Grooming the New Generation of Supply Chain Managers

Employers demand so-called “soft skills”— such as collaboration, creativity, problem solving, and multitasking in the fast-paced supply chain work environment, which many strong females happen to possess.

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In compiling the annual “Salary Survey” for our sister publication – Logistics Management – we discovered some significant new trends in the search for new talent.

Tisha Danehl, Vice President of Ajilon Professional Staffing in Chicago, says that demand for supply chain professionals in manufacturing and retail have “gone through the roof.” And women are finally breaking into the top echelons of what had been a male-dominated industry.

“Our agency has seen a 45 percent increase in demand for these jobs, and an 80 percent increase over the past two years,” she says. “It’s by far the fastest growing segment in our portfolio.”

According to Danehl, “Amazon put supply chain on the map.” Public awareness of supply chain’s crucial role in world commerce is giving college grads a new career path to consider.

“And it’s not just men anymore,” says Danehl. “Companies have been looking beyond gender for some time now,” she says. “With social networking, young people are sharing job leads and their enthusiasm for supply chain vocations.”

She also notes that employers demand so-called “soft skills”— such as collaboration, creativity, problem solving, and multitasking in the fast-paced supply chain work environment, which many strong females happen to possess. It’s shown time and again that these skills can improve employee engagement and make for smooth-running operations.

Paul Lachance, president and chief technology officer of Smartware Group, Inc., a provider of cloud-based Bigfoot CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management Software), says young logistics managers are now asking upper management for new software investments, as well.

“Recent grads are immersed in the latest apps and devices, and maintenance software continues to evolve in terms of simplicity, accessibility, and configurability,” he says. Millennials are farther ahead of the game than any other generation.”

He adds that their predecessors treated maintenance as a “necessary evil” in terms of cost, and they have since learned that software is an investment in the advancement of the organization…with a proven ROI to boot.

“Twenty years ago it was a completely new concept to have a 4-year degree with a focus on maintenance and reliability,” he says.  Today there are many college programs (both 2- and 4-year programs) that cover Enterprise Asset Management and Computerized Maintenance Management Systems extensively.”

Rodger Howell, a principal with PwC’s logistics management division specializing in strategy and operations, sees a few other key areas that should be central to corporate efforts during 2016. He says “cash-rich” companies – particularly in the tech sector – will continue to invest aggressively in R&D. He adds that these players need to maximize the efficiency and reliability of corporate operations, both supply chain and otherwise, to meet today’s multifaceted challenges.

“Digital technology will become increasingly integral to companies. Organizations in every facet of the economy will need to realign their operations to compete in a digital world,” says Howell.

2016 is sure to be a year of transformation, and Howell sees significant opportunity for logistics managers to position themselves for success through proactive renovation of the operational processes. Operational excellence, particularly in the areas of technological adoption and cost realignment, will be central to the goal of executing through disruption, in his view.

“Businesses are counting on new hires to bring fresh insights on how leading edge technologies can be used in their companies. Seasoned employees expect the new hires to bring different perspectives that will help them drive change and build new capabilities. However, the bar for hiring the new employee is set even higher - not only are they expected to know the technology but in many cases, companies want them to know and truly understand the business.

As such, new hires need to focus ways to use digital to delivery new levels of supply chain performance.  In addition to new hires, businesses are looking to improve the skill set of their current employees and many are investing in building digital skills.

About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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