Supply Chain Matters shares interview highlights with ASCM CEO Abe Eshkenazi in conjunction with this years ASCM CONNECT 2023 Conference.


The Event

The Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) recently concluded its ASCM CONNECT 2023 North America Conference. The 3-day conference included thought leadership speakers, exchange forums and Tech Talks addressing a broad range of supply chain management and talent related topics.

From a global perspective, there were messages related to growing trade tensions, deglobalization, climate imperatives and generally how industry supply chains have been, and continue to be impacted by these trends.

From the advanced technology perspective, speakers addressed future technology trends, specifically their impacts on jobs and workers. One prominent speaker was MIT Professor Yossi Sheffi, Director of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics, who specifically addressed advanced AI’s impacts on supply chain processes and future decision-making.

Other speakers and session forums provided messages related to not only the ongoing need to invest in supply chain transformation, but talent transformation as well. From our lens, that is the most important takeaway for our readers.

Three specific companies, Keysight Technologies, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Lenovo International Services Supply Chain, and three individuals, Sang Park, Danielle Malave and Jeremy Codiroli were each honored with respective 2023 ASCM Awards of Excellence recognition. Supply Chain Matters extends are congratulations and well down to each of the award recipients.

Our readers can garner perspectives and summaries from each of the conference days by accessing the ASCM Insights Blog page.


Interview with ASCM CEO Abe Eshkenazi

This Editor had the opportunity to once again speak with ASCM CEO Abe Eshkenazi in a wide ranging interview regarding both the conference, his conversations and observations from organization members, and his perspectives on the ongoing skill needs among supply chain management professionals.

State of Industry Supply Chains

Regarding  the state of industry, Eshkenazi’s observations were that industry supply chains are “on the backside of the bullwhip effect” with companies still managing inventories in a “just-in-case” environment with higher inventories and additional buffers.

He noted that to address the disruptions that are always going to occur in the future, there needs to be added emphasis from companies on investing in added agility and resiliency, adapt to new market conditions, and address supply chain sustainability commitments. For a lot of organizations and companies, addressing all three are a continuing challenge.

While the good news was that pandemic and consequential added supply chain disruptions dramatically raised the visibility of the function as being an enabler of business performance: “Supply chain teams can no longer act surprised when the next disruption occurs. They need to be prepared with response plans and added capabilities.”

Retaining workers remains an ongoing concern as well, and during our conversation, we talked about specific industry examples where recent tough economic or business conditions caused considerable disruption with industries having to let go of highly talented staff and operational skilled workers, and felt the consequences of that impact when demand for products and services returned.

Perspectives on Change in Talent Needs

Having led ASCM for some time, I especially wanted to ask Abe about his sense of changes, perspectives and viewpoints of ASCM members, both individual and corporate. He described a dramatically different perspective among members this year, than any other years.

He specifically observed:

Historically, we got together to commiserate about not being recognized and for not being rewarded for the contributions made to their organizations. And further, not being put in leadership positions and having a say at the C-Suite. Well, we can’t say that anymore. Supply chain is now a key topic in every organization, from the White House to every company’s annual or quarterly report. Now, supply chain professionals are at the table.”

This year Abe indicates a tremendous amount of enthusiasm about the role and the responsibility being placed on supply chain professionals along with the needs to be prepared.

Building and Nurturing the Talent Pool

Abe reiterated that according to recent ASCM’s survey data, supply chain management professionals are extremely satisfied with their jobs in today’s environment, and their career aspirations. The latest ASCM salary survey bore that out with 90 plus percent of individuals indicating their intent in continuing to be in the supply chain management function over the next five years. Upwards of 80 percent of those individuals indicated being extremely satisfied with their jobs in today’s environment. Eshkenazi described this sentiment as absolutely astounding figures for a profession that has taken a pretty big hit over the past three to four years.

Regarding the ongoing development of the talent pool, Abe noted what he describes as a tremendous focus on individuals graduating with supply chain degrees. Unlike 10-15 years ago when there were few universities and colleges offering specific supply chain degrees, ASCM has logged over 700 schools that offer baccalaureate or master’s degree programs in our function. These numbers are to state the least impressive when compared to five to ten years ago when individuals entered supply chain roles from backgrounds in finance, engineering and product marketing. Abe further emphasized that this is leading to a much more diverse workforce, but more emphasis is needed in this area. These trends together reflect a bright outlook for the coming wave of new and experienced supply chain leaders.

He reiterated that students not only need to graduate with a solid foundation of skills, but curriculums also need to be continually updated to prepare students for new and rapidly evolving changing roles and baseline skills. Beyond this foundation, professional organizations such as ASCM, along with employers, have a need to continue to collaborate and align together on continuous learning needs delivered from various online or in-person options.

Added Emphasis Areas

All of the above stated, Abe acknowledged that what businesses are specifically seeking are not a match with the talent side right now, with added work needed.

Companies are indicating that the content that many organizations and schools are teaching are not keeping up with the transformational needs that businesses are seeking. While Abe acknowledges that this is positive for ASCM and other supply chain focused professional societies that are responding to continual skills education needs, they are not a replacement for the foundational leaning that schools must provide.

He described a good news situation where supply chain graduates are garnering multiple job offers right now. Starting salaries are second only to data engineers. While schools view these metrics as positive to their programs, they sometimes do not seek businesses input to the desired skill needs. “I think we need to step back and ascertain, is your customer satisfied with the product, the individual you are providing for them (businesses)?

Abe observes that some degree programs may be underweighted in critical thinking and real world experiences in addition to technical skills. In other words, preparing students for the supply chain jobs of today and tomorrow.

As a long-time supply chain industry analyst, I offered my view on the benefit of having more highly experienced supply chain practitioners and leaders becoming adjunct faculty or lecturer roles in supply chain academic and continuous learning programs. While not having the prescribed academic credentials, students can acquire added insight from professionals who have both experienced successes and of setbacks related to organizational transformation, dealing with organizational cultures and change management, and in the successful deployment of technology enabled transformation.  The notion here is the blending of process, technology and interpersonal skills and of team interaction and motivation.

Ongoing Impacts of Advanced Technology

This Editor especially wanted to share some of the key highlights on our conversation related to continuing impacts of advanced technology. The current pace of ongoing change and advanced technology deployment now demands a continuous learning environment in all dimensions, academic, workplace and professional.

Abe pointed out that organizations often tend to overestimate advanced technology impact in the short term and then go on to underestimate impact in the long term. Examples are the initial hype focused on RFID or blockchain technologies, and now there is some applied application along with added learning on application use cases. There is now hype centered on generative AI and large language models. He observed  that in actual practice, it will be much more of a measure of an organization’s need or desire to invest. In the specific case generative AI, it will be the need for more timely knowledge and trending across multiple internal and external dimensions and the ability to more quickly bring together that information for analysts and strategists to evaluate.

All in all, this was a rather informative interview, one which all stakeholders of the extended global wide supply chain management community should dwell upon.


Bob Ferrari

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