Articles

Articles

Help Wanted: Capable Supply Chain Managers

By APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE | 0 | 0 | May 09, 2014


Customer-focused, business-oriented, and innovative individuals sought. APICS certifications preferred. Very competitive pay. New graduates and experienced professionals welcome to apply.

While the previous text is an imaginary advertisement, it’s the kind of thing we experience more than ever before. Fortune this week posted its own version: “Wanted: 1.4 Million New Supply Chain Workers by 2018.” There are hurdles in attracting qualified candidates, one of the biggest being that those outside of the profession can’t even define what this profession encompasses. Just as concerning is that most individuals don’t recognize the opportunity supply chain presents or don’t understand the value it delivers.

The Fortune article does its part to contradict the widely held image of supply chain work. While there’s a need for a shop floor and warehouse workforce, this industry “badly needs new talent in high tech, analytics, robotics, and engineering,” writes Anne Fisher. “Career changers, take note: Seasoned managers, marketers, data analysts, and human resources executives are also in high demand.”

Supply chain managers across manufacturing describe a fierce competition for good talent, whether it’s students just graduating from college or seasoned professionals in the industry. Chuck Edwards is the president of Lenze Americas, a supply chain automation, software, and systems integration provider. He advises company leaders to “try harder” and consider how professionals from other industries might fill openings. “Analytics, scheduling, complex problem solving, project management—we need all of these, and they’re very easily transferred from another business,” he says.

Looking to the future

APICS has its own data to add to the supply chain equation. According to the APICS Operations Management Employment Outlook, average annual compensation across all operations management job categories is an impressive $99,685. The categories include the plan, source, make, deliver, and return areas of supply chain. The research project is ongoing, and salaries have been steadily rising since its inception in 2009.

APICS education also plays a part. In fact, according to the report, respondents who hold either the APICS Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) or the Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credentials have experienced higher compensation and more positive outcomes in hiring decisions. Additionally, as I’ve previously reported, SCM World’s 2013 Chief Supply Chain Officer Survey shows that APICS certifications are the top indicators of supply chain talent among all certifications in the marketplace.

APICS is working hard to reach out to and inform the next generation of supply chain and operations management professionals. For example, APICS student membership now is free, and enables full-time undergraduate and graduate students to network in a community of more than3,200 other APICS student members. Plus, student members can meet experienced supply chain and operations management professionals and access local training opportunities. 

If you haven’t visited lately, I encourage you to check out the APICS website. Then, tell others to do the same. The website features the professional data, resources, and event information to meet a variety of your current—and future—needs.

Supply Chain Management Certification

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Supply chain management professionals are actively [sought] after by companies in the US and globally. In recent years companies looking to hire staff for supply chain positions are looking favorably at candidates with supply chain certification.

For those who are starting their careers in supply chain management, there are now a number of bachelor degrees specializing in the supply chain. These new programs are more focused towards the current needs of the supply chain industry. Penn State offers a degree program, Supply Chain and Information Systems, which covers specific supply chain topics such as demand fulfillment, strategic procurement, and supply chain modeling.

Those graduates who are working in the supply chain or would like to focus their careers towards supply chain topics, there are a growing number of Masters Degrees that highlight the supply chain. Since 1998 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MiT) has offered a Master of Engineering in Logistics (MLOG) degree that gives students a chance to work with a number of companies during their course. A number of Supply Chain Masters Degrees are available online, so students can participate without traditional classroom attendance.

Supply chain professionals work long hours and it is not always possible to participate in a Masters Degree. However there are certification programs that are available which offer students an excellent opportunity to gain education to enhance their career. APICS certification has been available for almost forty years and there are two certification programs to consider.

The Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) designation is offered to professionals who work in a number of supply chain areas such as procurement, inventory management and production. There are five exams that must be passed for a student to be awarded the CPIM designation. Those are the Basics of Supply Chain Management, Master Planning of Resources, Detailed Scheduling and Planning, Execution and Control of Operations, Strategic Management of Resources. The CPIM certification must be renewed every five years.

APICS has a second certification, Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP), which provides a wider examination of the supply chain than the CPIM certification. The certification is obtained by taking a single exam. The CSSP designation is designed for supply chain professionals who want to advance their supply chain education.

Special Report: Leveraging the value of supply chain education

With interest in supply chain education at an all-time high, now is the time to use it to expand your own team’s skills, knowledge, and capabilities

By Bridget McCrea, Contributing Editor
January 01, 2014

It’s no secret that organizations are paying more attention to their supply chains lately. Whether their goal is to minimize risk, improve customer service, enhance visibility, gain competitive advantage, or all of the above, companies are increasingly turning to their supply chains for answers. A logical offshoot of this trend is an uptick in supply chain education. For without the right mix of fundamentals and hands-on experience, how can supply chain managers and their teams be expected to keep up with this newfound interest in what was once their “little corner” of the world?

Calling supply chain management the “Hot New MBA,” a recent Wall Street Journal article reported that more schools are ramping up their programs and adding majors and concentrations to meet employer demand for such options. And because program graduates are in big demand right now, WSJ says salaries for these jobs range from the mid-50s and up into the six-figure range, depending on education and experience.

The salaries associated with supply chain careers are impressive, for sure, but the path from the classroom to the paycheck isn’t always well paved or navigable. According to a new APQC survey, skills gaps can get in the way of individual achievement and corporate goals.

“Despite the attention given to the need for talent development and management in the supply chain,” the APQC states, “there are still unanswered questions about whether graduates with supply chain degrees are adequately prepared for jobs within the profession and whether organizations are actively seeking employees with these degrees.”

In some cases, the skills gap exists because companies have yet to set up supply chain talent development programs to support new hires. In its survey of 167 supply chain professionals across 40 industries, for example, APQC found that new supply chain hires are often only somewhat prepared for the jobs they will be doing. And while organizations recognize the need for talent management programs directed at supply chain staff, survey respondents were evenly split on whether their organizations have formal supply chain talent management programs.

When conducting its survey, APQC also found that their potential employers view recent job seekers in the field as only somewhat well prepared for their job duties. “This may be a motivation behind many of the respondents’ organizations,” the group states, “considering supply chain talent management to be a top priority.” Some organizations are taking a more proactive approach toward developing supply chain talent coming from university programs, according to APQC, which found that most organizations offer internship opportunities and 43 percent work with universities to develop supply chain management curricula.

Public, customized, and hybrid
At Pennsylvania State University, John Langley Jr., Ph.D., says he’s seeing strong interest in supply chain education reinforced by industry certifications and certificates. The latter often serve as “tangible evidence” that a format effort was put out to enhance one’s education, says Langley. Concurrently, he says more organizations are sending employees to schools like Penn State to attend either public, customized, or hybrid educational programs. At press time, for example, Langley was kicking off a three-day hybrid course for a particular company that was part-traditional learning and part-tailored to the company’s specific business.

When it comes to addressing talent gaps on a current supply chain team, Langley says the hybrid educational approach works particularly well. Some courses are designed to communicate basic information and knowledge (especially to those individuals who may lack formal supply chain education) while other aspects hit on supply chain skills that can be applied on the job (such as how to achieve supply chain transformation within an organization).

“If you are managing inventory, there are tried and true ways to manage that inventory,” Langley points out. “If you don’t know those ways you won’t be useful as an inventory manager, plain and simple.” Once an employee attains those operational skills, Langley says he or she can then play a larger role on the strategic side of supply chain management (i.e., direction setting and visioning). Ultimately, he says the companies that fill in the talent gaps on the supply chain side are those that make the commitment to ongoing education and consider that education “vital to their corporate cultures.”

Assessing the options
In 1997, Nick Vyas made the jump from industrial engineer to supply chain professional. He spent the next 16 years developing his own educational foundation and network within the supply chain field. It was a luxurious timeline that most professionals simply can’t afford to work on in today’s business world. “The speed of change is very fast right now,” says Vyas, senior program administrator for global supply chain management at the University of Southern California. “The professionals with the skills and the training are at an advantage and able to differentiate themselves from the rest.”

Achieving that goal requires a good balance between practical and theoretic knowledge, says Vyas, who points to certifications as a good option for a front-line supervisor or entry-level manager who lacks a structural education background. “As that person starts to climb the corporate ladder,” says Vyas, “that’s where an advanced degree and additional education will come into play.” A master’s degree in supply chain, for example, helps position graduates to become future vertical leaders, department heads, or organizational leaders. “If that’s the plan, then spending the time to get that master’s degree will definitely pay off,” says Vyas.

Supply chain managers looking to get their teams up to speed while filling in talent gaps should also consider education that incorporates—or, focuses on—global supply chains. With today’s supply chains reaching around the world, the professional who can think outside of the traditional domestic borders and solve problems related to foreign trade, distribution, and logistics has become increasingly valuable for organizations. “Having that understanding of the global perspective, and a related network of contacts and resources,” Vyas points out, “allows the individual to tap into many of the possibilities that are not available to those who lack this exposure.”

Brown bags and job shadowing
Getting a team up to speed and ready to tackle the new supply chain realities should start with a skills gap assessment. The Institute for Supply Chain Management, for example, uses a gap analysis tool to figure out exactly where employee education and/or skills are falling short—rather than relying on a manager’s assessment of the problem. “In many cases, the gap that the manager identifies is just a symptom of a larger, underlying problem,” says Mary Lue Peck, ISM’s managing director. What may look like an issue with negotiating and contracts, for example, may actually be traced back to serious gaps in analytical and financial skills.

Once those gaps are accurately assessed, Peck says supply chain managers can use on-the-job training methods like mentoring and job shadowing (when someone works with another employee to learn a new skill, get hands-on knowledge of a different job role, etc.) to begin effectively addressing those issues. In many cases, these collaborative training techniques are a two-way street when it comes to results. “The newer employees can learn from the more experienced worker,” says Peck, “and the latter can learned about technology, social media, and other ‘newer’ innovations from the mentee.”

The human bonds that form as a result of these interactions can be invaluable according to Peck, who recently worked with a company that was putting several of its supply chain employees through the group’s Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) certification program. Using brown bag lunch meetings, study groups, and the related courseware, the team worked together to prepare for the certification. “They really bonded and, in this particular case, the employer’s return on investment (ROI) was covered by the retention rate,” says Peck. “They’re now pushing the strategy out to a larger group because it makes education fun and engaging.”

Enhancing learning capacity
To supply chain managers who understand the value of ongoing education for their team members, but who aren’t sure about the best way to approach it, Peck says it pays to take a holistic view at the process. Instead of randomly sending employees out to different courses and certification programs that may or may not yield a return, for example, consider where the gaps are in both quantitative and qualitative skills and then work to fill in those chasms with pertinent, quality educational opportunities.

During this process, Michele Ralston, associate director of open enrollment at Washington University’s Olin Business School in St. Louis, says companies should consider all modes of learning. With distance education gaining more ground every year, peer mentoring and tutoring still proving its effectiveness, and full-blown college programs proliferating, there’s literally no end to the number of options that are at your fingertips.

“The traditional classroom is certainly important, but the value of non-degree study and certificate programs is very high and the return on investment can be very quick,” Ralston says. “Programs like the one day or five day certificates and seminars can really bring immediate value back to the learning capacity and help supply chain managers hone their teams for success.”


 

About the Author

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Bridget McCrea
Contributing Editor

Bridget McCrea is a Contributing Editor for Logistics Management based in Clearwater, Fla. She has covered the transportation and supply chain space since 1996, and has covered all aspects of the industry for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review. She can be reached at bridgetmc@earthlink.net