You Are Never Too Cool for School

When I was in college pursuing an English degree (it doesn’t matter how many years ago), I learned the rules of grammar, how to punctuate a sentence correctly, and the difference between it’s and its. I could diagram a sentence like no one else. And those skills were enough to lead me to my dream job as editor of Inbound Logistics.

Today, however, focusing on just one area of expertise like I did won’t get supply chain students and professionals where they want to go. Yes, they need to know how to get their products to market quickly, efficiently, and cost effectively. But they also need a broader knowledge across every enterprise-wide function that touches the supply chain, such as marketing, sales, customer service, and finance. That often requires a shift from a vertical, tactical focus to “understanding how their function supports the organization,” says Joel Dupuis, executive education key account director for Arizona State University.

Some companies are taking the lead by encouraging employees to enroll in continuing education programs, as well as partnering with universities and schools to develop custom-tailored programs designed to produce well-rounded supply chain graduates. For example, as you’ll see in the article Custom Education: Guaranteeing a Perfect Fit, when restaurant chain Bob Evans’ new CEO decided to consolidate disparate purchasing divisions into a corporate purchasing department, the company wasn’t sure how to evolve its supply chain, and how managers should adapt. It turned to Ohio State University, which helped develop a custom supply chain management program that provided employees with broader skills outside their vertical comfort zone so they could perform well within Bob Evans’ new corporate structure.

The Clorox Company was also looking for help when it wanted employees to connect the dots of an end-to-end supply chain. It began working with Georgia Tech, which tailored a program to give Clorox employees a broader perspective of the organization. As part of that program, employees work in small groups on specific projects that benefit Clorox’s supply chain strategy.

Ohio State and Georgia Tech are just two of the many schools that participated in our 2016 Logistics Education Resource Guide. In 2015, 20 schools updated their course offerings for us; this year, an amazing 60 schools provided updated information on their expanded coursework. The guide also mirrors an uptick in the trend toward community colleges offering more transportation, logistics, and supply chain courses. High schools are next!

Whether you are new to the field or an industry veteran, it’s (not its!) no longer enough to take a vertical approach to supply chain knowledge. To excel, you need a super-horizontal skillset that touches all supply chain functions.