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Survey outlines the present and future of the supply chain technician

National Center for Supply Chain Technology Education releases results of nationwide survey.
By Josh Bond, Contributing Editor
July 24, 2013

The demand for supply chain technicians, a newly created job title that coincides with increasing automation at warehouses, is expected to increase 30% nationwide in the next 24 months, according to a recent report by the National Center for Supply Chain Technology Education.

That 30% increase equates to 61,000 jobs, according to the report, “Supply Chain Technicians in the U.S.: Nationwide Employee Survey Results,” a first of its kind study that defined supply chain technicians and examined employer hiring preferences for the emerging occupation.

“This report really justifies that an entirely new employment sector is emerging and that there is a great need for more workers to fill future jobs in this industry,” said George Walters, executive director of the National Center for Supply Chain Technology Education (NCSCTE) in a recent interview. Walters said many companies that roll out automation projects expect their existing technicians to be able to service the new systems. “These people handle everything from toilets to air conditioning, but the upkeep of new technology is often well outside their skill set. These companies often end up contracting with the installers, but they much prefer to handle things in-house where possible.”

There is a shortage of education programs targeted at training skilled supply chain technicians, says Walters, but equally as concerning is the disagreement among supply chain companies about what educational requirements are needed for the supply chain technician occupation. For example, only 17% of businesses require a bachelor’s degree, but 47% require a high school diploma, according to the survey. In addition, the survey found that 18% require a postsecondary certificate and 17% require an associate’s degree.

After soliciting members for the skills needed in an effective supply chain technician, the NCSCTE has developed a one-year certificate program consisting of 10 courses. The study found that there are four skills areas that represent the most critical strengths of a supply chain tehcnician. These are: operate equipment, maintain equipment, direct maintenance, and maintain systems.

There is also a software component that Walters says poses a unique challenge to employers. “The question is whether these companies teach software to their existing, more experienced employees who already have mechanical know-how, or train the mechanical aspect to younger workers who might be more comfortable with the software side.”

The NCSCTE, which is located at Norco College in Norco, Calif., was created in 2011 courtesy of a $3.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation and has three main objectives: analyze existing technician training, identify technologies being used and develop training modules; develop and deliver professional development training related to the technology; and disseminate information to students, educators and industry.

The supply chain technician study fits the first objective. For the study, 624 businesses with warehouses and distribution centers nationwide were surveyed to identify concentrations of supply chain activity and analyze employment numbers, sales volume, and the most common industries associated with warehouses and distribution centers.

Current employment for supply chain technicians is estimated to be 203,000. These technicians oversee a variety of software and equipment related to mechanical, applied electronics, manufacturing, automated systems and information technology.

Businesses with the potential for supply chain operations and employment are located in all states, with the largest numbers in California and Texas. More than 50% of supply chain businesses nationally are concentrated in 10 states: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina and Georgia.

California leads the nation with more than 28,000 supply chain businesses, followed by Texas, with about 11,000. Florida and New York, which rank third and fourth, together comprise roughly half as many businesses as California, with just over 8,000 each.

California ($834 billion) and Texas ($625 billion) lead the nation with the largest volume of sales. Five states have sales volume, between $280 billion and $400 billion: Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The third tier of states, which generate between $180 billion and $280 billion in sales, include Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Likewise, California and Texas are also the largest supply chain employers in the nation, with 3 million and 2 million employees, respectively. Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania follow, employing between 1 million and 1.4 million workers.

Among the supply chain related industries identified nationwide retail trade is the largest sector with 40% of all businesses. It is the second largest employer with 8.5 million jobs, comprising 30% of employment.

Manufacturing has the second greatest number of establishments (nearly 47,000) and is the second largest employer with 9.2 million jobs. Other large sectors include hospitals (4.5 million employees, 16% of employment) and wholesale trade (3.4 million employees; 12% of employment).

To view the report visit: http://www.supplychainteched.org/resources/surveyresearch.pdf

About the Author

Josh Bond
Contributing Editor

Josh Bond is a contributing editor to Modern. In addition to working on Modern’s annual Casebook and being a member of the Show Daily team, Josh covers lift trucks for the magazine.


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