News at Smith

Solutions for Too Few Supply Chain Pros

Mar 25, 2015

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SMITH BRAIN TRUST -- A talent shortage threatens the global automotive industry. For every graduate with supply chain skills, six positions are waiting to be filled, according to a new white paper issued by global logistics company DHL and based on research by Lisa Harrington, senior research fellow for the Supply Chain Management Center at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. The shortage stands to worsen in the next five years. "The supply chain talent crisis is a serious issue for the automotive industry, particularly in emerging markets where growth rates remain strong," Harrington says. "Many companies are already struggling with lack of infrastructure and skilled workforce in these countries, and the simultaneously increasing need for supply chain expertise further exacerbates these issues.” The crisis “is a house of cards ready to collapse,” said DHL’s Global Sector Head of Automotive Frank Vorrath in announcing the findings

The shortage “calls for new thinking, new approaches and collaboration on an industry-wide scale," says Harrington, whose study yielded five potential solutions:

1.  Automotive sector leaders should intensify their collaboration with universities to customize supply chain education programs for their sector. 

2. More companies should develop their own education programs and expand their in-house and external education options.

3. Firms can utilize formal job rotation programs as a means of growing and enriching young talent. 

4. Companies can tap their soon-to-retire professionals to serve as educators and mentors – to transfer their specialist knowledge to the next generation of supply chain professionals. 

5. Companies should take steps to become "employers of choice," making themselves more attractive to supply chain talent at all levels by providing robust career opportunities and benefits.

According to DHL, Harrington’s proposals address a changing labor market, a growing demographic gap and an academic landscape decreasingly focused on supply chain management. Moreover, students interested in the automotive sector tend to consider a supply chain career as a fallback option.

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.