Publication Date

Markus Buehler, head of the Department of Civil Engineering and the McAfee Professor of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will give a talk on new developments in materials science at Crossroads 2017, the supply chain industry’s leading annual forum for innovative ideas.

Developments in materials technology can have a profound impact on the way products are made and packaged, and by extension, on the supply chains that deliver products to end users.

Professor Buehler is part of a team that has developed a new lightweight material that is 10 times stronger than steel. One of the strongest, lightest materials known, its sponge-like structure gives it a very low density. Other materials could be created using the process developed by the research team. The researchers used a high-resolution, multimaterial 3D printer to produce the material.

There are many potential applications for the new material, especially where combinations of extreme strength and light weight are required. It is also possible to develop materials with other properties such as transparency and electrical conductivity using the techniques developed by the researchers.

Another speaker at Crossroads 2017, Jeanne Ross, Director and Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Sloan School’s Center for Information and Systems Research, will talk about a game-changer that is redefining businesses: digital disruption.

Ross says that digital disruption includes the impact of social media, mobile technology, analytics, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things, and technologies such as cognitive computing that stem from these developments.

“It’s going to change your entire competitive landscape, and it’s going to change it in at least one of two ways,” she says. It will disrupt customer relationships as competitors emerge that offer better customer engagements. And digital disruption will change the value of proposition of products, as it wraps product offerings in information and services in ways that were not possible previously.


How can companies address these challenges? Ross sums up the approach in a single word – integration. “Take everything your business does and deliver it as a whole,” she advises.

She suggests five strategies for achieving this level of organizational integration.

  • Do not rush out and hire a Chief Digital Officer to orchestrate the changes; responding to digital disruption should be everyone’s job.
  • Carry out organizational surgery as you rethink the way you do business.
  • In this new environment value chains are becoming irrelevant; think more of a confluence of changes that are redefining business models.
  • Develop a digital platform that eliminates wasteful complexity.
  • Focus on providing solutions not products – on solving customer problems.

How does supply chain fit into the picture? That will be discussed at Crossroads 2017. Other speakers will explore the impact of visual analytics, additive manufacturing, sensor technology and blockchains.

“In its thirteen-year history, Crossroads has become the industry’s most compelling forum for the ideas that will shape tomorrow's supply chains,” says Yossi Sheffi, Elisha Gray II Professor of Engineering Systems, MIT, and Director of the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics (MIT CTL). “Crossroads 2017 showcases technologies and strategies that industry professionals need to be aware of.”

Crossroads 2017 is organized by MIT CTL. The conference will take place on April 4, 2017, at the MIT campus, Cambridge, MA. Register for the event here. A full agenda is available here.

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