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10 ways to prepare your supply chain team for the post-pandemic world

By Cranfield Executive Development
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Research suggests that a widening skills gap is quickly escalating across all industries globally which could disrupt our fragile post-pandemic recovery.


Within supply chain management, the focus is now on how to prepare for future volatility; from inventory management to supplier and modal selection, even down to transport execution and development of transport corridors, organisations are concerned with how business models and operational approaches can reinforce supply chain stability.


What are the mega-trends that we will see impacting supply chains in 2022 and how are hyper-competition, instant gratification, technology disruption and the pandemic affecting our operations?
  • Supply chains are being shortened or even being localised;

  • Product lifecycles are becoming shorter;

  • Multiple sourcing and multi-shoring strategies are being developed;

  • Operations are managed in rapidly evolving market conditions within stricter regulatory contexts;

  • Sustainable buying patterns are becoming the norm for both consumers and commercial buyers;

  • Technology is rapidly changing operational practices and pushing companies to explore omnichannel strategies;

  • Perennial themes of financial pressures, corporate resilience, labour shortages and the energy transition continue to affect both customers and companies alike.

In this dynamic business and societal environment, continuous learning becomes a key success factor for both organisations and personal development. Developing the right skills will enable your team to survive and thrive in the ever-changing landscape and outperform the competition.


Here’s what you need to know to nurture a strong and successful supply chain team:


  1. Align learning with business strategy

    Ensure your learning function is aligned with the business strategy and the objectives of your team. 
  1. Embrace the learning omnichannel

    Exploit new learning channels to cope with the demands of day-to-day operations with blended learning approaches. By combining online and physical learners can work at their own pace but also benefit from opportunities to work together with their peer learners when possible.
  1. Select appropriate learning speeds and exits

    Recognise that each team member has different needs and different availability due to the constraints of day-to-day operational responsibilities. By offering learners flexible options, from short courses to full programmes, you can help them develop and follow their own personalised learning journey.
  1. Develop a skillset vision

Establish what your team skillset should look like, assessing the challenges and identifying the specific skills to be developed. Consider the true needs of the company and allow for opportunities to put the learning into action.

  1. Acknowledge the workplace landscape

New modes of working, increased entrepreneurial attitudes and the gig economy already shape business operations and strategies. By including topics such as economic theory and market dynamics you can equip your team with the confidence to deal with new business models and deliver the new supply chains that will serve them.

  1. Upskill to retain a competitive advantage

Overcome the gap between demand for talent and supply, especially for hard skills and tech talent, by upskilling existing colleagues to build your workforce capability quickly and effectively.

  1. Balance hard and soft skills

Include soft skills programmes in your development strategy, for example concepts and approaches that improve personal leadership, flexibility, innovativeness and resilience. Soft skills have been instrumental in companies surviving the pandemic and will continue to play a pivotal role in supply chain development.

  1. Financial insight is essential

Understand your cost-to-serve function and how the supply chain impacts profitability. By developing interdisciplinary skills such as product lifecycle costs, supply chain finance, data analytics, information technologies and negotiations, your team will understand the cost of over-servicing certain customers at the expense of under-servicing others.

  1. Prepare for project-based working

Build project management skills to support project-based working patterns. Skills including negotiation, resourcing, budgeting, managing risk and personal organisation are essential for successful project-based working.

  1. Nurture and protect future supply chain leaders

The pandemic showed us that those with the ability to reinvent and get the best from their teams were those that survived the storm. When cultivating the next generation of supply chain leaders, ensure they have continued access to learning and development opportunities, and are well supported as their career progresses.


A full version of this article by Dr Yannis Koliousis, Professor Richard Wilding and Mike Bernon was originally published in CILT Focus Magazine, January 2022.

Dr Yannis Koliousis, Professor Richard Wilding and Mike Bernon teach at the Centre for Logistics, Procurement and Supply Chain Management, Cranfield University. They work extensively with organisations from all sectors and are passionate about sharing knowledge and creating action in companies to improve economic, environmental and societal impact.

Find out about our Supply Chain Management programme or download the brochure:

Dr Ioannis (Yannis) Koliousis has over 20 years of academic, entrepreneurial, and industrial experience in the fields of operations and supply chain management, transport management, shipping, transport planning, cargo and freight logistics, public transport, urban logistics, project appraisal and finance, transport policy and renewable energy.  His consulting experience ranges from the operational to the strategic level and he has participated in different capacities in industry led projects as well as in cornerstone EU funded research projects, regularly advising senior leadership on these topics.  He has participated and led over 20 EU wide research projects, funded indicatively from FP7, IEE, Horizon2020, TEN-T and INTERREG. 
Richard Wilding OBE, Professor of Supply Chain Strategy at Cranfield has been appointed as the new Chairman of The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK (CILT). Richard has been a member of the Institute since 1992 and a board member since 2011.  He has been a valued member of the Institute’s board and in recent times has been a steering Committee Member of the CILT Logistics Research Network as well as the Co-Chairman of the CILT Leaders in Supply Chain Forum.  Richard has extensive logistics and supply chain experience and will help drive the growth of the Institute’s profile as the leading logistics and transport professional body.
Mike Bernon is an academic within the Centre for Logistics, Procurement and Supply Chain Management, Cranfield School of Management.  With over 25 years of teaching experience, he currently holds a number of posts, including Programme Director for the Cranfield Executive MBA and Executive Development Director for supply chain management customised education programmes.


Tags: supply chain management, logistics, article

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