Written By: Valerie Harris
Supply chain management is based on the idea that in order for a product to reach an end user, multiple organizations must be involved that collectively form a supply chain. Robert Handfield, Bank of America University Distinguished Professor of Supply Chain Management at North Carolina State University, says that “while supply chains have existed for a long time, most organizations have only paid attention to what was happening within their 'four walls.' Few businesses understood, much less managed, the entire chain of activities that delivered products to the final customer.” Handfield says that this results in disjointed and often ineffective supply chains.
In order for supply chains to be effective, they must be the product of conscious effort by businesses to develop and run their supply chain firms as effectively and efficiently as possible. In today's global market, supply chains frequently require thousands of miles of travel and cross several national borders, with all the logistical and bureaucratic concerns international business entails. Concerns about raising efficiency amid these complex and at times labyrinthine supply chains have created an unprecedented demand for supply chain managers, leading many universities to grow and deepen their supply chain management programs. Solid job prospects, competitive salaries and strong prospects for advancement are leading students to supply chain MBA programs in record numbers.
“Many of the current supply chain managers are transplants from other parts of their companies, with no formal schooling in the discipline,”says William Verdini, associate professor and chairman of the Supply Chain Management Department at Arizona State University's Carey School of Business “Now, supply chain officers are getting in on the strategic decisions that are being made.” Arizona State University's supply chain management department iscurrently ranked #3 on the US News & World Report's rankings of supply chain and logistics programs. The school's supply chain financial management MBA differs from a traditional MBA program in that logistical concerns such as globalization of supply chains, network analysis, hedging strategies and quality of earnings analysis are all valued to a larger degree.
Since the 2007-2008 academic year, the number of entering supply chain students at Carey School of Business has doubled, with interest largely stoked by the schools 100% job placement rate for supply chain MBAs who graduated in May 2011. For comparison, marketing students only achieved 75% job placement. Furthermore, the average salary for supply chain management professionals is $103,664, up from $98,200 only a year prior. For those in the field with less than five years of experience, the average salary has increased nearly 15%.
For companies hoping to take raise the efficiency of their own supply chains, a growing number of technology resources can prove very useful. Notification systems among business leaders like email and SMS chains can connect managers immediately when an issue arises or a change is necessary. Companies can even also allow customers to track products through electronic invoicing and tracking of products, offering customers a sense of what to expect in a specific timeframe. Cloud technologies also allow for syncing database changes among multiple users at any given time. Perhaps of equal importance, upgrades to security settings at companies like Google allow emails and information stored online to only be viewed by those in the company with access to the information.
At Apple, perhaps the world's most famous tech company, supply chain management has become an essential element of business. As pioneering smartphone and tablet technologies like the company's iPhone and iPad proliferate around the globe at a faster pace than any technology in history, the speed of global product launches becomes increasingly important. With the recent debut of the iPhone 5, Apple proved to its customers and investors exactly how committed they have become to expedited delivery of their products. “We are positively surprised regarding the pace of the rollout, since we expected a bigger impact from component constraints,”says Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes.
Unlike past product debuts, the iPhone 5 premiered with little in the way of groundbreaking technology advances, allowing the already strong appeal of the product and its marginal upgrades to sell the latest model. Under Tim Cook, the company's current CEO after the departure of pioneer Steve Jobs, supply chain efficiency and stability appears to play a bigger role in solidifying and continuing the company's reputation as the premiere technology company. So far, the more practical, low-key style appears to be paying off, as the iPhone 5 broke the preorders record of the the 4S, with 2 million orders made within 24 hours. Meanwhile, stock is also up 6% from a August, suggesting similarly successful and well-liked companies might consider taking heed of Apple's supply chain strategy.
As the global economy becomes more interconnected, the business world has become increasingly competitive. By utilizing supply chains to raise efficiency, large and small businesses alike can make marked strides against their competition. As students flock to supply chain programs, the logistics of business may soon move to the forefront of the global economic conversation, a move that could prove a major advantage in allowing companies to stay afloat and meet the needs of a demanding consumer base.
About the Author:
Valerie Harris is an expert on all things business school, and has made a career out of analyzing and writing about MBA programs. In her article today, she looks at the merits of the emerging “supply chain management” MBA program in place at several schools, with an emphasis on Apple and how its iPhone 5 supply chain benefited from this sort of new-wave expertise. Most Technology Digital readers are well versed in Apple’s successes, and Valerie’s article adds meat to this discussion. More info on her work and expertise can be found on her primary website, which deals with graduate education choices.