Supply Chain Insights From UScellular’s Amy Augustine

Amy Augustine, Senior Director Network Supply Chain for UScellular, joins Nulogy’s Chief Marketing & Industry Officer Christine Barnhart for a discussion on the latest trends in supply chain.

Christine Barnhart, Chief Marketing & Industry Officer at Nulogy
WRITTEN BY Christine Barnhart

As guest host filling in for Sarah Barnes Humphrey for the Thoughts & Coffee podcast, I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the talented Amy Augustine, Senior Director of Network Supply Chain at UScellular. Our first order of business was to answer the podcast’s weekly poll question: “What’s the best advice you would give to your teenage self?

My answer? Take more risks and veer away from the unintentionally conservative path that feels oh-so-comfortable at times. Amy went with embracing failure and learning from it – a theme that is all too common in our fast-paced industry. What would be your advice to your younger self? 

ESGeeWhiz! AI 🤖 and Your Labor Woes

Next, we dove into the trends shaking up the supply chain industry and provided some advice (this time, to our grown-up selves) on how to stay on top of your supply chain career. 

Logistics Trends to Watch For in 2024

Cultural, social, and geopolitical movements are usually the key players in any industry trend, and that includes our very own supply chain market. Amy and I began our conversation by touching on the Red Sea shipping crisis and Panama Canal restrictions that have more than likely added a degree of complexity and risk to your company’s operations. Amy’s advice? The level of disruption occurring in our oceans can significantly impact our industry, and as such all business leaders should keep a keen eye on these evolving situations. 

Related to the Red Sea challenges, Amy suggested watching East Coast transportation rates closely to avoid cost increases whenever possible. On the West Coast, where the Panama Canal drought is driving logistics disruptions, leaders would be wise to closely manage punctuality so that material can get to warehouses in a timely manner.

“It’s about trying to get in front of what’s going on so you can make smarter decisions,” explained Amy, adding, “How do you evaluate that risk to your overall supply chain?” 

Amy, and many others, advocate a balance of inventory storage and consumption, as avoiding excess inventory too early is important. Who wants to pay storage fees, right? At the same time, failing to get out in front of delays can put the entire supply chain at risk. That’s why choosing the right transportation mode at the right time, especially when working with global suppliers, is key for minimizing the risk of a domino effect on both cost and time. 

Leveling up Supply Chain Learning Through ASCM

As part of the Association of Supply Chain Management (ASCM) Board of Directors, we touched on what a profound impact these roles have had in our respective careers. Amy shared that she honed her skills and fell in love with the supply chain management profession during her time creating new supply chain processes for the U.S. Army. By the time Amy got to UScellular, she became more closely involved in ASCM and found huge professional development value in leveraging the association’s tools and education. In fact, she holds her CSCP certification through ASCM. In the years following, her time with the association has helped her grow not only as a supply chain professional, but also as a leader in the industry. 

Amy encourages individuals at the start of their supply chain path who perhaps feel like they’re lacking the confidence or vocabulary to pioneer forward, to use ASCM to connect with other practitioners, find a ton of educational content that is oftentimes free, and get involved where they can.

Is the Term “ESG” Going Away – Or is it Here to Stay?

Referring back to another podcast I shared with Sarah, I asked Amy the same burning question that Sarah and I discussed only weeks before. What type of connotation does the term ESG (Environmental & Social Governance) raise for her?

Well, her response was so very Amy: fearless and ethical. “Media has made it into a bad word, a bad reputation. And it’s being pushed top-down where it really needs to be a ground-up push where you start small and simple – and build from there.” She went on to assert that ESG does have a place in the supply chain and it can’t be ignored. She believes all organizations should think about their impact on the world, their impact on society, how they govern employees, and take what they learn to only do better.

I couldn’t agree more. 

Revisiting AI and Labor Shortages

Can a supply chain podcast really be a true supply chain podcast without touching on the world of AI? Amy and I reflected on the fact that many people are surprised we’re having labor shortages. “Is the market slowing down?” is a question we receive often. Earlier this February, a study by Descartes reported that of the thousand supply chain and logistics decision makers they talked to, a whopping 76% are experiencing “notable workforce shortages.” Can AI help that? Or will it just make the problem worse?

Amy thinks AI can help by taking the place of data analytics and number crunching positions (the burnout-causing work as many of you know). If people and AI work together to delegate the mundane tasks to AI, AI may open a whole world of strategy to help make better supply chain decisions. 

Before we go, we invite you to continue to check out in on other episodes and events here. Please make sure you’re staying tuned to Let’s Talk Supply Chain, the Secret Society of Supply Chain, and to Thoughts & Coffee. You’ve found your one-stop-shops for all things supply chain management and we hope that you keep following along. 

A big thanks to Amy for being our special guest and to Sarah for giving me the honor to step in as guest host! Until next time.

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