Supply chain management: a growing field
As you sit and read today’s newspaper, my guess is you’ve also engaged in some online shopping at some time during the week. Perhaps, after successfully purchasing a new book from amazon.ca, you’ve now become a frequent shopper for the many other items now being offered. If not, you’ll have at least tried the "ship from the store" option being offered by many retailers. It seems that "e-commerce" is becoming a big part of our lives.
In fact, Canada Post studies as early as 2015 showed that 76 per cent of Canadians then were shopping online anywhere from four to 10 times per year.
However, have you ever stopped to think about just how the merchandise arrives at your door?
Have you ever thought about all the work required and all of the different professions involved in making sure the merchandise arrives on time and in good order?
Even if you haven’t shopped online, take a look around your local grocery, hardware or clothing store.
Ask yourself: where are those goods produced and how do they arrive on the store shelves?
Believe me, there is a long line of systems and procedures involved in making this happen.
In fact, this system is now formally called "supply chain management," which is the process of managing the flow of goods, services, information and corporate relationships among various businesses to produce and deliver products.
In other words, supply chain management is involved with everything required to get your product from point of origin to its final destination.
There are a huge number of processes involved in supply chain management including inventory management, production, logistics, storage, transportation, purchasing, finance, operations, and marketing.
At the same time, it also involves risk management, legal and contract management and the co-ordination of key partnerships and strategic alliances.
It also involves the management of the so-called "soft skills" such as ethics and talent management.
Finally, technology has played a key role in the growth of the profession in that new tools are constantly being implemented to manage the various transactions and co-ordination required for success.
Frankly, it is nice to learn about a fast-growing profession where the number of emerging job opportunities are increasing.
Since supply chain management touches every industry sector, there are new and evolving opportunities in all aspects of planning, production, co-ordination and delivery.
The skills required range from engineering, finance, procurement and human resources to general management and language translation.
One of the key skills required in the field of supply chain management is the expertise of decision-making.
That’s because there is so much at stake that one lone error can delay key inventory, thus delaying production and resulting in lost time and money.
Today, organizations work toward creating a decision-making framework that acts as a consistent strategy for asking key questions, identifying options, brainstorming solutions, weighting the pros and cons of each and making the most cost-effective decisions.
Not only has the area of supply chain management grown, so too have the skills required, so much so that an international designation of Supply Chain Management Professional (SCMP), a code of ethics, professional development and a professional association are all now in place.
Over the past few years, universities and colleges across Canada all have developed supply chain management course work, diplomas and degrees.
In addition, candidates for designation may receive recognition for their hands-on business and operations knowledge and can apply this to a potential exemption from post-secondary educational requirements.
Candidates must take a series of eight study modules and six workshops, attend a one-week in-residence session and write final exams.
The professional Supply Chain Management Association now has chapters in every province.
Its research shows that SCMA members control more than $130 billion in annual spending, therefore making a significant contribution to our Canadian economy.
The mission of the association is to build leadership skills among its supply chain management professionals so that they will be welcomed at the executive table where overall strategic decisions are being made.
This means that supply chain management professionals will need to reach beyond their technical expertise to develop senior level leadership skills so that they can effectively contribute to the overall vision of their organization.
Therefore, one of the mandates of the association is to provide professional development and an annual national conference for their members.
This year, the Linking the Nation conference and award gala are being held in Winnipeg, with more than 200 participants expected to attend. Many of our leading businesses, organizations and supply chain management professionals will be highlighted along with several interesting workshop sessions.
In my view, supply chain management is a good example of how our economy and our work world is evolving and how new professions arise to meet the new needs and to provide new opportunities.
It is an area where individuals can possess technical expertise as well as generalist skill sets, so they can work across the different boundaries and functional areas within their organization.
One of the unique features of this growing profession, as I see it, is the ability to create a diverse career.
In fact, the more experience one has in the multiple dimensions of supply chain management, the more career opportunities will be available.
It is a career where creativity, innovation and process improvement not only is welcomed, but also is the name of the game.
As a growing professional entity, the Supply Chain Management Association appears to be doing all the right things to attract new members and retain its veterans.
The upcoming Winnipeg conference applies two successful growth strategies, that of providing meaningful education and creating a sense of community.
There is also plenty of time within the conference to network and develop new relationships and as well, the conference provides opportunities for members to showcase their achievements.
The supply chain management industry has sometimes been referred to as "hiding in plain sight."
In other words, it has been a field that has been overlooked by new graduates and so the competition for talent in this sector is quite brisk.
Today, it seems to be a hot job market with plenty of career opportunities.
Source: Canadian Online Shoppers Deliver Wake-Up Call To Retailers, David Friend, The Canadian Press, 05/11/2015, Career Profiles, Careers in the Supply Chain, Career Paths in Supply Chain Management, Sample Position Titles, Supply Chain Sector Facts & Figures [Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council]