Over the last decade, the importance of supply chain and procurement has radically grown. Traditionally seen as a value-added function, or even arguably an afterthought at best, business all over the world have begun to significantly invest into their supply chain and procurement functions and firmly cementing them at a seat at the table as key business drivers. What this has unveiled however is a lack of training and development opportunities around the world. The question becomes one of, where does one look for supply chain and procurement skills?
One UK-based university looks to answer that question. Through a partnership with the Cranfield School of Management and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS), the Centre for Strategic Procurement and Supply Management (CSPSM) was created to improve the practice of procurement and supply management. It seeks to do this through the delivery of quality, research-led executive development procurement and supply activities and by providing world class linkages between business, academia and the profession of purchasing and supply. Cranfield has been a world leader in management education for more than 40 years and has been voted the most entrepreneurial university in Britain and one of Europe’s largest academic centres for applied research. In partnering with CIPS, Cranfield will leverage CIPS’s extensive network to create, develop and sustain a source of quality expertise in both today’s supply chain and procurement industry, and the industry of tomorrow.
“Strategic procurement and supply chain management lies at the heart of all good businesses and organisations. It can influence economies and be a force for public good…we have once again joined forces with Cranfield School of Management to develop that important relationship between theory and academia, and the practical through key business contacts,” says David Noble, CIPS CEO.
More than anything, the CSPSM is a response to an industry that, as it grows in strategic significance, is continuing to become more and more professionalised. As Soroosh Saghiri, Senior Lecturer and Course Director, argues, more and more people are recognising the concept of supply chain management and its significance to the success and growth of business regardless of industry sector. “People are finding in that any business, be it retail, manufacturing or service, the common connection is the supply chain,” he says. “So, if they cannot manage to hold up all of the activities and the materials, the procurement function in the supply chain, they will fail.”
“The growing understanding of the very concept of supply chain and its true value to business is opening up the opportunities that we provide in order to allow people to learn and deepen that understanding on a formal basis.”
Saghiri notes that the growing professionalisation of procurement started initially at post-graduate level because these people were already equipped with basic knowledge of business administration and business management. Over time, people looked to become specialists and so would turn to logistics or supply chain management and this has since bled into higher education and university level with the CSPSM as well as other leading universities across the UK and Europe.
As an industry that continues to grow in significance, the argument for electing in a career in supply chain and procurement management is clear, but that is very much a conversation centered on the business demands of future and the next generation of professionals. What of the business need of today?
“A business needs to be able to source and move things across locations to and from countries all over the world and that requires management of everything from A to Z and so to have knowledge and qualifications in supply chain management is extremely helpful,” says Saghiri. “Supply chain management does not have all the answers and isn’t going to be a catch-all solution, but it will provide people today and tomorrow with a very wide perspective of the nuances of the global procurement space.”
Technology has completely defined the modern world and continues to redefine the world of tomorrow and this is no different in the supply chain and procurement space. Cranfield and CIPS look to equip the professionals of today and the future with the knowledge and skills needed in order to succeed and so this digital disruption of the global industry has and will play a key role in its offering. Saghiri acknowledges that in actual fact, technology in the supply chain and procurement space is ahead of where the current capability of professionals is at. “Technology is moving and pushing all of the procurement and supply chain activity and so digital is where we are heading and arguably are at right now,” he says.
“Because we have better technologies to monitor what we are doing, to catch, gather and share data and that impacts the supply chain visibility immensely as we are at a point where we can see and monitor everything. Through this we can manage the whole supply chain better and enable greater efficiencies.”
But it’s not simply data technology that is redefining the industry, Saghiri points to the advent of 3D printing which creates “whole new business models and supply chains to fit those models.” This has major implications for the procurement and outsourcing part of the value chain. Couple this with back sourcing, a growing trend across the supply chain and procurement space in order to be closer to the market, and Saghiri admits that the university now teaches modules that were unheard of almost 10 years ago. “With a mix of technologies and new business models transforming many elements of supply chain and procurement, we are applying all those changes in our modules,” he says. “We change them all the time because the market the facilities and technology around us are all changing. We need to update all the time in order to continue to provide the best and industry relevant offering.”
The professionalisation of procurement and supply chain has come a long way in recent years, with CIPS and Cranfield opening new pathways to best practice across the industry, but there is still room for development. CIPS’s footprint spans the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, but it’s within the Middle East and Africa in particular where the industry is still maturing. Cranfield will continue to position itself firmly at the top as one of the leading education providers that, however the demand grows, will be there to create and foster the future generation of supply chain and procurement professionals.