UT prof talks data, drones and delivery


Supply chain management is already a critical focus for manufacturers, retailers and other businesses, but the field is quickly being transformed, according to a University of Tennessee expert.

Ted Stank is a professor at the University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business who is a nationally recognized leader in supply chain management.

On Tuesday, Stank spoke to a breakfast meeting at the Knoxville Chamber, and said companies like Amazon.com and Walmart are transforming the supply chain process.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has talked about using drones for deliveries, and Stank said that “Amazon is committed to the fact that within the near future … they’re going to be delivering to our door using drones.”

Stank said Amazon is also exploring the use of data to predict where its orders will come from at a granular level. For example, if 70 residents of a particular apartment building ordered a particular season of a television show, Amazon in the following year might pre-ship 70 copies of the next season to a nearby distribution facility in anticipation of similar orders.

Stank said Walmart, on the other hand, is experimenting with delivery methods that don’t involve dropping products off at a customer’s door. Instead, he said the retail giant is exploring physical locations that resemble convenience stores, but are also stocked with fresh food and allow customers to pick up items that were ordered online.

In terms of real estate, the professor said the push for faster delivery may drive demand for smaller distribution centers that are located near customers.

UT is among the top-ranked supply chain programs in the nation, and its graduates include a number of high-profile executives. Alumni include Bill Hutchinson, chief supply chain officer for Sears; Dave Clark, SVP of worldwide operations at Amazon; and Daniel Myers, executive VP of global integrated supply chain at Mondelez International.

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