Developing talent in supply chain and logistics

February 15, 2018 @ 1:23PM

MALAYSIA, with its central location in Southeast Asia and its infrastructure, has the opportunity to become a supply chain hub for physical goods and information flow.

Supply chain is an up-and-coming industry with trends driven by the last-mile delivery to and returns from individual customers of retail stores and outlets, and the rapid introduction of new technology ranging from autonomous vehicles to securing data through blockchain technology to three-dimensional delivery (drones).

Success in the future will require companies to quickly adopt technologies suitable for their supply chains.

“If the education system and industry can develop supply chain and technology expertise in Malaysian youth, then Malaysia can benefit from this opportunity. Initiatives like the Digital Free Trade Zone can help Malaysia demonstrate capability to the world,” said Dr David Gonsalvez, chief executive officer and rector of Malaysia Institute for Supply Chain Innovation (Misi).

MISI is a postgraduate education and research centre focused on supply chain management, logistics and procurement. Founded by the Malaysian government in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States of America, its mission is to develop supply chain leaders for the future and perform research that can drive innovation in this space.

It is part of the MIT Global SCALE (Supply Chain and Logistics Excellence) Network that comprises centres in six countries across the Americas, Europe and Asia dedicated to the development and dissemination of global innovation in supply chain and logistics.

“Through our industry outreach programmes, we also support local and regional companies in developing supply chain talent and incorporating innovation in their supply chains,” said Gonsalvez.

Misi offers a Master’s programme in supply chain management that can be taken in 10 months as a full-time programme or in 2½ to five years as a part-time programme.

“Students in our Master’s programmes have the opportunity to participate in a month-long programme at MIT. Students must have an undergraduate degree and ideally some work experience to be admitted to the Master’s programme,” Gonsalvez said.

MISI also offers a host of short courses (one to two days) that enable supply chain and procurement professionals to brush up their skills or learn about new technologies, such as Internet of Things in Supply Chains. An enquiring mind is the only entry requirement.

In addition, MISI offers executive education programmes in specific areas, such as retail supply chains, supply chain strategy and procurement. These programmes can be customised for a specific company or industry or offered as a general programme with open entry.

Last month, a group of MISI students travelled to MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to participate in the week-long Independent Activities Programme (IAP). They qualified after meeting three key criteria: a high cumulative grade point average, completion of half of the Part-time Master of Science in supply chain management programme and substantial progress on their research project.

At the IAP, the students met over 200 high achievers from the MIT Global SCALE network centres in the United States, Spain, Columbia, Luxembourg and China.

Participants engaged in seminars, workshops, competitions and attended industry tours. The conference facilitated networking with professional contacts as attendees heard from industry leaders and researchers about supply chain topics. Group member Vinod Balakrishnan, 30, an industrial performance leader at Schneider Electric, said the highlight of IAP was the Research Fest and the initiative of MIT to get students from around the world to work in groups, and take part in games and competitions.

“The research fest was where we presented our research project to people from the industry and academics. We had constructive conversations with people who came by. It was encouraging to see industry leaders take interest in what we do. As for the games and competitions, we were grouped randomly with students from other MIT centres.

“In three weeks, we had to break the ice, know each other, work together and win. This exercise is important as that’s how working environment is — fast-paced.”

Lim Yi Syuen, 27, a manager at Parkhill Industries Sdn Bhd, said Malaysia could move forward with the liberalisation of the logistics industry for a more efficient market, and allow the adaptation of multi-modal techniques, such as drop trailer, to improve the utilisation of assets and promote a more transparent competition for operators.

“A well-managed supply chain not only improves the competitive advantage of small- and medium-sized enterprises against their competitors, but also emphasises the importance of sound supplier-customer relations.”

Usaid Othman, 31, a former strategy and planning senior executive at Pos Malaysia Bhd, said the course and programme had opened his eyes to the huge potential Malaysia had as a regional logistics gateway.

“In developed countries, logistics and supply chain have been acknowledged as a critical factor of competitive advantage. Malaysia should promote more courses related to supply chain and logistics management to equip more professionals with the right supply chain knowledge, and to continuously embrace new technologies to keep up with global demand.”

Accenture Solutions Sdn Bhd senior manager Lee Ming Siang, 40, agreed.

“Having a workforce with strong supply chain knowledge gives an added advantage to Malaysia. If we have a strong workforce in demand planning, supply planning, logistics network optimisation, process re-engineering, sales and operations planning, it would only enhance Malaysia’s reputation as the most ideal supply chain hub.”

About 100 students have graduated from MISI’s Master’s programmes.

“Our focus is to deliver 30 to 40 skilled and talented supply chain leaders every year. We also want to provide the opportunity for working professionals to enhance their skills.

“One of our major initiatives over the next two to three years is to develop three centres of excellence in retail supply chains and e-commerce, sustainability and mobility. We want to drive research in these areas that fosters innovation to benefit local and regional industries,” said Gonsalvez.

Lee Ming Siang asking a quesion in the auditorium during the IAP programme.
Malaysian Independent Activities Programme participants at MIT in Massachussetts.
Vinod Balakrishnan
Dr David Gonsalvez