Professor Booi Kam is the Program Director of Supply Chain and Logistics Management at RMIT University
The supply chain and logistics sector is experiencing a digital revolution. Technological advances in automation, transportation and consumer insights are driving significant employment growth and workforce opportunities.
Thinking about the nature of this revolution, it’s important for those of us working in the supply chain and logistics sector to ensure we have the skills necessary to stay competitive in the employment market and to take advantage of the opportunities these changes present for business.
A recent report from Deloitte Access Economics, The future of work: Occupational and education trends in supply chain and logistics in Australia, found that people who invest in management and commerce postgraduate study will have the most to gain from these opportunities, enjoying a lifetime wage premium of 48 per cent compared to those with no post-school qualifications.
Further insight from the report paints a very positive picture for those working in the sector: in 2016-17, professionals with relevant postgraduate qualifications had an average annual salary of $140,949, which is 66 per cent more than those who have no post-school qualifications. In five years’ time, post graduate qualified professionals should expect to earn an average of $164,360. That’s an impressive rise of 14.3 per cent.
The Deloitte report also suggests that our supply chain and logistics workforce is expected to grow from 145,000 people in 2016-17 to 161,000 in 2021-22. That represents annual growth of 2.1 per cent over the next five years – which is over double the 1.5 per cent expected for the overall Australian workforce. The strongest growth will be for those in the role of supply distribution manager, at 3.1 per cent, but it is encouraging to see such strong growth across the board.
What are the key drivers of growth?
Technological innovation is proving to be one of the main drivers of change in the field. We are seeing significant opportunities for applying data analytics to improve operations across functions, such as demand forecasting, inventory management and supply chain visualisation.
The use of crowdsourcing apps, drones and driverless cars will play a key role in logistics transactions. For businesses, it means a fundamental change to the way they think and operate locally and globally, and it’s those businesses that choose to adopt an omni-channel model that will have the competitive edge.
We are also noticing that consumers are shifting away from the traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ stores to online purchases and e-commerce sites. This has – and will continue to have – an impact on delivery and transportation services. With an increase in demand, there will be a growing need to deliver efficient services and customer management processes.
How valuable is further study for supply chain professionals?
As the sector evolves, due to its complex and dynamic structures, as well as advancements in technology, there’s no doubt that there will be greater demand for qualified professionals with superior skills.
Further study will develop these advanced skills in areas such as business strategy, project management and analytical modelling, for example. Not only will it provide logistics and supply chain professionals with a better understanding of how certain skills and knowledge can be applied in their job, it will make them life-long learners. Life-long learning is a necessity to ensure people can stay abreast of the constant change, preparing them for senior managerial roles in this exciting area.
Further study can provide a formal qualification for people who have a wealth of industry experience, and a fast-tracked career progression for others. For those who are employed in a different field, postgraduate study will help them to switch into a supply chain management role as they see this sector as one of growth and opportunity.
Professor Booi Kam is the Program Director of Supply Chain and Logistics Management at RMIT University, Melbourne.