12 REASONS TO MASTER SUPPLY-CHAIN MANAGEMENT
What are the reasons to continue your education in supply-chain management?
If you’re the chief executive, what reasons might you have to support employees interested in returning to school?
Employees need to know how squeezing night and weekend classes into an already busy work/life schedule will be advantageous to the bottom line upon the completion of a degree in supply-chain management (SCM).
We talked to executives, educators and recent graduates to learn these 12 reasons to master supply-chain management.
Supply chain “is a critical business function,” says Larry Giunipero, professor of Supply Chain Management at Florida State University in Tallahassee, “and if you’re not world class in that function today and your competitors are, then you’re at a competitive disadvantage.”
The buzzwords that matter in SCM today are analytics, collaboration and technology. Going back to school is a chance to see how you measure up in those areas against industry leaders. You will be educated on the newest concepts driving businesses today.
Wherever you are in your supply-chain career, additional education will give you the ability to separate yourself from the person next to you. “It shows a degree of self-motivation and desire to improve your skill set in your field and in your profession,” Giunipero says.
Knowing more about SCM could elevate your value to your company, earn you a higher position or another position, which will then bring more dollars. Consider the investment and the return- on investment.
If you don’t like your current job, its conditions or the business, more education could lead you to a career in a different area of the field at your current firm or a new one.
THE WORLD IS GETTING FLATTER
Masters level programs are attuned to the global scope of this field. “A lot of people miss that opportunity of globalism to improve their company’s position in the marketplace,” Giunipero says. “Education gives you that more global perspective about our position vis-à-vis the rest of the world and what should be outsourced, what should be insourced and what should be re-sourced. It gives the individual a different outlook of the world that they operate in, no matter what their political philosophy or background.”
EDUCATION IS EASIER THAN EVER
Education is more available than ever before, between evening and weekend classes, or even “whenever” courses taught online. You don’t have to come to class at six o’clock and leave at nine. There are fewer excuses to be made.
DEMAND OUTSTRIPS AVAILABLE TALENT
“We see a tremendous need for supply-chain talent by employers,” says Rudolf Leuschner, assistant professor and co-director of the online Master of Supply Chain Management program at Rutgers Business School in New Jersey. “They keep paying for students to come to our master’s program. … I think there is a definite trend toward a specialized degree program such as Supply Chain Management. We haven’t seen this type of growth in other programs.”
THE EASIER PROBLEMS HAVE ALREADY BEEN SOLVED
Complex problems usually involve more actors, and a lot of these actors are outside the four walls of your organization. They’re customers, suppliers and even competitors. Master’s degree programs go beyond a single company’s boundaries to deal with marketing, finance and accounting issues, in addition to the traditional SCM areas of procurement, manufacturing and logistics.
MEET OTHER SCM PROFESSIONALS
Colin Yankee is senior vice president of Distribution Logistics for Tractor Supply Co. in Brentwood, Tennessee. His introduction to supply chain came in the Army; he expanded his knowledge with a master’s in SCM from Michigan State University in 2009. The bonus for him was exposure to career pros from across multiple supply-chain disciplines and organizations. “There are people in my network today who have moved corporations and into different areas of supply chain, with whom I keep in contact. We have our own benchmarking group just within our cohort of people graduating from that program, who I’m able to bounce ideas off of and partner with on different things happening within the business, and get their perspective on it.”
TAKE THE BLINDERS OFF
Studying SCM in a third-party setting such as a university “opens one’s eyes,” says Steve Scala, executive vice president of Corporate Development at DiCentral, a supply chain management software company in Houston. “We can all be a bit myopic around our environment, maybe not getting best practices or the benefit of other dimensional views, whether that be raw research by having the benefit of having five companies getting together or sharing their best practices or finding out what worked, what didn’t work, etc.”
Before beginning the Rutgers Supply Chain Management Master’s program, Sheri Hinish’s experience in SCM was as a senior supply chain analyst in the wholesale distribution of wine and spirits. Since then, however, she has become a supply chain excellence leader at W.R. Grace, a global oil and energy specialty chemical company. “The curriculum, the peer exposure and the competitiveness push you to better yourself. My learning curve skyrocketed,” she says. “I wanted more knowledge. I wanted to advance my career. Supply-chain management is evolving so quickly that you really want to know the pulse of the supply chain; if it’s in a book that you find in a bookstore, most likely the information is somewhat antiquated.”
MEGAN BROWNING’S STORY
“I did my undergrad at a small liberal arts college in Michigan. I graduated with a bachelor’s of Business Administration. I took a job with a steel company and worked in products coordination, which was their version of inside sales. The customers that I handled were automotive customers. It was my first experience with supply chain. I was introduced to how supply chain worked. It opened up the world of, ‘Wow, a lot more goes on behind building a car than just the automakers.’ It was my first realization that it takes an entire army to get everything done to build a vehicle.
“When the opportunity came up for me to go back to school, I knew immediately that I wanted to study supply chain. I wanted to learn more about the whole behind-the-scenes of companies, especially manufacturing. And how products get from raw materials all the way to the end customer. I earned a master’s degree from Florida State with a concentration in Supply Chain Management. Right after graduation, I took a job working in procurement for Harris Corporation.
“Pursuing a higher degree led to the new job. And it has led to different roles and responsibilities in my new job. I was able to get a position that was more strategic, which is what I was looking for. I now understand the impact of what the supply relationship means. One of my roles allows me to take a look at the bigger picture: the total cost of doing business with a supplier, not just the cheapest price. What are they costing us in quality? What are they costing us in missed deliveries? What is our management of that supplier costing us?”