Why a Skilled Workforce is Vital To Supply Chain Logistics Success

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE & CEO , APICS
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Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE & CEO , APICS

We work in an increasingly global economy. As a result, the expectations for supply chain and logistics professionals have increased significantly over the past several years. Balancing customers demands for ever speedier delivery with the costs of carrying and distributing inventory has become a constant challenge. These pressures are intensified by the just-in-time and lean production environments of modern manufacturers. Additionally, technology has become highly sophisticated but also much more complex to operate and manage. Despite these issuees, near perfect logistics execution has become an expectation of both consumers and management although it’s more difficult than ever to achieve.

“The rapid speed of technological advancement presents significant opportunities for logistics professionals in meeting consumers’ needs”

As a result of changes in consumer behavior, such as online research, features comparison, and purchasing, businesses are expected to offer expanded selections, custom options, and benefits such as same day delivery. These changes are causing an increase in the demand for warehousing and logistics workers as products are more frequently delivered directly to consumers. The number of United States logistician jobs, for example, is expected to grow 26 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is almost double the average rate (14 percent) for all occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the primary reason for the increase is the boost in competition among businesses in a global marketplace.

The rapid speed of technological advancement presents significant opportunities for logistics professionals in meeting consumers’ needs. Technology has improved transparency, traceability, and operational efficiency. Increasing availability of connected technology, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), and robotics are being harnessed to better understand, predict and then meet consumer demand—with the desire to use these insights to create a competitive advantage.

The U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling and Logistics notes that “despite the potential of dramatically improved processes and technology for material handling and logistics systems in the coming years, much of the work in the industry will continue to be done by the human workforce in the year 2025. Moreover, other aspects of technology improvements, such as mass personalization, will require levels of operational flexibility that can only be handled by a skilled and creative workforce. In other words, people will continue to be vital to the industry in 2025.”

These scenarios put pressure on organizations to ensure the workforce is prepared to accommodate tomorrow’s technology. Skilled professionals will be needed to manage the details of these technologies as well as the big picture, which includes satisfying the customer base.

Consequently, employers will be required to seek out skilled candidates who understand the end-to-end supply chain picture and they should expect tough competition in hiring. Ensuring there is a pipeline of qualified candidates entering the supply chain and logistics hiring pool will also be a challenge. Here are changes we can make today to prepare tomorrow’s workforce to accommodate anticipated technology advancements:

• Seek Out Emerging Talent. Recent college graduates are eager to join the workforce and will quickly absorb information about your organization’s unique needs or processes. Millennials have a keen sense of technology, and can help your organization stay relevant in the ever-changing digital environment.
• Improve Perception. A recent ranking by US News and World Report lists Logistician jobs as the 12th best business career, the 22nd best STEM career, and the 79th best career overall. Logistician unemployment rates are as low as 1.6 percent and offer a median salary of $73,870. People considering careers in logistics should be made aware of these statistics.
• Develop from Within. Corporations should invest in professional development, encourage employees to pursue certifications and reward individuals for bringing additional value to their organization’s operations. A motivated employee from outside the supply chain area might be a great fit after participating in a targeted training and development program.
•  24/7 Recruiting. Companies should make recruiting an ongoing priority. By doing so, it will be easier to access a pool of potential talent when a need arises.
•  Embrace a Diverse Workforce. Diversity brings people of differing points of view and experiences together and facilitates the expansion of the organization’s knowledge base. Focus on recruiting from the entirety of the supply chain talent pool, rather than a subset of it. More women and minorities are entering the supply chain and logistics management workforce.

Supply chain and logistics professionals have the power to harness technology to not only advance supply chain performance but also to improve the organization’s bottom line. We need to prepare for the increase in demand for supply chain and logistics excellence. The industry and academia must come together to elevate the perception of careers in logistics, transportation and distribution. Supply chain associations can help with education and training. For example, APICS is launching a new designation, the Certified in Logistics, Transportation and Logistics program, this summer. We need to attract the best talent to position tomorrow’s supply chains to meet future consumer demand because high performing supply chains improve companies, companies improve economies, and the world benefits.

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