I have had several students ask me about Industry 4.0/Supply Chain 4.0/Digitization of the Supply Chain. Most students simply want to know what it means and how it will impact their majors.
Please first watch:
Notice in the video that I repeatedly said a huge part of Industry 4.0 will be taking all the “manual” processes that exist and “automating” them using “technology” so that they get done better, faster, and cheaper. That to a large extent has already happened and will continue to happen, but for mostly “tactical” stuff (not “strategic” stuff). For example, my first job in SCM 30 years ago was making sure the right stuff was at the right place, at the right time, in the right quantities, and at the right price. OK, first, that job was super “tactical” and you did not need a college degree to do it. Second, that job was a manually driven process that has since been “automated” using technology and the technology actually does it better, faster, and cheaper than a human. In fact, the technology can learn from itself using machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).
What is ML and AI? Keep it simple. If you get emails that automatically get sent to your junk folder, then that is AI technology. If you go to your junk mail folder and start opening up junk email from the same sender, then ML is when it stops sending it to your junk folder. The software has figured out through ML that that junk mail is not junk to you (you want to read it).
Another example would be Amazon, who I think is at the forefront of ML and AI. When you buy stuff on Amazon and Amazon gives you ideas on what you might also like, that is ML and AI. In fact, Amazon will use data and ML to actually ship you something before you actually place the order (and they rarely get it wrong).
Have you heard of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)? That is basically software that makes use of ML and AI to do routine manual SCM activities like process a Purchase Order. The process is manual, tactical, and clerically driven. However, that RPA software is learning from itself on how to do things better, faster, and cheaper. For example, RPA could start saying things like: I think we are paying too much, I think we should be using a different supplier, I think we are ordering in the wrong quantities, etc. The RPA software might actually decide to reopen the contract and have suppliers rebid on the business and the RPA might actually pick the new supplier. Yes, there will likely be human intervention for any activities that are “strategic”.
For me, tactical means all the day to day operational grunt work. Strategic to me means the decisions that have to be made with longer term implications and consequences. For example, if the RPA wants to switch suppliers, that to me is strategic because it has long term consequences. Maybe one day the RPA will change suppliers without human intervention and actually negotiate the terms and conditions of the contract with a new supplier. Well, for non strategic stuff like office supplies it is already happening.
So back to the video. Simply become “data scientists” because the next few years will likely double, triple, etc., the amount of data that SCM organizations will have because of Industry 4.0. Think about that. By the time you graduate, SCM orgs will have 2-3 times more data at their disposal. The SCM professionals that will flourish will be the ones that can make sense of that data to do their jobs better, faster, and cheaper. The Business Analytics minor sets you up for success so that Industry 4.0 becomes your friend and not your replacement. Do you feel like you will be ready?
Here is a good read on how SCM 4.0 does not have to be super expensive:
As a new field like supply chain digitization evolves, people are still trying to figure out the essential components that characterize it. This is the reason that people offer certificates in digital supply chain in all kinds of flavor. For example, some schools take a high-level managerial approach, some take an ERP+BI+PM approach, & others take an analytics+strategic planning approach. One issue with the mini MBA in Digital Supply Chain programs is not their high level managerial approach per se, but perhaps the usefulness on what they predict will be super useful. They could be wrong for example on dedicating an entire course to Robotic Process Automation per se (some programs have an entire class dedicated to RPA?!).
The “Digital” transformation is getting VERY popular these days. We have heard of Industry 4.0, but in reality it is SCM 4.0, because nothing happens w/o the supply chain HEAVILY involved. For digitization to work, manual processes have to be digitized/automated & eventually analyzed. That is what companies are doing right now. Converting manual to digitized versions requires someone with a good knowledge on systems analysis & design, data storage & information retrieval. These are the topics usually covered in IT/CIS/CS majors. A lot of companies have gone past this stage, but they are facing the next problem – data analysis. Data are collected, but no one knows what to do with it. That’s where our Business Analytics minor comes in as an undergrad. If you lack these skills, go get your MS in Data Analytics before you miss the boat. These skills would include: big data/analytics, database management, data mining, project management, SQL, Python, PMO, Tableau, Power BI, etc. Fortunately, most of my undergrads walk away with these skills.
A lot of grad degree programs tend to offer trendy courses. This reminds me a lot about the Business Process Reengineering or Business Process Automation course that people used to offer years ago. On RPA for example (which is all the rage now),… • Will there be a continuous or frequent demand for RPA at a company? • Will new RPA need to be created or existing RPA need to be tuned often? • What kind of robots are involved? Consumer robots, manufacturing robots, or a mixture of both? • Will the course need to teach realistic applications or BPR? What technologies? What kind of robots and for what purpose? If the answer is no and no to the first two questions, the skills will likely be taught and then forgotten. This is not to say that there is no environment that needs a constant or frequent RPA design and tuning, but I wonder what kind of environment that would be and how much a company would sustain doing that for long. If the RPA is done once in a few years for example, I am not sure of the utility/usefulness of such a graduate course other than showing people that they are teaching leading-edge topics.
From 2016 to 2019, “data scientist” held the top spot on Glassdoor’s list of “50 Best Jobs in America”. For the past two years, the job has ranked second.
From someone smarter than me: “Instead of fixating on a single technique or programming language, ask yourself, what is the best set of tools or techniques that will help you to solve your problem? Focus on problem solving, and the tools will come naturally. ” – Robert Chang, Data @Airbnb(8)
Be a problem solver! https://www.linkedin.com/posts/sime-curkovic-61617a115_problem-solving-is-the-1-sought-after-skill-activity-6818234872415494144-2n2o
Will technology replace supply chain jobs?
No, not if you develop your soft skills & learn how to use the technology to do your job better, faster, & cheaper (with a focus on strategic issues). My first SCM job was very tactical & has been replaced by technology & automation. Over half of our SCM students also minor in Business Analytics (e.g., big data/analytics, database management, data mining, project management, SQL, Python, PMO, Tableau, Power BI). We try to not only teach them how to use the technology, but also create the technology. Also, we gradually shifted our curriculum towards developing strategic skill sets (rather than tactical) combined with soft skills (i.e., problem solving, leadership, negotiation, project management, etc.).
Other skills include: 1) Gather and organize information about the problem to be solved or the procedure to be improved. 2) Interview personnel and conduct onsite observations to determine the methods, equipment, and personnel that will be needed. 3) Analyze financial and other data, including revenue, expenditure, and employment reports. 4) Develop solutions or alternative practices. 5) Recommend new systems, procedures, or organizational changes 6) Make recommendations to management through presentations or written reports. 7) Confer with managers to ensure changes are working.
So, future SCM managers will need to become consultants to their own organization. They in essence will evolve into management analysts in a niche area (SCM), but they will also need a strong general business acumen. Note, employment of management analysts is projected to grow 14 percent from 2020 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. The average growth rate for all occupations is 5 percent. Demand for the services of these workers should grow as organizations continue to seek ways to improve efficiency & control costs. The median annual wage for these types of skill sets was $83,610 in 2018. The median annual wage for all workers was $38,640. Use/create the technology to do your job better or the technology will take your job.
How much Python do I need to know in order to excel in supply chain data analytics?
I have had several people ask me about “Industry 4.0” or “Supply Chain 4.0” or “Digitization” of the Supply Chain.
Do you know how to use Power BI or Tableau? Do not be a victim of technology.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) replaced my first SCM job.
Also, other skill sets required of supply chain professionals:
Project management, Technical understanding, Cost accounting skills, Ability to understand financial statements, Understanding of e-business / e-procurement systems, Troubleshooting, problem solving, Understanding of cross-cultural / global issues, Business ethics, Understanding of the legal issues involved in managing contracts, etc.
Do Supply Chain pros do a lot of coding? Will they expect you to? Answer: Maybe (kind of), but…https://lnkd.in/eQgH3YY2
I would say very little coding. Our Business Data Analytics minor does require a Python class, but I would not call it a coding class, far from it.
This describes our Python class (CIS 2650): CIS2650 is not just a “Python” class, but instead a Python class for analytics (big difference). In a traditional Python class, people teach Python straight for the whole semester with tons of syntax, data structure, software development, etc. That type of class is mostly designed for CIS/CS majors. What we do is different. It is Python in a popular analytics platform (more technically speaking, it is Python in Jupyter, which is an analytics platform that data science & business analytics programs do).
Can you imagine what an employer will think if they see Python in Jupyter on your resume? The reason for this design is the following: We studied the top skills in analytics jobs & Python was among the top skills. The visualization libraries in Python can produce the kind of visualizations not available in Tableau & Power BI. Students will be able to differentiate themselves from other schools. Tableau & Power BI recently added Python or Python+Jupyter because certain Python analytics & visualization are not available in Tableau & Power BI. Using them together makes it a powerful analytics solution (e.g., the ability to transform visualization into implementable actions). All data scientists stress the importance of Python in analytics programs.
Note, “data scientist” is one of the fastest growing career paths with escalating salaries because not enough people are good at this stuff. Python are “R” are both #1 & #2 in analytics, but Python is easier to learn compared to R. Past experience in our SCM program shows that non-technical students (SCM, marketing, accounting, etc.) are able to handle the content that we designed. Python + Jupyter (or its variant) are used in Big Data (Hadoop, Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, etc.). It can also be used with/on SAP HANA, IoT, AI, Blockchain, & smart contracts to implement supply chain visibility, and other SC related solutions. Meeting the needs of today’s employers is important, but offering a program that does that plus something that can differentiate our students from other schools sounds even better. Compared to the analytics programs from the schools that we benchmarked, our students can do so much more.
Learn to manage large amounts of data rather than pure coding (e.g., big data/predictive analytics, database management, data mining/we use RapidMiner, project management, SQL, Python, PMO, Tableau, Power BI, etc.).
Employers: Do you expect SCM graduates to be VERY well versed in Power BI and/or Tableau?
Do you know how to use Power BI or Tableau? Do not be a victim of technology.
Visualization is big. Kellogg’s is one of the largest users of Tableau in Michigan & Tableau is owned by Salesforce. Salesforce is huge & is worth $220B. PowerBI is owned by Microsoft which is even huger than Salesforce & MSFT is worth over $2,000,000,000,000 – that is $2 Trillion (along with Amazon, Google, and Apple). PowerBI (MSFT) is playing catch-up but making significant strides. Tableau is the real deal. But so is Power BI. Students ask me which one will prevail in the market place? I have no idea but would you bet against a $2T company? Based on what I have seen, they both might be long term players in this space.
CIS 3640 (this is the 3rd of 4 classes in our Business Analytics minor) has added Tableau & Power BI.
Both Power BI & Tableau target the similar market – visualization & end-user BI. The consensus is that Power BI should be there in CIS 3640 for several reasons. One key reason is that Microsoft is making it free of charge, while Tableau is not. We will continue to monitor the market & adjust accordingly. In short, the current plan is to have Power BI in CIS 3640. Tableau is being added to a 3640 section as an “experiment”. Please let me know of disagree with any of this.
I had a student with a “Technology Skills” section on her resume. She (BA minor) listed all the things she learned in all her SCM and BA courses. During an interview, an employer asked her, do you really know how to do all this stuff? I would love to be asked that! As of today, what would a Technology Skills section on your resume look like?
Note: I have a few former students (not many) that lost their jobs during covid as they became victims of downsizing. If you asked me what was the key underlying theme, I would say they were weak on technology. Also, during covid, I had numerous employers ask for help finding talent because they were hiring like crazy. Kind of ironic, right?
The bottom line is that it really doesn’t matter which tool students learned (as long as there is industry evidence to support the tool selection). The two tools share so many similarities. Usually one should be able to transition from one tool to another with minimal learning.
If SCM students already know what tools they are going to be using at the internship or job, they might want to talk to talk to their CIS faculty. This will help them pick the desired course section. Otherwise, it is hard for us to predict what analytics & visualization tools each student will be using & which company they will end up working.
Does your resume have this?…
-big data/predictive analytics, database mgmt, data mining, project mgmt, SQL, Python, PMO, Tableau, Power BI, etc.
Thank you. Sime
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