Back in December, we wrote an article that summarized the supply chain manager’s Christmas wish list. The first item on the list was a fresh batch of supply chain management talent. For more than a year, top business and supply chain executives have been warning companies about the talent drain that is expected to hit the industry due to the retirement of experienced baby boomers.
Furthermore, the need for supply chain processes to adapt to changing market conditions is growing as technology advances, factories receive minds of their own and everything and everybody is connected to the Internet. With all these changes already underway the question remains, who is going to manage these complex, intricate and technologically advanced supply chain processes?
Well, it seems as though Santa may have read our wish list. Over the past several months, we have seen numerous new supply chain programs pop up across the world that are aimed at addressing the current skills gap issue. One particular program that grabbed my attention is Penn State University’s (PSU) new online supply chain boot camp. PSU officially announced the launch of this new innovative program on June 3.
Penn State’s Smeal College of Business graduate and undergraduate supply chain programs were ranked No.1 by Gartner in 2014. One deciding factor for this particular ranking, according to Gartner’s website, is “the broadening of supply chain curricula to reflect the reality of today’s supply chain organizations.” With its new supply chain boot camp, it appears PSU has once again hit the nail on the head in 2015.
Together with corporate learning pioneer CorpU, Penn State created a 100 percent online learning platform aimed at helping future supply chain leaders develop a holistic approach to supply chain management. The following is a video trailer from the CorpU supply chain website:
This video trailer and the press release definitely piqued my interest in the program. I had a chance to speak over the phone with some of the leading minds behind this project to gain more insight into what one can expect from the innovative supply chain courses and to discuss the latest supply chain trends. Participants in the conversation included:
- Steve Tracey: Executive Director Penn State Center for Supply Chain Research
- Maria Taylor: Managing Director of Penn State Executive Program
- Jeff Spearly: Senior Director Learning & Development of Penn State Executive Programs
The Supply Chain Leadership Academy
The new online supply chain leadership academy offered by PSU is an open enrollment program designed for organizations looking to improve their technical, tactical and strategic supply chain processes. In our conversation, Maria Taylor highlighted the flexibility of the program itself. She said enrollment can occur at any time and companies have the opportunity to tailor the program to their specific needs.
Participants can expect to invest a total of three hours per week in the course, with two hours of asynchronous learning and one hour of synchronous face-to-face learning with members of the supply chain boot camp staff. According to Taylor, each organization can go through a business challenge assessment and have the synchronous portion of the course designed to address their specific needs. The program is separated into three main courses that last five weeks each, though this can also be customized to meet specific needs:
- Achieving End-to-End Supply Chain Excellence
- Building Integrated Supply Networks
- Becoming a Great Supply Chain Leader
The three courses build on each other with the end goal of holistically advancing participant competencies. Steve Tracey provided me with some more details on the program structure: The first module, End-to-End Supply Chain Excellence, focuses on technical proficiency and deals with topics such as transportation and manufacturing. In the second course, participants can expect to brush up on their tactical supply chain skills including deployment, collaboration, alignment and orchestration. Finishing off the three-pronged program, students will build on their leadership capabilities and the module will address the supply chain at a strategic level. All of this material is being delivered online in various formats including videos, slide decks, live faculty consultations, readings, surveys and much more.
After discussing the three courses, I decided to slightly shift the focus of the conversation to the supply chain program at PSU in general. Tracey said the for-credit program has been voted No. 1 in the country since the ranking’s inception back in 2009. With such a good track record, I was curious as to how the program is able to quickly adapt to the reality of today’s supply chain organizations. Jeff Spearly took the lead on this question and identified three important factors that keep the university in touch with the marketplace:
- Center for Supply Chain Research: intersection between university and industry
- Faculty members: active researchers and writers
- Clients: reporting on changing marketplace in their industry
In essence, the supply chain program has built up an enormous network of experts, both on and off campus, who help keep them abreast on what is happening within the supply chain industry.
Top Supply Chain Trends
As a trend chaser and reporter, before ending the call, I probed into some of the main research topics the university is focusing on at the moment. Everyone on the call was in agreement that the topic of talent management in the supply chain cannot be ignored. Tracey said when people with “supply chain” in their title are asked if they have a degree in operations management, business logistics or supply chain management, the answer is more often than not, “no”. This new supply chain leadership academy is one of their solutions to this trending and very important industry topic. But, the Center for Supply Chain Research also is working on other solutions.
On a more tactical level, Tracey identified two trends that are drawing both academic and industrial interest, the first of which is supply chain sustainability. According to Tracey, this topic is very much still in the research mode and when looking at it from an industry perspective, there are varying degrees of understanding and application. He said some companies are still finding out what it even means to be sustainable and how this can be done cost effectively.
The other big trending area Tracey mentioned was supply chain risk identification and mitigation. As supply chains become broader, deeper, and more diverse and globalized, companies become more susceptible to external factors that can create significant disruptions in global operations. Understanding risk and risk modelling have therefore become vital to successful supply chain operations.
I am happy I had the opportunity to speak with the three representatives from PSU. Their insights on both the academy and top supply chain trends added a significant amount of value to this article. In the past, we have written a lot about social media and cloud technology on this blog. This new online course offering serves as another example of how these technologies are impacting the supply chain industry. If you want to find out more about the program or are interested in signing your supply chain team up for this boot camp, you can visit the CorpU website here.