Focusing on education to improve supply chain innovation

on Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Focusing on education to improve supply chain innovation

The world of logistics and supply chain management is not what it once was. Between the Internet of Things largely transforming the way organizations operate and a global economy that is slowly getting stronger, corporate leaders today are faced with a unique set of challenges. To facilitate suitability and success in a rapidly evolving market, businesses must be strategic in supplier relations and ensure they are utilizing the best possible processes and systems.

Furthermore, to enhance their position in the logistics and supply trade industry, it is imperative that companies recruit top professionals with in-depth knowledge and expertise. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of talent in the field.

Supply chain confusion
Industry Week reported that a study conducted last year by MHI found that the supply chain market will have approximately 1.4 million jobs to fill between 2014 and 2018, or about 270,000 annually. However, the research also found that there won't be enough skilled professionals to supplement the openings, ultimately stagnating the progression and growth of the supply chain industry.

According to the source, some corporate leaders attribute the problem to misconceptions about what supply chain management actually consists of. A lot of people do not realize how many different functions the segment embodies and, therefore, aren't aware of the wide range of opportunities that can stem from it.

In an article for Forbes, Kevin O'Marah recently explained that, although approximately 200 college universities worldwide offer some type of education pertaining to business and logistics, most do not grant degrees specifically for supply chain management. He also indicated that there is a serious discrepancy between which components of supply chain operations are studied in the classroom and the ones that are actually used in real world application. For example, in an academic setting, the primary focus is mostly on the mathematical and research aspects of operations. But there is so much more to it than that.

Perhaps this is why some industry leaders are shifting their attention to deepening and improving the presence of education in their logistics and supply chain operations.

Learning logistics
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced this week that the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics, or MIT CTL, is collaborating with the government of Chinese port city Ningbo to create the Ningbo Supply Chain Innovation Institute China, or NSIIC.

The global research and education hub will be built at the Ningbo-Zhoushan Port, the largest cargo port in the world by tonnage. According to the announcement, this center will further expand the MIT Supply Chain and Logistics Excellence, or SCALE, Network, which currently has locations in Luxemburg, Columbia, Malaysia and Spain.

NSIIC, which will operate independently as an academic institution, has already begun development and is expected to open next fall, with the first wave of enrollment being offered in fall 2017. The press released revealed that the degree program will be structured similar to the Supply Chain Management Program at MIT for the Master of Engineering in Logistics degree. A doctoral program will also likely be offered.

MIT CTL, an arm of the School of Engineering, is a leading institute for supply chain research and, for over 40 years, has educated students and executives in managing and organization of supply chains, facilitating productivity and enhancing environmental responsibility. The SCALE Network was created in 2008 and has centers across four continents: Europe, Asia, Latin America and North America.

"The Government of Ningbo is eager to begin this partnership with MIT," the Mayor of Ningbo, Lu Ziyue, said in a statement. "Ningbo is already a global leader in cargo logistics, and the new institute will be at a global vanguard of supply chain innovation and education. The continual flow of supply chain ideas and leaders will enable companies to further expand and diversify the economic growth of our region."

Integrating education and experience
This move is similar to others made by countries in Asia to improve global supply chain and logistics operations. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the Singaporean government has invested in port development, data analysis and automation advances by teaming up with the Georgia Institute of Technology and the National University of Singapore. Furthermore, the Singapore Economic Development Board is collaborating with Deutsche Post DHL to increase accessibility to students most qualified to work in the supply chain and logistics market.

In the MIT announcement, Yossi Sheffi, the director of MIT CTL and SCALE Network, explained that because China is a major region for global supply chains, creating this education and research center will give both students and employees a "unique perspective." In addition to being positioned at one of the prime locations for commerce, the center will also be advantageous for graduates because it will provide them with the opportunity to collaborate on research projects and with other institutes in the Network.

As the industry becomes more complex, it is imperative that corporate leaders take notice of emerging trends and promising strategies. And, considering China has always been a primary hub for multinational supply chain operations, this latest move could signify an increasing number of regions focusing on logistics education.

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