Time for change

From the April 2022 print edition

One positive development, if I can put it that way, to arise from the COVID-19 pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine is the spotlight these events have shone on supply chains. Many who likely didn’t have a clear idea of what a supply chain was a few years ago are now much more familiar with the field and what it involves.

As well, lockdowns brought supply chains, quite literally, to people’s doorstep. Many who otherwise would have bought goods in bricks-and-mortar stores began shopping online. This boosted e-commerce like nothing had before.

This sort of disruption has become a permanent fixture in business.

In our story about the Ukraine conflict on page 20, Joy Nott of KPMG Canada stresses that organizations must abandon their ‘wait-and-see’ attitudes towards their supply chains. Accept that disruption is the new normal and plan accordingly, she counsels.

Considering this, now is the perfect time to adapt supply chains to continuing unpredictability. What has become clear is that supply chain education can evolve to suit this new world.

Here are a few ways in which we can develop that education to prepare us better for what lies ahead.
With Industry 4.0 underway, the digitization of supply chain functions will only increase. As discussed in our article on digitization on page 7, according to The Hackett Group, enterprise digital transformation jumped to the number-one spot among priorities in 2021 for responding supply chain executives. Over half (53 per cent) of those responding to the The Hackett Group’s survey reported having a major digital transformation initiative on the enterprise agenda. At the same time, 65 per cent of these companies have accelerated their digital programs since 2020, when the pandemic began.

Supply professionals who haven’t already will need to familiarize themselves with artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and other digital tools. Supply professionals must learn the data skills needed to use these technologies going forward.

Another lesson from the Ukraine conflict and its effects on supply chains is the need for professionals in the field to gain a broad understanding of the world and its geopolitics. Tim Moore, president at Tim Moore Associates — Canada’s Supply Chain Recruiters, makes this point, again on page 20. Research skills will become increasingly important. Some organizations may look for candidates with higher education, such as a master’s degree or PhD., in political science, international relations, or other related fields.

Another pursuit must be to continue promoting supply chain careers to students. Those attending high school, university and college must be told that supply chain offers great career options for those with digital skills and broad knowledge of the world. Long gone are the days of simply filling out POs and pressuring vendors for the lowest price.

The business world will emerge from the pandemic. We’ll grapple with conflict in Ukraine and continue an uncertain, yet always-interesting, path. Amid disruption, that much is certain. Now is an ideal time to rethink supply chain skills and education.

Michael Power is editor of Supply Professional magazine.