September 16, 2013
Column | fastlane

Happy 50th birthday, CSCMP!

It has been a good ride and should be an even better one over the next 50 years.

By Clifford F. Lynch

At its Annual Global Conference in Denver, which takes place Oct. 20 to 23, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Over 3,000 supply chain professionals are expected to be on hand to help commemorate the history as well as reflect on the future of this premier supply chain organization.

Founded in 1963 as the National Council of Physical Distribution Management (NCPDM), the group was the brainchild of 13 educators, consultants, and practitioners who envisioned a future where warehousing, transportation, and inventory management would be treated as parts of an integrated whole, not as stand-alone functions. If these 13 were with us today, they no doubt would be amazed at the extent to which their dreams have materialized. While the organization started off modestly, it has grown to a membership of over 10,000 industry professionals. I have had the privilege of being a member for 46 of those 50 years, and it has been both exciting and rewarding to be a part of the development, not only of the organization, but of the industry as a whole.

Early on, the group saw the value of recognizing the individual contributions of thought leaders (and what today we call "rainmakers") and in 1965, established the John Drury Sheahan Award. This award, named for a leading consultant of the era, was the forerunner to the current Distinguished Service Award. The first recipient was Will Gribble, who was director of customer service for The Pillsbury Co. and one of the 13 founding members.

As the membership expanded, so did the NCPDM mission, and it was a rare year when some enhancement was not made to the organization's educational efforts. For example, in 1978, the late Bob Delaney became frustrated at the lack of reliable information regarding the total cost of logistics, and a few years later authored the first State of Logistics Report. This year, the 24th annual edition of this report was presented by Rosalyn Wilson, who has ably produced it since Bob's 2006 passing.

1985 brought a name change. NCPDM became the Council of Logistics Management (CLM), more accurately reflecting the industry responsibilities at that time. The change was welcomed since it better described the state of the discipline, and CLM was a much friendlier acronym than NCPDM.

1997 was a year that many of the longer-term members still talk about. That year, the CLM Executive Committee commissioned a well-known author, Daniel Pollock, to write a novel about logistics. And that he did! At almost 500 pages, Precipice was described as a logistics thriller, and it was released just prior to the 1997 annual conference. Critic Martha Grimes said in the Los Angeles Times, "One would hardly expect to see the word 'logistics' and 'thriller' in the same sentence ... yet they are." Still available on, it is a little tedious, but all in all, not a bad read.

In 2005, 20 years after CLM was born, it was time for another name change, and the group was rechristened the "Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals." This name elevated the group to a new level, one that once again reflected the dramatic changes made in the industry and the responsibilities of its players. At the time, not everyone was thrilled with the choice of names. Twenty years earlier when "CLM" was being considered, some joked that whatever was selected could not be a more difficult acronym than "NCPDM." However, when "CSCMP" was announced, many felt the leadership had met that challenge. (What do logisticians have against vowels, anyway?) It proved to be a good choice, however, and today the membership consists of thousands of leading supply chain practitioners from all over the world.

So, happy birthday, CSCMP! It has been a good ride and should be an even better one over the next 50 years. Next name change, though, let's go with at least one vowel.

About the Author

Clifford F. Lynch
Clifford F. Lynch is principal of C.F. Lynch & Associates, a provider of logistics management advisory services, and author of Logistics Outsourcing – A Management Guide and co-author of The Role of Transportation in the Supply Chain. He can be reached at

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