I am in the business of coaching and educating adults, both at the university level and in the professional development work that I do. My mantra for many years has been for supply chain professionals to keep up with the news, especially as it related to your company, your customers, your suppliers, and your commodity areas. There is really no excuse these days not to be up to speed on the issues that impact your business…and ultimately impact you.
While a fan of technology, I will admit to getting three traditional newspapers delivered to my home seven days a week, including a local paper, my regional paper, and one from the national press. All three are quite different and in the age of bits and bytes it is somewhat comforting to read the sports section (…oops, I mean the business section) over a cup of coffee in the morning. Roland has them in the box by 4:30 AM, rain, shine, or snow, and my wife generously tips him monthly. They are an invaluable tool in getting the day off on the right foot.
But for the purposes of this piece, lets go digital and take a look at some ways those in the supply chain can remain up to date in the era of easy access to information. Pick a laptop or mobile device, make sure your network is up to snuff, and lets for a little spin around the web to see what we can find that might offer some help in our quest for ongoing education…or as I like to day ‘keeping up’.
The traditional channels
Supply chain management is hot! Many colleges and universities, large and small, are offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in supply chain management. Other schools are adding supply chain courses to the curriculum in response to market demand for graduates with an understanding of big data and global trade from the customer and supply side. Most often the curriculum is integrated into degree programs for general management and marketing. As a professor of operations and supply chain management I am proud of my students who choose a career in procurement or logistics…despite those long exams and interminable lectures!
Professional associations also provide an opportunity for professional education, be it through traditional and online seminars and workshops, articles, glossaries, industry links, and professional certification programs. Consider looking at the Institute for Supply Management, APICS, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, and the Project Management Institute. Be sure to also check out regional affiliates as well for networking opportunities and programs tailored for specific industries.
The focused channels
There is a trade association for everything! Every commodity you buy has one, as do other parts of the supply chain. Lets begin with a manufacturing example from the sheet metal industry. We can begin at the upper level and cascade through the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Tooling and Machining Association, and the Precision Metalforming Association and even the Robotic Industries Association.
Let’s look at electronics next. There is the IEEE, the Electronic Components Industry Association, the Consumer Technology Association, the IPC, and even a good one about capacitors. Of course EBNonline is a great place for information! But you already knew that.
For logistics pros, keep on trucking with the American Trucking Associations, anchors away with the World Shipping Council, and learn where to put it away with the Warehousing Education and Research Council.
A good exercise is to plot out commodity related trade associations and check out their resources and industry contact and register for their newsletters. Look at the tiers of associations and don’t lose sight of your local and regional ones. Make friends with their executive directors and staffs. They are an often-overlooked wealth of information and contacts.