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Another Evidence Point on the White Hot Demand for Senior Supply Chain Executives


Supply Chain Matters has previously alerted our readers among multiple previous postings to the red hot demand for both experienced supply chain professionals and executive leaders. (Search on the term: ‘talent management’ in our Categories section in the right-hand panel). While such demand for supply chain talent extends across multiple industry settings, the needs for highly experienced supply chain leadership within the pharmaceutical and medical device sector are especially growing.

Premier executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles today acknowledged the “white hot demand for supply chain executives.” The executive search firm appointed Carlos Garcia an added Partner within the firm’s Supply Chain and Operations Practice.  Mr. Garcia’s concentration will be on building a practice in the pharmaceutical, biologic and medical device industry sector. The appointment is described as a new strategic talent initiative for this executive search firm.

It is gratifying to again observe the continued demand for experienced supply chain executives. Let us hope that C-Suite and specialty executive search firms targeting pharma and medical supply chain executive needs understand that the best leaders for taking this industry forward may well come from leaders with proven experience from other industries that have overcome complexity, cost burdens and partner dysfunction across the extended supply chain network. Such successful leaders believe in building a cross-functional talent base with multiple industry experience, perspectives and learnings that can be successfully applied to healthcare delivery.

Amid the growing evidence of needs in supply chain and customer fulfillment management, students about to enter their new university academic studies may want to seriously consider a concentration in this area.

Bob Ferrari


The Most Important Considerations in Your Organization’s Supply Chain Technology Investment Plans

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Tomorrow, this author will be joining a distinguished compliment of speakers at the 7th Annual Supply Chain Management Summit sponsored by Bryant University and Benneker Industries. This event is turning out to be one of few premiere New England regional conferences focused on current issues and learning in supply chain management. Last year’s event drew upwards of 250 attendees among many industry settings.

Since many of our readers are located across the globe, the purpose of this Supply Chain Matters commentary is to summarize the key messages and takeaways of my talk.

My presentation is titled: New Developments in Supply Chain Technology- What to Consider in Your Supply Chain Investment Plans. The key takeaway messages I’ll be delivering is that three converging mega-forces:

  • Constantly shifting customer and business needs requiring sense and response, as well as  more predictive business processes and decision-making capabilities.
  • Supply chain process and IT technology convergence providing more cost affordable opportunities for integrating both physical as well as digital information and decision-making capabilities.
  • Digitally enabled manufacturing enabled by the Internet of Things.

are aligning toward extraordinary opportunities for what has long been the Holy Grail of our community, namely, integrating information and decision making across physical and digital supply chain spectrums. The alignments of the above mega-forces are providing significant opportunities in management alignment and top management sponsorship which can be leveraged. New and emerging technologies, especially engineered systems, cloud computing, predictive and prescriptive analytics are becoming the technology catalysts. Besides touching upon the latest advances and significantly changed IT market dynamics surrounding supply chain technology, my primary goal in this talk will be to advise supply chain teams on the most important investments to focus upon in the coming months and years.

First and foremost, and without question, the most important initiative for any supply chain organization today is a concerted set of initiatives directed at Talent Management. The business benefits of advanced technology are marginal without people who have the necessary and required skills to be able to leverage and harness these technologies. Recruitment, retention and increased skill needs are constantly identified as the single biggest challenge across C-level, business, IT supply chain and manufacturing teams, and the challenge will continue as newer technologies make their presence among industry supply chains.

More than ever in the past, supply chain, procurement, customer fulfillment, product lifecycle management and service management teams must have active technology awareness and planning strategies.  The umbrella and accountability of the supply chain now involves far broader dimensions of common information and related decision-making needs. The notion of the goal for pursuing Integrated Business Planning is not just IT vendor hype, but a necessary and required capability. An organization’s Sales and Operations Planning capability is thus the most critical to focus and improve upon. That stated, an important reminder for cross-functional and cross-business remains that final objective is not technology alone, but rather required business objectives and outcomes.

I’m also urging technology selection teams to broaden their context of their technology planning to include leveraging information and decision-making capabilities across an end-to-end, value-chain and B2B business network. With today’s pace of business change, supply chain planning or forecasting can no longer stand-alone as a capability, and must be augmented and synchronized with the sensing of actual events occurring across the supply chain network.  The good news here is that the supply chain technology market has shifted its emphasis toward broader support capabilities in this area.

For those who plan on attending tomorrow’s Summit, I look forward to meeting and chatting with all of you regarding your organizational and personal objectives. For those unable to attend, be advised that next week we will post a PDF copy of the presentation in our Supply Chain Matters Research Center for complimentary reader downloading.  Minimal registration information is all that is required.

As always, give as a call or contact us via email if you require further assistance or if this type of presentation can assist your organization or forum in setting its supply chain management objectives for the coming year. Our home page can be accessed at this web link.

Bob Ferrari

What is the Hottest Job in Supply Chain Tech?


There is probably little surprise to those of us in the supply chain management and B2B network community as to what is the most in-demand job in our technology focused community. This weekend, the Wall Street Journal validated the most in-demand job, that being the data scientist.

In its article, Big Data’s High-Priests of Algorithms (paid subscription or free metered view), the WSJ reports “Retailers, banks, heavy-equipment makers and matchmakers all want specialists to extract and interpret the explosion of data from Internet clicks, machines and smartphones, setting off a scramble to find and train them.” Once more, what companies seek is more than just data analysis and interpretation skills but knowledge of customers, markets and business processes. 

And, in the classic high demand, short supply, scenario, employers need to be ready to attract these skills with competitive compensation. “While a six-figure starting salary might be common for someone coming straight out of a doctoral program, data scientists with just two years’ experience can earn between $200,000 and $300,000 a year, according to recruiters.

Not that long ago, when data scientists aspired to join academia or a Wall Street firm now have much broader opportunities and roles for career selection. Once more, employers will have to do their homework in personal communications and outreach in attracting such people and must be prepared to act quickly with an offer when they locate such talent.

There is a twofold message for both aspiring students who have hopefully chosen supply chain management as their career choice and those already working among supply chain teams.

For the professional already within supply chain management, augmenting one’s skills with formal certificate or degree programs in data science may well be a good investment.  Having several years of broad supply chain management experience and understanding and augmenting with data science skills provides a rather attractive background.

For aspiring students, the message is clearly to balance your studies and awareness of broad supply chain and business management with data analysis and interpretation skills. Probably one of the best investments in intern assignments would be on a big-data analysis or analytics projects. Besides a solid background in data-analysis, you also need good communications skills with the proven ability to collaborate with various functional and business teams on projects and initiatives. The messages for colleges and universities who currently specialize in supply chain management is to broaden the curriculum to include deeper data analysis training and skills development.

Some organizations may be prohibited in taking on highly specialized and expensive data analysis talent on a full-time basis.  That will open up broader business development opportunities among those professional services firms that cater to specialized supply chain management data analysis services and support programs.

The other obvious takeaway message is ongoing retention of such talent.  Challenging assignments, broadened opportunities to learn other aspects of the business and ongoing training support will all be important tenets of a retention strategy.

As this author reviews the current and upcoming wave of advanced information technology, I have no doubt that such technology will enable further breakthroughs in supply chain capabilities. However, organizations that are not actively investing in identifying talent needs and nurturing the skills needed to harness such technology will not be able to take advantage of such capabilities.

Bob Ferrari

Upcoming- Join Us at 7th Annual Supply Chain Management Summit

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Supply Chain Matters readers residing in the New England region are invited to join me at the 7th Annual Supply Chain Management Summit being held on Thursday, August 21 on the campus of Bryant University in Smithfield Rhode Island.

Over the years, this Summit has grown and matured into a northeast regional event focusing on a new burgeoning supply chain challenges and solutions. I was a featured speaker in the 2013 event which was very well attended and I’m pleased to be invited back to speak at this year’s Summit.

I’ll be joining a distinguished compliment of speakers for this year’s event including a dear former colleague, Dr. Larry Lapide who will be delivering the morning keynote, and Dr. Jim Tompkins who will deliver a very timely luncheon keynote.

My presentation is titled: New Developments in Supply Chain Technology- What to Consider in Your Supply Chain Investment Plans. This presentation will address:

- How senior industry executives view needs in business-wide decision-making, and what expectations they have for supply chain capabilities.

- The new requirements of Plan-Sense-Adapt- Synchronize and the new levers of information velocity-context- clarity

- A new thinking required to overcome current organizational and supply chain collaboration barriers

- What you should know as operations, planning, procurement or supply chain management professionals in terms of skills readiness and tool adoption

Individual registration for this upcoming conference is $150 with discounts available for organizational table sponsorships. Registration is available at this web link but act quickly since the event is a sure sellout.

If your organization has needs for a dynamic speaker, panelist or roundtable facilitator on compelling topics impacting supply chain management and B2B business networks, you are welcomed to review our Speaking Services page.

Bob Ferrari

More Straight Talk and Action Related to Developing Needed Talent

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There is no question that talent management and a shortage of critical needed skills is a fundamental challenge for manufacturing, supply chain, product management and procurement disciplines. Industry environments are changing constantly and change brings new and different needs. This challenge is consistently identified or amplified in industry forums, industry analyst quantitative surveys or roundtables. 

However, by our view, what seems to be missing from the ongoing dialogue is some straight talk regarding how to best address this challenge, especially in the light of an economy that has ample numbers of people seeking challenging and rewarding careers.

Reading the Wall Street Journal this morning, this author read the article: Just Whose Job Is It to Train Workers? (Paid subscription required or free metered view) By far, it was one of the more insightful articles that traditional business media has produced thus far concerning some root causes of current worker shortages.  This is the takeaway quote within the article: “Companies complain that they can’t find skilled hires, but they aren’t doing much to impart those skills, economists and workforce experts say. That is straight talk.

The article cites sources that indicate that today’s hiring processes take the form of a transaction matching exercise where employers expect highly skilled people to walk through the door. They are unwilling to evaluate candidates based on skill potential or invest in on-the-job training efforts.  Instead, there is a high reliance on colleges and universities, trade schools and government programs to be able to train people for desired skills. To add further credence, the WSJ cites studies including one from MIT labor economist Paul Osterman which concluded that manufacturer’s spending on training has essentially been flat for the last five years. A Deloitte research study is further cited as indicating that from 2006 to 2013, the percentage of staffers dedicated to training and development has fallen by about a half.

While Supply Chain Matters acknowledges that there are leading-edge organizations that are willing to truly invest in development of people for unique skill requirements, they are being outnumbered by those that are not so inclined. The WSJ profiles dental instruments provider Hu-Friedly which is investing in skills development. Small and mid-sized firms may not necessarily have the complete financial resources to develop people but that is where industry and government subsidized training programs can pay benefits. In April, Supply Chain Matters highlighted summary conclusions from the landmark MIT Study on Manufacturing Competitiveness that also concluded that skill shortages have more to do with training and development.

The prevailing attitude seems to be that of inventory fulfillment- there are lots of people seeking employment and we should be able to snag someone. That is not a formula for building and sustaining world-class supply chain teams. Global competitiveness not only hinges on product and service innovation, but on the collective skills and problem-solving abilities of the workforce.

The purpose of this rant is to motivate more straight talk concerning skills development. Invest in the potential of people able to perform required responsibilities. Evaluate candidates on both hard and soft skills, stop filtering on age or other criteria, and compensate people for the skills that they demonstrate as opposed to managing a cost center expense.

The time is way overdue for straight talk on skills shortages and the notion of investing in talent.  Let us all commit to stop looking at hiring statistics and more to meaningful talent development planning.

Bob Ferrari


Millennials: The Workers of Today, the Supply Chain Leaders of Tomorrow

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While surfing all of our various Web alerts this week, we came across a rather insightful commentary penned by Dana Theus, titled: 3 Ways Managing Millennials Will Make You Better.  Millennials are defined in this commentary as workers roughly between the ages of 18-30.   This age group makes up a significant proportion of today’s industry supply chain operations, planning and logistics teams and some will certainly be the supply chain leaders of tomorrow. We believe that the three management actions outlined in this commentary could certainly be helpful to current supply chain leaders.  The three management actions outlined are:

Millennials require us to be vision-driven. They are driven to make an impact and perform best when they understand how their efforts contribute to a broader purpose.

Millennials are experts in personal productivity. They have no desire to waste energy and requirements to be in a certain physical place are less meaningful than what needs to get accomplished.

Millennials can mentor managers. According to author Theus, they require lots of feedback as to what they did well and where improvements can be made. These are great opportunities for coaching and continuous improvement feedback as opposed to waiting for a formal performance review milestone. Millennials have ideas and want to contribute, so best to keep an open door and listen.

Theus closes her commentary by addressing that unstated management trip point, “But they haven’t paid their dues!” by offering wisdom on graciousness and compassion that we can all be more sensitive toward.

Overall, we found this managing millennials commentary to be helpful and we trust you will as well.

The commentary triggered another thought for us.  When we review our Supply Chain Matters readership profile we note that we have a noteworthy profile of millennial readers.  Many of you are aspiring to be tomorrow’s supply chain leaders and/or studying supply chain concepts. We have noted your active comments to some of our commentaries and when this author visits colleges and universities, it’s clear to note that you visit this site to gain insights and learning.

Thus in the spirit of feedback and contributing ideas, please feel free to let us know where Supply Chain Matters content can be enhanced and be of more value.  What other areas of supply chain related topics would you like us to feature?  What other features would be helpful to your career needs?

You can provide feedback either in the Comments block below this post or sending us an email to the following: info <at> supply-chain-matters <dot> com.

Bob Ferrari

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