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The Supply Chain Talent Shift

By John Ames  August 20, 2015

Take a look at your company’s career webpage. What types of supply chain roles are listed? What skills are important for new hires to possess in order to manage this increasingly critical area of the business? Are you accurately depicting the needed skills in your description? Many of the best practices LLamasoft has advocated related to supply chain design as a repeatable, sustainable process have been demonstrated in a recent article, Companies See ‘Massive Shift’ in Search for Supply Chain Talent, Wall Street Journal, May 22nd, 2015, Loretta Chao. Here are a few key examples.

You can’t hire just anyone to be a supply chain analyst.

In the article Chao states that, “Industry experts say an understanding of technology and an ability to work in a global environment are increasingly important in the supply chain, forcing managers to look for people with a rare mix of specialized skills to manage this crucial aspect of their business.” The large global businesses we work with every day are attesting to the importance of the people and process aspects of developing supply chain design teams. The people side of supply chain design cannot be underestimated, and that means you can’t put just anybody into the role of supply chain analyst. Unlike execution systems, you can’t rely on a software system to simply “give you an answer”.  Leading businesses understand that, with a given set of inputs and distributions there could be a range of outputs that business leaders will review and then decide on the best course of action at the time.

Analyzing the supply chain requires more than just technology savvy.

Developing analytical skills and the ability to understand the growing complexity and interdependencies of cost, service, risk, capacity, tax and demand make the analysis of the end to end supply chain a demanding position and one that needs ongoing development.

Chao also cites the huge volume of global enterprise data businesses are generating which is both an enabler of more detailed and accurate analyses but also a potential pitfall if not well managed and understood. Working with some of the world’s most complex supply chains has driven LLamasoft to develop demand classification, inventory optimization and simulation that can incorporate large data sets and include end to end modeling of SKU level flows to understand inventory stocking levels. Retailers developing an omni-channel distribution strategy are incorporating simulation of digital consumption replenishment processes in order to understand how the continuing shift of digital demand with options of store fulfillment processes can best be designed.

Supply chain design should be a top-down, executive-driven process.

Large enterprises are consolidating the formerly independent functions of procurement and logistics and creating broader supply chain executive functions and responsibility. In order to have the greatest impact on the business, supply chain design must be a top-down, executive-driven process with leadership that understand the importance of creating a repeatable design process that is linked to business value and goals. Supply chain design is the third discipline required for supply chain management, sitting alongside planning and execution but requiring different skills, technologies, and processes.

Supply chain leadership should have end-to-end supply chain view for greatest benefit potential.

Supply chain design has always been about understanding the end-to-end supply chain and trade-offs among competing metrics: efficiency versus flexibility, cost versus service, local versus global, off-shore versus near-shore, etc. Businesses need to have a team that owns the end-to-end supply chain or they end up creating functional islands and run the risk of missing opportunities for cost savings and efficiency improvements that can only be recognized when viewing the holistic supply chain.

Finally building a supply chain design center of excellence (COE) has, as one of its driving values, to break the barriers of decisions made in isolation.  Companies that develop these global teams end up developing a more holistic view of the company that can drive out costs and inefficiencies so often seen in departmentalized companies.

Wrapping up

In short, be aware that it may become more challenging to recruit the right analysts, but don’t hire anyone who has the “right” degree. Successful team members should be effective problem solvers—people who think analytically and are natural researchers and implementers of new processes. The growing practice of supply chain design has at its core a view and consideration of the end-to-end supply chain picture, and as such should staff and recruit talent equipped with this holistic perspective as a way to achieve business goals.

To learn more about means to combat the supply chain talent shortage, check out our bulletin The People Issue: Finding and Keeping Quality Supply Chain Talent Amid the Staffing Shortage.