More Attention on Your Profession

The Council of Logistics Management (CLM) executive committee has decided to change the name of its organization to the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), effective January 1, 2005. The change was made to meet the changing needs of its members -- people who do what you do for a living. The job description of logistics professionals HAS changed, and the people graduating from business schools with an emphasis on supply chain management are a different breed. Material Handling Management magazine talked with Tom Speh, CLM past president and chair of the member committee charged with exploring the association's focus, to discuss these changes in your profession. -- Tom Andel, chief editor.

MHM: Do you see the new Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals having an impact on the U.S.-based talent entering the work force?

Speh: Absolutely. The clear mission statement of this organization is to lead the development of education and the professional development of folks in the discipline. The discipline has become bigger than it was in the past. We'll be looking at how we can develop and formulate programs that extend beyond the logistics aspects of the supply chain. I've been given the assignment to lead the transition of the organization for the next two years. The largest segment of the report I developed is on the education aspects of what we want to do. We want to create some programming to meet that expanded mission.

MHM: Is there a logistics manpower deficit in the U.S.?

Speh: No, as a matter of fact, we're well positioned. When you look at the types of educational institutions out there, we have everything from logistics folks educated more in marketing to logistics folks educated on the engineering side. Our people can fill the full range of requirements.

MHM: What kinds of talent are in demand?

Speh: We're seeing people with more generalist business skills, particularly in strategic planning, relationship planning, strategic sourcing. I think those issues are more critical than some of the technology-driven and quantitative issues we face. Everything I've studied about supply chain says we haven't figured out how to collaborate and manage relationships. We can't figure out how companies work together.

MHM: What about how professional associations work together?

Speh: That will be a huge part of what we're doing. In my report to the executive committee, one of the strong recommendations is that we target collaborative work with our sister organizations that are pieces of the supply chain, all the way from engineering groups to marketing and procurement. It's pointless for these organizations that represent pieces of the supply chain to try to create the whole enchilada when, if we work together, we can really come up with some creative programs that span the supply chain.

MHM: Where do you see material handling in this supply chain continuum?

Speh: I don't see major technological changes. What I see is where pieces of the supply chain fit. It's interesting to go to these material handling meetings and they're crying out for presentations that deal with broader issues like where they fit in the supply chain. That technology will continue to evolve and grow, but the issue will be having a strategic focus on where that technology needs to be to accomplish the broader goals of the entire supply chain operation. One of the barriers to supply chain management is this mentality of staying focused on quarterly results on Wall Street. That sucks R&D and any kind of expenditure on supply chain efficiency away. Who will say, "We just invested a billion dollars in new technology to make us efficient three years from now?" No one will want to do that. We're just completing a study on getting more C-level attention to the supply chain. We'll do interviews with presidents of major corporations to get a fix on that. We have to get their attention and Wall Street's or we'll be in deep trouble in the future. The biggest thing we're fighting is this short-term mentality of quarterly earnings.

MHM: Even German engineering firms are outsourcing technology R&D to China where labor is cheap.

Speh: I'm tired of reading these stories of how we're outsourcing this labor when it wasn't three weeks ago I was reading an article that said of the 300,000 jobs lost in one month, 4,000 were outsourced somewhere. I'm wondering if it's not the big deal that it's made to be by the press. There are probably some engineering tasks that can be easily outsourced and others that you never will. I hope that the way we're changing, we'll give greater visibility to all the key areas within the supply chain. I see the opportunity to escalate a lot of the sub-disciplines within the supply chain arena.

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