roundtable events to register for them. A simple point and click takes care of the registration these days.

Wendt noted that more than 85 percent of event registration is now done via the site.

The site allows for a lot of interaction and communication among the three roundtables, as well.

“Historically, the three Michigan roundtables have functioned completely autonomously,” Ferrin observed. “They didn’t know what we were doing, and we didn’t know what they were doing.”

Neither was there any “cross pollination” as far as programs were concerned, he said.

But that changed last year when the Western and Eastern roundtables joined forces to provide Michigan members with an expanded schedule of events.

Ten events are scheduled this year, though nine per year is the average.

“The idea is that not everybody can get their organization to pony up for a conference registration and travel expenses,” Ferrin explained.

“So our idea with programs has been, if you can’t bring the Michigan people to the conference, let’s bring part of the conference to the Michigan people.”

All three roundtables have events unique to them, but a couple times a year they will piggyback on their proximity to draw in a nationally known speaker, Ferrin said.

The cooperation between the three helps present a more alluring package to top speakers in the industry.

“The programs I’m trying to put together for Eastern and Western are going to be targeting the people who are the powerhouses in logistics and supply chain management,” Wendt said.

The No. 1 logistics issue on everyone’s mind presently is security, Ferrin said.

“I think security right now has assumed the same magnitude of attention, maybe even more attention, than Y2K had three or four years ago.”

Supply chain security, in fact, will be addressed Feb. 20 at WMR’s next event at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on 28th Street SE. William Ansley, vice president of UPS’s Trade Management Services, will speak on security issues relating to importing and exporting.

Wendt said he hasn’t heard of any other CLM roundtables that have forged a similar cooperative relationship as the Michigan roundtables have done.

But as Ferrin observed, unlike other states, the Michigan roundtables are fairly close geographically and that’s more conducive to sharing speakers.

Any revenue made off of events goes to a student scholarship fund.

The WMR awards two $1,000 scholarships a year to logistics students who demonstrate strong academic achievement.

The national organization has always had a strong commitment to college and university students and to education, so student involvement has been a CLM roundtable mission since the beginning, Ferrin said.

Roundtable involvement can offer students practical insights into real world problems and real world solutions, he added.

Ferrin said it’s not unusual to see university educators in the logistics discipline involved with CLM roundtables across the country.

Educational involvement is a formally institutionalized part of the roundtable structure, he noted, and the basic structure includes an education position on the executive board. 

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