Education the Difference in Supply Chain Careers

A quick look at logistics-related employment openings on reveals job titles including “demand planning manager,” “global supply chain manager,” and “reverse logistics manager.”  Each of these positions has at least two things in common:  (1) Each requires strong technology and analytical skills; and (2) None of these job titles existed ten years ago.

While the industry will always have a need for classic logistics/transportation workers: warehouse and distribution operators, fulfillment managers, drivers, planners, and schedulers – the nature of the business supply chain has changed the employment landscape.

Specifically, companies hiring logistics and supply chain professionals are looking for defined skill sets:

  • Strong Technical Skills. Not only an ability to operate systems, but an understanding of how to use data gleaned from those systems and apply it to business processes.
  • Global Perspective.  An understanding of today’s global supply chains, and knowledge of cultural preferences, global volatility, and geographic boundaries.
  • Intertwined Business and Supply Chain Skills.  The ability to see “the big picture,” including how a decision at one point in the supply chain affects outcomes elsewhere in the business.

The good news is increased globalization has raised the appeal of “supply chain management.”  According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, nine schools have launched graduate and undergraduate programs since 2011, when supply-chain management started taking off, including online master’s programs. Also reported in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) reports a 25 percent increase in the number of undergraduate supply chain management programs since 2006.  Lehigh University reported record numbers of students enrolling in its undergraduate supply chain manager program.  North Carolina State University’s Poole College of Management plans to establish a supply chain concentration within its undergraduate accounting program, and Arizona State’s Carey School of Business has doubled the number of supply chain majors.

Professor Jeffrey Smith of Auburn University noted in a May 2013 article in MHI Solutions that today’s perspective on the role of the supply chain has evolved due to companies like Wal-Mart and Apple. “Wal-Mart became the world’s largest retailer by leveraging the strength of its supply chain,” he said.  “Likewise, Apple took control of their supply chain to manage all aspects of their production – shipping, lead times, products, due dates – and that’s allowed them to manage the demanding complexities associated with their iPhone and iPad products.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of logistics professionals will grow by 26 percent between 2010 and 2020.  As noted above though, the nature of those jobs will change dramatically, requiring workers to have technology skills, global mindsets, and strong analytical capabilities.

Links of Interest

Inbound Logistics Education Resources

Bloomberg Business Week

US News Grad School Rankings