The supply chain function is constantly evolving and managing it effectively is not a simple task. It takes some key supply chain competencies to stay agile for facing all the challenges. The new era demands supply chain professionals to constantly develop new skills and enhance the existing ones. This is mainly due to the exciting advances in technology these days – the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and Robotics, Big Data and Analytics, and Digitalization are all phrases that are emblematic of revolutionary changes both today and in the future.
Various companies are now investing in supply chain competencies for their teams in terms of corporate training. Employing younger workers, who have different sets of skills, methods of communicating and ways of collaborating, is a top priority for many companies, which value these differences to tap innovation and maintain a competitive edge.
Some of the key competencies for today’s supply chain professionals are:
- Business skills
Being a good Supply chain manager means to be able to converse and be understood by senior executives. It is essential to know all the basics that is professional terms such as economic profit, ROIC, and EBITDA should be part of their vocabulary. Good communication is key. From knowledge of demand forecasting to the ability to discuss cash flow at the treasurer’s office, a supply chain professional must be able to do it all. The latter need to possess all the necessary supply chain competencies. Having a good written and oral communication skill coupled with interpersonal skill leads to smooth transactions in the supply chain industry.
- Effective decision making
There is no doubt that the supply chain is always moving and facing new challenges. The supply chain competencies are always evolving as well. It is up to the supply chain managers to be quick thinkers and be able to take decisions under pressure. They are expected to be pro-active and take actions under conditions of uncertainties. To make the best decision, supply chain managers need to use whatever information they have on hand at the moment in favour of their organization.
- Economics and market dynamics
Market dynamics have changed continuously, and this has led to rapid shifts in customer and consumer buying-behaviour. Hence it is important to focus on agility and make sure that employees have the right supply chain competencies. A skilled supply chain leader needs to focus on what lies ahead and to some extent, be able to predict it. In order to make this happen, a thorough understanding of the market dynamics is required relating to the industry. However, each industry and the niches within them are subject to their own specific market dynamics. Providing ongoing training to employees can greatly help in such cases.
- Use of data and data analytics
Networking is not the only way to achieve market intelligence. A good amount of insight comes from data analysis as well. However, the challenge lies in understanding how to analyze data and apply the analysis to supply chain strategy to drive positive results. Therefore, it is important for supply chain professionals to have knowledge on data and data analytics. They need to have a grasp of what data is available to them, and how to apply the data and analytics to solve a supply chain problem.
Nowadays, more organizations are focused on making supply chains more responsive and being able show value to stakeholders in other ways than simply cutting costs. To achieve these goals, data analytics is essential. Therefore, supply chain professionals need to be trained to be able to understand data analytics and apply the insights to problem solving. Currently, younger generations seem to be the ones most comfortable with accessing and using data in different ways.
- Communication & networking skills
Today, supply chain managers need to know not only what is happening within their own organization but also what is happening in the broader market. Maintaining a certain level of market intelligence and remaining aware of new trends in the supply chain are strong qualities in a potential employee. Besides, networking also plays a major role here. Supply chain managers must be able to network with peers, and good communication skills are necessary to do so.
- Planning skills
A supply chain professional has the responsibility of coordinating all supply chain activities which occurs on a daily basis. In order to manage this largely important task, strong planning and scheduling skills must be in place. Effectively managing and systematically planning supply chain activities is essential to ensure the smooth flow of organizational success.
- Negotiating and problem-solving skills
Good negotiation skill is the most important quality needed while working with retailers and suppliers to obtain the best possible outcome when it comes to pricing. Supply chain management can be very complicated – wrong deliveries, misunderstood product specifications and late shipments are some of the problems that require a manager with strong problem solving skills.
Besides, managing basic functions such as inventory management, transportation and warehousing, successful supply chain managers must be able to handle end-to-end processes within and outside the firm including smooth relationships with customers and suppliers internationally.
To ensure continuous success of the organization and the survival and growth of the supply chain profession, a well-rounded education on supply chain management is essential. Various modern training solutions are now available to upskill supply chain professionals and help them stay up to date with supply chain competencies. The key is to always stay agile and find the right talents to handle the responsibilities.