2020 is the best time ever for people to consider a career in supply chain management because it has finally achieved the recognition it deserves as being the coolest career ever! I’ve had the good fortune to watch supply chain come into its own over the course of my 32-year career. It is now finally cool to be in supply chain.
Never before in my career has supply chain been mentioned every night on the national or global news. It is now, because it is now obvious to everyone the critical role supply chain plays in our global commerce, in feeding people, in moving all the things we produce and consume, in making sure we have the medicines we need, the supplies we need, the people we need, and in how connected we are around the globe. This is a good thing, because when we spread the wealth of commerce, we make the pie bigger for everyone.
A chain with many links
What is unique about supply chain is how broadly you can move across an organization; how many different jobs and experiences you can have; and, how much control of the business you have when you manage the supply chain. Any supply chain professional will tell you one thing they love about their job is it is never the same from day to day. There are always new challenges, new suppliers and customers to work with, new products to bring to market and distribute, new services and networks to put in place, and new places to go in the world.
Supply chain is also unique in that it is transferrable across industries. I have had the good fortune to work in the following industries through both my industry and supply chain consulting work — chemicals, automotive OEM, high-tech, CPG, food and beverage, healthcare, large industrial manufacturing, aerospace and defense, etc. There are also all the supply chain services industries — third party logistics, transportation management, and supply chain technology providers.
The great connector
Supply chain is all about connecting things — people, companies, information, and technologies. It is about knowing how to build networks to support businesses and public services, and the flow of goods and information, around the world. Being in supply chain is like being in the orchestra: Each person has their own part; each section has its own part; everyone needs to be playing off the same sheet of music and following the conductor. When you do, it creates beautiful music. If any one person or section gets it wrong, it affects the performance. The supply chain sections you could play in include planning, sourcing and procurement, manufacturing, distribution and logistics, order fulfillment, transportation, and technology.
Today, young people have a chance to major in supply chain at many universities. It is a recognized, organized, and research-supported domain of knowledge. Supply chain is often the highest starting salary for those graduating due to the demand for people with supply chain knowledge and experience. Plus, supply chain is now recognized as important business experience that leads, or is even required to gain access, to the c-suite.
The future of supply
Young professionals in supply chain are going to have exciting careers. They are going to get to design and build the supply chains of the future, to drive global commerce and prosperity; to help countries build the capabilities they want to have; and, to develop new products and jobs that don’t even exist today. The most opportunity will be for those who understand how to apply new technologies to give us visibility to what is in the supply chain, to analyze our performance, and who further develop more efficient ways to move goods and information.
When I was studying transportation and logistics in school, my professor said, “Today, we can move goods around the world faster than we can move the information associated with those goods.” That is still mostly true today 32 years later except in rare cases. When we tip that scale to being able to move the information faster than we can move the goods, we will unlock a whole new world of supply chain. Those who help us figure out how to do that will be the designers and leaders of the supply chains of the future.