Inside Logistics

Supply chain education

Go forward, back to school!


June 20, 2011
by Tracy Clayson

MM&D MAGAZINE, MAY/JUNE 2011:

What’s a key driver in securing and keeping top jobs in the supply chain profession? Think executive education.

You probably have a university or college degree, maybe a CITT or PLog and it’s been a few years since you were in a classroom. But you can still brush up on your decision-making and strategic thinking skills in one of several executive supply chain programs. As a professional, you want to keep current on the leading supply chain practices and learn what others in your field are doing to stay ahead of the competition.

CM executive education programs have built a strong following from leading corporations that see the value of investing in their employees, both to boost the knowledge base of existing managers and to invite management track candidates to gain insight into broader supply chain practices.

Business success is getting the right product at the right time to the customer. With outsourcing’s growth, globalization and financial demands, supply chain professionals are expected to bring strategic know-how and analytical skills to the table. What better way to inspire your management team to find better solutions and think creatively than to get them away from their desks and into an environment with collaboration, study groups and information exchange. Participating in an executive education program—with a facilitator who has field and/or academic experience—gives employees a chance to validate skills, develop in new areas, challenge assumptions and learn new approaches.

Participants meet peers from other disciplines and industries working toward applying top supply chain principles.

Mark Thomas, program director, Schulich executive education, supply chain, says the top factor shaping supply chain today is the flow of information among stakeholders. He explains technology is key for better information flow.

The Schulich supply chain program has been growing in demand since it started over 20 years ago. The course content is developed in collaboration with the SCL Canada. Participants provide input course content they’d like to see more of and what subjects and experiences are most beneficial.

Growing interest in new topics

Sharon Ferriss, former director of public affairs at the Purchasing Management Association of Canada (PMAC), notes the increasing interest in topics in the Supply Chain Management Professional program such as legal issues, performance metrics, sustainability and finance. SCMP designation holders have access to seminars ranging from lean supply chain; legal aspects of RFP; finance; global supply chain; strategic planning and more to keep their designation in good standing.

According to Ferriss, 70 percent of PMAC participants are employer-sponsored, roughly 55 percent men and an average age of forty. Mark Thomas at Schulich reports roughly the same split between men and women, with most participants in the director or manager role.

Most participants of both the Schulich and the PMAC program have lengthy careers in the supply chain field, are management track or have decided on a new approach to supply chains, coming from disciplines like engineering and even marketing. The sectors represented at these programs range from pharmaceutical, technology, retail and natural resources and, with the exception of the PMAC program, executives working in third-party logistics.

The facilitator profile for these programs includes professionals, academics and industry experts. For supply chain professionals, developing acumen in financial literacy, harnessing technology, multidisciplinary approaches and getting insight into executive management perspectives brings value.

Most companies already have a teamwork approach in areas such as distribution, transportation, production, materials management and planning, finance, facility management and procurement. Programs like those at Wilfred Laurier University, Schulich and PMAC bring a collective approach, giving participants insights on decision making, costs analysis, the relationship between market success and supply chain excellence.

Meeting customer expectations

For 3PLs and carriers, executive education programs in supply chain offer an opportunity to learn about customer expectations in a strategic way.

As Mark Thomas suggests, supply chain buyers have become much more sophisticated about the tendering process, the costing breakdown, performance measures and consistent results for improved efficiency and productivity.

Courses offer networking opportunities, but acquiring skills to meet performance metrics, cost management and financial planning and innovation opens doors to success for supply chain professionals.

Yet another benefit is recalibrating the focus so supply chain managers can understand their contribution from a C-Suite perspective, especially around financial performance beyond inventory turns. Executive education also brings attention to soft skills like leadership, coaching, interpersonal awareness and conflict management.

Finally, learning offers formalization of theoretical applications, field experience, supply chain principals and benchmarking.

Tracy Clayson (tracy@in-transit.com) is managing partner, business development, of Mississauga, Ontario-based In Transit Personnel