Comment: Skills required for new-age supply chain managers

Roy Strik, head of business development for Pearson Professional Middle East on the skills needed for modern supply chain managers
Roy Strik, head of business development for Pearson Professional Middle East
Roy Strik, head of business development for Pearson Professional Middle East


According to reports by Transparency Market Research, the global supply chain management solutions market is expected to reach a value of $32.9bn by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 11.2% during the forecast period from 2018 to 2026. Not only is the sector growing, with the emerging technological advancements and fundamental shifts in supply chain activities, it is safe to say that the supply chain landscape is not the same as it was a decade ago. New advancements in technology such as 3-D printing, autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things (IoT), big data analytics and omni-channel retailing have brought about tremendous change in supply chain management.

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Take the e-commerce giant Amazon, for example, which has been working on a drone-based delivery system. The retail corporation Walmart has also developed a global satellite system that collects and shares its real-time store data. While these companies have taken that early step towards redefining their supply chain for optimal success in the future, most industries are finding it difficult to prepare themselves for today’s ever-evolving, exponentially more complex supply chain industry.

The question is why? According to industry analysts and experts, so much progress so quickly calls for new skills in supply chain management and leadership. Unfortunately, most supply chain organizations are unable to meet this demand currently. Hence, the need of the hour is an advanced workforce who can integrate innovation and technology with their working knowledge of supply chain tools, activities, and goals to carry out strategic, higher-level supply chain activities in the very near future.
Here are some skills that are required for a new-age supply chain manager:

1. Understanding of Information Systems

In the words of Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft, “Information Technology is at the core of how you do your business and how your business model evolves itself.” This stands true for supply chain industry as well. Thus, it is important for supply chain managers of tomorrow to gain expertise and adeptness in packaged software systems like WMS, ERP, TMS, etc. for better decision support.

2. Technological Expertise

In the wake of technological revolution, it has become imperative for supply chain managers to gain knowledge in areas like Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Robotics and Automation, and know how to effectively utilise them to advance their supply chain. We are now starting to see huge funding and investment in this industry. For example, in June 2018 Google invested $500 million into automated logistics for JD (the Chinese equivalent to Amazon). At the end of last year, Alibaba invested $15 billion into its own robotic logistics infrastructure. The global market for warehousing and logistics robotics is now projected to exceed $22 billion by the end of 2021, which will necessitate learning new skills.

3. Strategic Planning and Big Thinking

Another capability quickly becoming indispensable in supply chain leaders is data analytics mentality or Big Thinking. The knowledge of advanced analytics provides them the ability to draw on the data sets and information created by supply chain activities to anticipate market trends and make better, faster, holistic decisions while say, optimising their production runs and distribution plans.

4. End-to-End Supply Chain Management

Unlike a few years ago, a supply chain manager today needs to understand the complete end-to-end supply chain – from sourcing to production, planning to delivery and service – through collaboration and networking. This real-time experience can enable future managers to align all key supply chain partners, identify potential risks and address issues as they arise for effective operations.

5. Risk Management Expertise

As new and improved products, processes and services are entering the market, risk management is fast becoming an important asset for supply chain managers. While different businesses will have an array of different potential risks, the knowledge of risk management can help supply chain managers ask the right questions relating to business, quantify risks, and build contingencies effectively.

6. Global Leadership

As the supply chain is becoming global owing to the technological developments and changes in the market, it has become vital for supply chain managers of tomorrow to develop a holistic leadership style. The ability to control the entire supply chain process as a single point of command, and work seamlessly on a multi-channel, multi-partner basis will enable them to drive change and action.

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Currently, supply chain management positions are growing at nearly 270,000 opportunities per year, and there is only one skilled candidate for every six job openings. By 2030, the volume of jobs in the supply chain industry would have grown exponentially and the ratio of qualified candidates to job openings could be as high as 1:9. According to Supply and Demand Chain Executive magazine, there are more opportunities for trade professionals as the most of the global supply chain openings exist in middle management in which there is a current shortage of 54%. In order to qualify to run the supply chains of 2030 or to progress in their careers, specialists will need to develop new skills to stay relevant in a rapidly changing and complex supply chain environment.

It means they will need to continue to develop new capabilities. Luckily, the education sector has been evolving as well, and today upskilling can be done in new ways and forms such as blended education, MicroMasters® and other mixed programmes aimed at making learning flexible, portable, and possible while working full-time. Such newer forms of learning are linked directly to the industry and provide skills required to get onto the job immediately, such as Pearson Professional’s Micromasters Credential in Supply Chain Management from MIT. Specialized programs are designed to help workers develop top skills in supply chain analytics, design, latest technology used within supply chains and end-to-end supply chain management. Investing in these new capabilities will enable professionals to accelerate their career and master new-age skills to prepare to lead the supply chain industry to 2030.

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