Shift in supply chain job requirements and its impact on supply chain management curriculum.

Author:Hegde, Vishwanath

    The supply chain management (SCM) area evolved from a loose affiliation among functions such as purchasing, manufacturing, and logistics to an integrated and cross-functional discipline. The evolutionary nature of SCM field is evident from a large number of articles published since its inception in 1990's. For example, Cousins et al. (2006) indicate that SCM over the last 20 years has gained increased attention from scholars from a variety of academic disciplines adding to the breadth and depth of knowledge and theory development within the field. Harland et al. (2006) present an academic framework for the evaluation of the SCM discipline based on extensive literature review.

    Subsequently, the breadth and depth of knowledge and the skills required in the supply chain profession has changed substantially as well. In line with these changes, many professional organizations are modifying their names and broadening their scope in order to accommodate needs of the supply chain professional requirements. Also, an increasing number of educational institutions are offering supply chain management degree programs. The evolutionary nature of supply chain management demands changes in: (a) the SCM body of knowledge that is to be taught to professionals, (b) breadth and the depth of knowledge required by the SCM jobs/careers, and (c) the developments of SCM tools/methods for solving emerging problems. Bridging the gap between what is being taught and researched in universities and the SCM market requirements has been a moving target, which is evident from a number of articles published during the last two decades.

    The academic response to the changes in SCM professional requirements began with the identification of content categories primarily through conceptual frameworks, surveys, and comparisons of leading SCM academic programs. This was later enhanced with an introduction of an empirical methodology that identified supply chain content- and skill-based requirements from the SCM job postings rather than conceptual frameworks and surveys (Radovilsky et al., 2007; Sodhi et al., 2008). The empirical methodology was found to be effective in aligning the academic curriculum with the changing requirements of the market.

    Our literature review, described in the next section, shows that a lot has changed in the supply chain profession during the first decade of the 21st century. Subsequently, newer contents and skills are expected to be required from the supply chain professionals, and also the relative importance of these contents and skills is likely to be different. This is evident from the conceptual, review, and focus group discussions in the more recent SCM academic literature. As Rutner and Fawcett (2005) indicate, the rapidly changing supply chain job requirements often create gaps between the market requirements and the academic programs. Hence, monitoring the shifts in the supply chain job requirements and using this information to revise academic programs is critical to maintain the alignment between the two.

    The objective of this research is to extend the valuable empirical methodology of identifying content- and skill-based categories of SCM job requirements to a longitudinal analysis that compares those categories over a period of time. Specifically, this research accomplished the following: (1) identify new contents and skills by reviewing the literature on the emerging trends and developed a larger list of SCM contents and skills, (2) evaluate the relative importance of the contents and skills by analyzing supply chain job requirements during the period of 2009-2011 versus those requirements in 2004-2006, and (3) identify shifts in the SCM contents and skills demanded by today's supply chain jobs. The results of this research indicate some shifts in the knowledge and skills required from the supply chain professionals, and indicate the need for changes in the SCM curriculum.

    The remaining part of the paper organized as follows. In the next section of the paper we analyze literature sources and describe the motivation for our research. Then, in the following two sections we explain the research methodology, present results of the longitudinal analysis and discuss important findings. Finally, in the last section, we make conclusions and provide some perspectives on further research in this area.


    The evolutionary nature of supply chain management leads to constant changes in this filed, which also alter SCM jobs and responsibilities. Dischinger et al. (2006), through a joint academic-industry research initiative, redefined the roles and responsibilities of supply chain professionals, and what skills and experiences should they have at their disposal. Giunipero et al. (2006) identified the major shifts in supply management, which is a part of SCM, in the past decade through a Delphi study involving focus group meetings with 54 executives across the U.S.A. They find that supply management assumes a more strategic role, which is evident, according to the authors, from the following three SCM trends: (a) the need for building strategic relationships, (b) focusing on total cost and strategic cost reduction, and (c) collaboration and integration with suppliers.

    The academic response to the changes in SCM professional requirements began with the identification of content categories primarily through conceptual frameworks and comparison of leading SCM programs. For example, Johnson and Pyke (2000) examined the SCM curricula used by many top engineering and graduate business schools. They presented a framework for analyzing the contents of the SCM programs and examined the structures of several courses at US institutions. Mangan and Christopher (2005) stated that there was an emerging realization that more investment is needed to develop appropriate managerial skills and competencies for supply chain managers. Using the survey and focus group discussions, the authors compared the importance given by the three groups of respondents (providers, graduate students and participants) for the key knowledge areas, competencies and skills.

    Radovilsky et al. (2007) deployed a new methodology to identify the supply chain knowledge and competencies, which are based on the SCM job postings rather than conceptual, survey and focus group methods. This research identified patterns of both the content-based and skill-based categories required in SCM jobs and also analyzed the relationship between the two. Further, the patterns in contents and skills are analyzed at three levels (entry, middle and senior levels) of SCM jobs. The findings of this research were very valuable in aligning supply chain courses and programs to the market requirements. Sodhi et al. (2008) expanded this stream of research by: (1) analyzing the supply chain contents and skills requirements based on online supply chain job postings, (2) measuring the relative coverage of the supply chain topics in MBA-level courses, and (3) comparing the relative importance of job requirements on the demand side, which was estimated from SCM jobs, with the relative importance of topics on the supply side, derived from reviewing supply chain courses in MBA curricula. Their analysis identified the oversupply and undersupply of topics by educational institutions as compared to the demands of the SCM job market.

    Supply chain management has continued to transform and emerge into newer directions during the past five years (2007-2011). We now want to review papers that highlight and characterize the important shifts in the supply chain management area. Melnyk et al. (2009) conducted a Delphi study to identify differences between the current and future views of supply chain management and recognize gaps/obstacles that are preventing firms and their managers from making the transition from the current to future supply chains. They identified 26 major SCM issues by reviewing SCM literature. Experts, both from the academia and industry, were requested to assess the importance of those issues at two time periods, in 2006 (past period) and 2011 (future period). They found that only three issues were critical in 2006, whereas 16 issues (out of 26) will be critical in 2011, hence indicating major shifts in supply chain characteristics in five years.

    Schoenherr (2009) provides a large-scale and structured review of published logistics and supply chain management research articles within a global context, and identify a number of common themes in these articles. The themes include: (1) human resource issues specifically the skills and training needs in the respective counties, (2) supply chain practices within the context of specific nations, (3) global risk management issues such as disruptions, epidemics, threat of international terrorism and political issues, and (4) green supply chain and reverse logistics. Mollenkopf et al. (2010) provide an extensive literature review to examine research and practice with respect to the concurrent implementation of green, lean, and global supply chain strategies. The emergence of these three topics is also evident from other research publications as well. McCrea (2010) conducted interviews with experts in the supply chain field to identify the major trends and compile supply chain outlook. Four major trends identified in this article are: the rebounding economy, shifts in sourcing emphasis to global outsourcing, the greening of the supply chain, and emerging technologies. Maruchecka et al. (2011) examine the product safety issues and challenges that arise in five...

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