Critical Skills: The Supply Chain Workforce of the Future, Pt 3

Published : September 30, 2015

Young Supply Chain Workers

Supply chain processes are inexorably tied to consumer demands. As those demands have increased in volume and frequency, fulfillment specialists have found themselves in a constant loop of innovation and evolution by necessity. For those already whose years in the industry have accustomed them to a certain methodology, this growth is difficult enough, but not impossible. For newcomers still learning supply chain strategy, however, it can be a dizzying prospect just trying to find their footing. Supply chain managers are responsible for stabilizing that entrance process, and that starts with finding the right candidates and training them in the right skills.

Tech-Savvy or Bust

With so much of the supply chain dependent not only on data, but real time data, knowing how to extract and interpret it is a must. Knowing how to use warehouse management systems can't be "someone else's" job anymore—each member of a team needs to be cross-trained in every piece of technology that touches warehouse operations for the best efficiency. Ideally, new team members should be selected for their existing comfort level with technology, as well as their willingness and ability to learn new systems. If your fulfillment center is looking to incorporate new technology, such as RFID tracking or smart shelving, you'll want to have help that understands the process and why it matters.

Consider partnering with universities and colleges that offer top supply chain and logistics programs. This can be a fool-proof way to ensure that your incoming candidates have at least a base-level of industry-specific tech knowledge to work with. 

Pressure Cooker Pros

No matter how stable your supply chain is on a given day, crisis management will eventually become a component of your supply chain strategy. Your team members need to be capable enough to call the shots during a backup or shortage, and smart enough to determine new routes and methods for getting product where it needs to go. Many of these types of decisions need to be made in-the-moment, which means that they also have to be knowledgeable when it comes to interpreting and forecasting data. For example, is a 2 week delay enough cause to re-route a shipment and take on the associated costs, or can your warehouse afford to wait? Your fulfillment center employees need to understand the entire supply chain from a holistic standpoint, including how various nodes interact with one another and how much "give" is built into the system. 

Bob Ferrari of the Ferrari Group notes that certifications, such as APICS, are an excellent way to give these candidates a sort of logistics "playbook" to follow in a crunch situation, allowing them to alter it as needed to suit their company's needs. 

Receptive and Responsive

What can torpedo a rising star in your organization faster than anything else? Ego. Your potential team members should be able to seamlessly take direction as well as a leadership role when required, rather than digging their heels in when it comes to inter-company cooperation. While knowledge and grace under fire are excellent traits, the canvas that they're painted on needs to be in excellent shape as well. If a member of your fulfillment team is too busy telling the rest of the group how it is, there isn't going to be a lot of room to encourage improvement in your role as their manager. Be sure that the individuals you choose to work with are ready to be a part of a unit, as opposed to an individual occupying a job position.

Your people may be the most important part of your supply chain strategy, so choose them wisely! Attitude, capability and willingness to listen are three of the most important traits you'll ever cultivate in your workforce, and ones that offer excellent "HR ROI" the longer they remain with the company.  

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Topics: Supply Chain Workforce Management

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