Play Well

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supply chain education

Last week we announced the dates for the third run of our Certificate Course on Enterprise Supply Chain Management, co-developed with the De La Salle University’s School of Lifelong Learning. This time around, we will be conducting in-person classes. We did all right with online classes in the first two runs, but nothing beats being able to ask your mentors and peers face to face, so I am particularly excited for this batch of enrollees, and for the possibilities this opens for SCMAP’s training initiatives. (Enrollment is now open and classes kick off on June 17; visit scmap.org/training/enterprise to learn more.)

We’ve seen throughout the past few years the increasing demand for supply chain education across all levels. Both the government and the private sector have stepped up: the former by building an ecosystem supporting such initiatives, particularly the Philippine Skills Framework; the latter by expanding offerings and identifying new avenues of synergy between different branches of enterprise, truly befitting the interdisciplinary nature of supply chain management. These initiatives should continue unabated as industry stakeholders bid to expand capacity to address long standing economic issues and further growth.

But it’s a curious time for supply chain, isn’t it? Sure, we’ve always been seeing changes and disruptions to our industry, but the past few years or so just feels different, accelerated. And it’s not just because of the pandemic and our short- and long-term responses to it. We’re seeing a quantum leap in technologies impacting the way we work, as the continued growth of data analytics evolves into a potentially bigger role for artificial intelligence. Geopolitical uncertainties, global warming, increasing prices and moves towards smaller supply chains find us having to once again reconcile what our customers demand and what our businesses need to survive.

And yet the things we learn in supply chain classes aren’t becoming obsolete. Sure, some updates have to be made – these are necessary and part of the times – but for the most part, the concepts that form the backbone of the supply chain profession remain relevant. The challenge is for the supply chain manager to apply these concepts in an ever-evolving world, with as little delay as possible – delays that could mean life or death for a business. Apart from a good grasp of the latest developments, this requires imagination, decisive leadership and a willingness to collaborate. Done right, we can continue to be one step ahead of any disruption that pops up in our supply chains, make the most out of available and emerging tools, and bring even more value to our customers, partners and shareholders.

This is a gap that formal education can start filling early on. I’m pretty sure these values are already being espoused and encouraged in business school – and hopefully this means dedicated supply chain courses are on there too – but what about in continuing education, whether through academic institutions or professional organizations? Demand is high for these classes because the need to level up skills and competencies are recognized – more so now that training budgets have returned to some semblance of normal post-lockdown. Are we able to fill that gap?

Here’s a thought. We tend to fashion emerging technologies in supply chain as an apples-to-apples replacement for human workers, but even in advanced economies like in Europe, where fully-automated warehouses have long been the norm, there is still a need for personnel to make sure things work the way they should – and more importantly, to make instant decisions when the need to do so arises. What’s become clearer now is that technology helps us to work smarter, moving resources and our energies away from repetitive tasks and towards higher-value ones like decision-making and relationship-building. As we equip ourselves with the latest knowledge and perspectives, are we building our capability to create and bring more value to our operations and to our customers?

The challenge now is whether we can play well with each other, and with the tools both now available to us and yet to emerge. The former is covered as we return to in-person collaboration (and also make the most of online tools we all flocked towards during the early days of the pandemic). The latter? We have to work on it together.

Henrik Batallones is the marketing and communications director of SCMAP, and editor-in-chief of its official publication, Supply Chain Philippines. More information about SCMAP is available at scmap.org.

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