2011 Supply Chain Education Survey Findings Part Three


How well are today’s supply chain education needs being met? Some of the answers from our research may surprise you.


Part one and two of this series talked about the state of supply chain education today and what the critical needs are.Here we explore how well those critical needs are being met.

Source: ChainLink Research
Figure 1 – How Well Are Needs Being Met in Specific Areas

Auto-ID, Location, and Traceability — Needs Not Being Met

Although Auto-ID and Traceability ranked lowest in priority in our survey (see part two of this article), it was also ranked as being one of the least well served areas (Figure 1), with fewer people saying that the needs were “very well met,” than in any other category. We have enough conferences and publications in this area, but precious few quality educational programs. One respondent said, “We need programs creating an understanding of Auto ID standards and the business value to be gained from using them for inventory visibility, traceability, and sharing information with trading partners.

Sourcing and Procurement

This was an area that ranked in the middle both in terms of priority and how well the need is being met. It was also an area with a fair number of comments demonstrating the passion and engagement of those who are interested in this area of education. One of those comments encapsulated many of the needs: “We need better programs covering commodity buying and category knowledge in strategic procurement, hedging, options, Incoterms, negotiation skills, and the differences and similarities between public vs. private buying.

Supply Chain Technology

Supply Chain Technology ranked slightly low as a priority and is an area that people think is reasonably well covered in existing educational programs. In spite of that, it was one area that was frequently commented on. Some people were asking for education on how to evaluate and purchase enterprise systems. Others addressed more specific needs such as “. . . integration of disparate supply chain data into a single database for analysis/use.

Sustainability / Green / Corporate Social Responsibility — Growing in Importance

We also saw people expressing opinions about educational needs in a number of areas or dimensions that were not specifically asked in the survey. One that came up over and over was sustainability. This has become a critical topic in supply chain and one that is evolving rapidly, often driven by regulation. For example, one person said that there is need for education on “. . . conflict minerals, substances and materials regulations, Green Screen, and evaluating substances for proactive restriction.” Another said, “There is a burning need for education in green/sustainable supply chain management, as well as ethical sourcing.

Degree Programs / Depth to Cover Complex Supply Chains

A number of people asked for degree programs in supply chain. One person said, “We need MBA programs with Supply Chain concentrations.” Another suggested that supply chain education “. . . needs to be a subprogram under a leading MBA school or Industrial Engineering school.

Some people also railed against over-simplification in education programs. One person said, “Certification assumes easy fixes and ignores complexity and supply chain diversity.” Another said, “We need a series of programs and/or executive education courses that covers from the basic to the most complex supply chains.

Industry-specific Education Needed

Another recurring theme was the need for industry-specific knowledge. One person said, “In addition to teaching the fundamentals, it would be extremely helpful to have industry-specific supply chain education.” Some people brought up very specific needs for their industry such as the need for education on “. . . the security of pharmaceutical products throughout the supply chain, anti-counterfeiting and anti-tampering measures.” or “. . . teaching about infrastructure needed for a successful, multi-channel customer experience for retailers.

Supply Chain for SMB – n Unmet Need

People from smaller firms spoke out about their unmet needs in supply chain education. One person made the plea this way: “We really need supply chain management programs designed for small and medium size companies. Current programs are focused on highly industrialized organizations and multinational companies, such as big automotive firms. For theory that is necessary, but in practice many employees work for small and medium sized companies.

Supply Chain Education — Foundational to a Company’s Long Term Success

Finally, we heard a recurring theme from survey respondents lamenting the inadequacy of support from their employers for this critical educational need. One person said, “Unfortunately, most companies do not provide enough support for education for their Supply Chain professionals. They may have some people get some additional schooling, but it does not go deep enough in the chain of command.” Or to put it more plainly, one respondent lamented, “My biggest challenge is how to pay for it and when to find the time.

Clearly, supply chain education is one of the best investments a company can make, provided they are sending the right people to the right institutions and instructors. It is an easy target to be cut when budgets are under pressure. However, investments in people, especially in an area that is as strategic for competitive advantage as supply chain, are among the best investments an enterprise can make for their long term success.


This concludes our Three Part series of Supply Chain Education Survey Findings.

To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.

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