A Business Card Guide to the Future of Supply Chains
CH Robinson’s Elizabeth Drury looks at how different roles in the supply chain have developed in recent years and to where they might be headed in the near future.
But it’s possible to get a sense of how far the industry has come—and where it might be headed—by looking at the way functional roles in supply chain management have evolved over the last 15 years or so.
A trend that we’ve witnessed is a deeper focus on operational efficiency, in response to increased demand from shippers for efficiency-building solutions. This has led to the creation of new roles and responsibilities within the supply chain discipline.
Typically, companies no longer confine operations personnel to tactical execution; they must think beyond this traditional boundary and find ways to raise efficiency levels. This requires them to extend their activities into process engineering and operational excellence. A TMC example is a team that specializes in developing faster, better logistics processes. The team introduced more automation to the scheduling of delivery appointments for consignees. They created scripts for the automatic generation and transmission of delivery appointments to multiple parties.
Systems implementation is another area that has undergone dramatic change over the last 15 years, and again, this is reflected in the job specs of the people who work in this area.
As transportation management systems have grown in complexity, so has the demand for support services to help shippers transition to these systems and get the most out of them. This has created a new level of tactical support, provided by specialists who are both technical experts and excellent communicators.
The changing mix of skills in the logistics space is one of the most striking features of the industry’s evolution over recent decades. This is a consequence of the changing nature of the logistics management role; 15 years ago freight was tendered manually and the range of performance reports was limited, for instance.
Today there are TMC professionals with undergraduate degrees in engineering and master’s degrees in supply chain management, a combination of skills that was unheard of 15 years ago. Sales teams now have technical experts who can translate system solutions into a language that shippers can easily understand.
Globalization is a major driver of change, and job titles have become more international. Fifteen years ago third-party providers employed account managers with regional jurisdictions. These days there are global account managers with wider responsibilities both operationally and geographically.
As can be seen, the industry has gone through a lot of change over the last 15 years, and the common threads are managing complexity and the need to improve efficiency and customer service while lowering costs.
No doubt in 15 years time we’ll be talking about roles and responsibilities that you won’t find on any organizational chart today. For example, will we see logistics professionals who are also marketers, as a result of the need for more cross-functional integration in a world dominated by eCommerce? The eCommerce world is extremely unforgiving, and companies are developing new organizational models to give them the high-speed responses they need in the online environment.
If you are looking for clues to the future of supply chain management, review past and present job titles on industry business cards, then imagine what titles will be in vogue 15 years from now.