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SCDigest Expert Insight: Supply Chain by Design

About the Author

Dr. Michael Watson, one of the industry’s foremost experts on supply chain network design and advanced analytics, is a columnist and subject matter expert (SME) for Supply Chain Digest.

Dr. Watson, of Northwestern University, was the lead author of the just released book Supply Chain Network Design, co-authored with Sara Lewis, Peter Cacioppi, and Jay Jayaraman, all of IBM. (See Supply Chain Network Design – the Book.)

Prior to his current role at Northwestern, Watson was a key manager in IBM's network optimization group. In addition to his roles at IBM and now at Northwestern, Watson is director of The Optimization and Analytics Group.

By Dr. Michael Watson

June 10, 2014

Become more Analytics-Driven to Recruit Talent

If Supply Chain Managers Become More Analytics-Driven, They will Likely Find a Larger Pool of New Hires Interested in Supply Chain

Dr. Watson Says:

...After all, the supply chain is full of very interesting data, interesting visualization problems, and the need for better predictions...
What Do You Say?

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There is has been quite a lot of talk about the need to bring in new supply chain talent.  A recent SCDigest blog post by Cliff Holste even mentioned that the supply chain industry faced a crisis if it cannot recruit the next generation of leaders.

One thing that I have noticed that would help supply chain managers recruit would be to become more analytics-driven.  Analytics is quite a hot topic right now.  Many universities are quickly creating new programs in Analytics. 

I’ve been teaching in Northwestern’s full time Masters in Analytics program since its inception two years ago and, the students coming into the analytics program are exactly the kind of people we should be recruiting into the supply chain.  They are bright, energetic, and willing to learn new technology.  And, coming out of the program, they are eager to apply their new skills.

Unfortunately, they don’t see the supply chain as an interesting place to hone their new skills.  Instead, they are taking their talents and applying analytics in social media, e-commerce, and marketing. 

There is no reason that supply chain can’t be right up on that list. 

After all, the supply chain is full of very interesting data, interesting visualization problems, and the need for better predictions. 

The supply chain team has data on every shipment, has data on what products are ordered by which customers, and has streaming data on equipment performance and failures. 

Previous Columns by Dr. Watson

The Three Use Cases for Data Scientists

Learn Python, PuLP, Jupyter Notebooks, and Network Design

EOQ Model and the Hidden Costs of Fixed Costs

CSCMP Edge - Nike Quote: "It is All an Art Project Until you Get it on Someone's Feet"

Supply Chain by Design: Why Business Leaders should think of AI as an Umbrella Term


With visualization (an important aspect of analytics with some nice new technology), there is a need for concise dashboards, the need to geographically represent the supply chain, and the need to figure out how to convey the complexity of the supply chain in ways that are understandable. 

And, the supply chain is ripe with the need for better predictions:  how can we predict what a customer may order next week?  How can we predict how much may sell in a given store?  How can we predict when equipment may fail? 

If managers want to bring in the next generation of talent (and especially analytics talent), they should create positions that work on the analytics problems available in the supply chain.  This will appeal to a new generation of future leaders. 

Final Thoughts:

Of course, this will also help force the rest of the supply chain to become more analytical—which it should anyway.

Recent Feedback

I  am very glad that an article was done on this topic. I am a true believer that analytics can be applied in real time to monitor the metrics, predict risks, suggest improvements and optimise supply chains. To address the business plan points and for better business performance, analytics needs to be applied. Every company needs to recognise this opportunity and  get the talent in place to make the best use of the technological advances in analytics. 

Vidya M Shankar
Business Analyst
Ex IBM , Independent Consultant
Jun, 20 2014