Wanted: Purchasers Who Think Like Economists

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Jennifer Baljko
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Re: Wanted:
Jennifer Baljko   5/22/2011 8:06:42 AM

Thanks everyone for the thoughtful posts. I think you've all hit on sort of the magic formula companies may want to consider as they fill procurement and supply chain positions:

1. Reaping the "hidden" in-house knowledge: How can companies nurture and tap into the wealth of know-how already existing in their employees' head and experience. How do you collect this expertise and use it to an even greater advantage.

2. Getting some new ideas into the fold: Although some of the coursework may be mundane, but necessary, companies that find a way to put their employees' supply chain masters degrees to use in a way that sparks creative thinking may prove valuable. If these student or new hires have cross-industry experience, there could be some innovative way of connecting dots between markets, products and economies of scale.

3. Let IT automate. This has been said before. IT tools are necessary, and I think most companies have figured out how to get quite a lot out of them. IT, though, has never be the cureall, it was, in theory, the tool that would let supply chain professionals leave behind routine tasks and focus on more challenging tasks machines and software couldn't handle.

How exactly should companies allocate this three-prong "formula," well that's probably what shakes out great companies from not-so-great comanies

Barbara Jorgensen
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Re: Wanted:
Barbara Jorgensen   5/19/2011 3:46:16 PM

Hi hwong--what I should have said was companies that think buying IT is the TOTAL  solution to the problem. Some of the best IT I've ever seen was developed in-house at distribution companies through collaborative efforts in warehousing, puchasing, IT, sales etc. IT is a key element to the entire solution, and thanks as always for your input!

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Supply Network Guru
Re: Wanted:
hwong   5/19/2011 3:33:47 PM

Actually, there are alot of software products that are very smart and build upon the high level strategy. For example, IBM ilog's previous netowrk optimization tool  (LogicTools) was developed by MIT renowed professor David Simchi Levi.

This tool uses optimization methods to help companies make best decsisions about allocating, producing, distributing products in order to keep up with the customer service level.  So some of the "IT" that you mentioned are actually helpful. But I can totally understand where your view comes from . Alot of the companies keep hyping about how they invest in IT but in reality, it's not really that efficient.

Barbara Jorgensen
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Barbara Jorgensen   5/19/2011 8:43:56 AM

Great article as always, Jenn. I find the gap between the high-level thinking and hands-on execution to be an ongoing problem. We see many white papers, research reports and theories on improving the supply chian without a lot of thought paid to the day-to-day efforts of moving material from Point A to Point B. Every time someone tells me their supply chain problems can be fixed by buying more IT I roll my eyes (in private). The companies that are best in the business call on the folks who actualy pick and move material to help executive the high-level strategies of the business. Maybe we should get back to the days when an executive begins on a factory or warehouse floor and works their way up from there,

That's not to say MBAs or other degrees aren't a huge help--they are. I think economics is a great insight to have, particulalry when trying to forecast in times like these.

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Supply Network Guru
Jay_Bond   5/19/2011 7:16:35 AM

Your article is very informative and brings up many good points. Many companies are running into problems with getting experienced candidates for their job postings. With companies shifting focus to having more college educated employees as opposed to experienced employees without degrees, they are losing out on valuable experience. Companies are looking at college graduates with degrees that sometimes don't translate well in the real world, instead of experienced employees without the schooling who have vast knowledge in their field.

If more and more companies are going to be focused primarily on hiring college grads, there needs to be changes made to the curriculum to better prepare these graduates for the reality of the jobs. Employers are expecting more knowledge and multitasking than ever, and if you're only thinking like the text book taught you, you're headed for a rough ride.


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Supply Network Guru
A Lot of Issues
DennisQ   5/18/2011 2:03:53 PM

Nice article, Jennifer... you actually touch on a wide variety of issues here. I'll just focus on a few.

I certainly agree there's a shortage of supply chain talent. And figuring out a way to remedy that situation is super tricky. Logistics is a really tough sell as a potential career path for a teenager and it's super difficult to figure out a way to make it more attractive.

And even if someone does get into a supply chain program, I'm not convinced many institutions are actually teaching skills that are relevant. You mention a couple of places where some deficiencies lie. I certainly agree that future supply chain managers will need a whole bunch of new and more varied skills.

But then again, tech supply chain management is vastly different than, say, supplying food and weapons for the armed forces halfway across the world during a war. How can these institutions be expected to teach EVERYTHING? They really can't. Again, it's tricky.

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