MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics

MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics

Although unemployment is expected to remain stubbornly high in 2011, tackling the issue of talent shortages will figure highly on the to-do lists of senior supply chain managers over the next year and beyond. And leading educators will step up to the plate to help the industry develop a more effective talent pipeline.

The industry needs no reminding of the trends reshaping supply chain functions: globalization, increasing market volatility, and a greater need for cross-functional management approaches, to name a few. Moreover, the profession has developed from a basic cost minimizing function to a strategic differentiator that delivers competitive advantage. These changes are redefining the skill sets supply chain managers need to help their companies compete successfully.

As recent experience with innovative products such as the iPhone and iPad proves, it takes only a few months for competitors to reverse engineer new products and develop competitive offerings. But it can take years to develop a global supply chain that delivers consistently on time and at low cost.

The industry needs supply chain professionals who have “hard” analytical and “soft” leadership skills. They need to appreciate big-picture business issues and communicate across geographies and companies. These individuals also must be able to manage ambiguity both tactically and strategically in an uncertain business environment.

It is not easy to find such multitalented people, and the industry will start taking steps to recruit and nurture this talent. Companies will look to establish partnerships with educators to secure talent that matches these profiles. But schools can only provide the initial set of skills.

Hopefully, the industry will also become more proactive at promoting supply chain as a career at the high school and college levels. Efforts are under way to raise the profile of the profession, but these programs need to become more widespread. Finding the talent to fill supply chain positions will be a top issue in 2011.