The changing face of supply chain management and the challenges we face

ASCMs the topography of the global supply chain landscape continues to change, the skills that supply chain management commands need to change. Increasingly, as businesses strive to get the very best out of their supply chains, in view of emerging technologies and the constantly changing shape of global markets, more and more is being expected of supply chain managers. Unfortunately in many cases, the search for these new talents is coming up short.

Difficulty in recruiting the right quality candidates

According to a report issued in the Wall Street Journal on 22nd May, many companies are finding difficulty in recruiting supply chain managers. They cannot find candidates with the appropriate knowledge and skill sets to cope with the ever increasing complexity of the face of modern supply chain management.

The few managers that do make the grade have done so based not only on their knowledge of supply chain management philosophy and methodology, but also on their grasp of the global environment and new, emerging technologies. It calls for candidates with a rare set of skills that few possess at this juncture.

The additional supply chain management skills required

An example of the new skills required relates to the huge amount of ready data that is now available and that can be used in order to forecast demand more quickly and more precisely. The ability to be able to take advantage of this data means that companies can save significant sums of money by reducing current inventory levels.

But in order to be able to use this new data phenomenon, supply chain management has to develop the knowledge to both gather and analyze the information that is globally floating around.


Up until now, most companies have got by, by utilizing the separate skills and talents of supply chain professionals and IT professionals. But in order to be able to gain an in-depth view into what top supply chain management demands in today’s challenging economic environment, the mind that guides an organization’s supply chain, must instinctively fully understand and appreciate the science, the angles and the opportunities of both disciplines.

Facing the single biggest shift of talent the industry has ever seen

John Kern, the Senior Vice President of Supply Chain Operations at Cisco, put the challenge in context when he said that the supply chain industry is currently experiencing one of the single biggest shifts of talent it has ever seen.

Whereas once-upon-a-time all supply chain management required was a thorough understanding of logistics and procurement, managers are now expected to be proactive members of the top leadership teams. It means being able to elevate events upwards on the executive ladder framework while simultaneously being able to construct and continually modify complex global supply chains to optimize commercial opportunities.

The problem is that such talented supply chain individuals are very hard to find. A recent survey carried out by and involving 400 top multinational business executives concluded that 71% of businesses reported having considerable difficulty recruiting candidates at this level. 74% of respondents agreed that what their companies needed were individuals who could deliver solutions to supply chain problems through strategic thinking. However over half of this 74% said that they did not have these supply chain management professionals in place at the moment.

The need to invest in new supply chain education programs

It is becoming more obvious that if businesses do not begin to invest in cultivating in these skills, and the individuals to wield them, they will be left languishing on the sidelines in the coming 2 to 3 years. Those who do take the plunge will prosper and take full advantage of the edge they’ve gained.

According to Cisco’s John Kern, The problem has not only been recognized, but several discussions are taking place across in the Northern USA right now. The overall consensus is an agreement of the caliber of supply chain management professionals that are needed, and the unfortunate fact that there just aren’t enough out there right now.

Providing the appropriate training structure to educate and groom this new breed of supply chain leader has to be a priority. But for all of this wisdom and understanding, no plans have been forthcoming as to how to achieve the goal.

Where do we go from here?

Until such educational programs have been developed, this skill shortage is going to continue. We are very much in the hands of both industry leaders and professional associations. This includes associations such as the American Purchasing Society, and the UK’s Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply. A meeting of minds needs to take place in order to develop an agenda to bring about the necessary supply chain management education initiative.

In the meantime, it is very much down to individual supply chain management professionals to recognize the opportunity and obtain their own separate qualifications in disciplines such as IT, and Finance.



In your opinion is it up to individual supply chain management professionals to organize their own higher level training, or should the industry and the professional associations lead the way?

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