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Building Global Supply Chain Talent

By Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE | May/June 2013 | 23 | 3

The new era of manufacturing will be marked by agile enterprises that use information the same way as talent. To make this vision a reality requires a high-quality, skilled workforce. Last month at the APICS Asia Supply Chain & Operations 2013 conference in Mumbai, India, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion on developing the global workforce, particularly relating to supply chain and operations management. It was a chance to engage in a dialogue with experts about issues at the heart of our profession. In the panel and through my recent travels to countries such as China, Japan, Mexico, and India, I have witnessed how supply chain people are seizing the opportunities created in this increasingly global marketplace.

It is clear that the profile of supply chain and operations management professionals is rising. More business leaders are seeing the value of supply chain and how it contributes to the growth of their companies and their economies. For retailers, service providers, and manufacturers alike, supply chain excellence is a competitive advantage. The advantage traditionally was in cost reduction, efficiency, waste reduction, and strategic uses of capacity and assets; however, the focus now is on creating value across the supply chain. 

Manufacturing still matters

According to the McKinsey Global report “Manufacturing the Future,” the new era of manufacturing will be marked by “a highly agile, networked enterprise that uses information and analytics as skillfully as they employ talent and machinery to deliver products and services to diverse global markets.” To make this vision a reality requires a high-quality, skilled workforce. 

A roundtable discussion at the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics in 2010 concluded that manufacturing needs a “super-human” group of people who possess technical know-how, business acumen, and leadership abilities. It further discovered that “modern supply chains call for deep subject matter expertise, an integrated understanding of broader business imperatives, and the ability to lead coworkers while operating across countries and cultures.” Indeed, APICS research has discovered the biggest challenge in supply chain talent acquisition is the lack of skilled and experienced workers. 

How can business leaders and stakeholders effectively come together to address the lack of talent in supply chain and operations management? What is the role of APICS and other associations in helping develop the industrial workforce? What can universities and other educational institutions do to increase the number of people involved in supply chain and operations management? These are among the most important questions to consider as we move into the next era of manufacturing.