Roundtable Discussion Sponsored by CSCSC
CT&L Roundtable to be Featured in Magazine and in Online TV Program
The Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council and Canadian Transportation & Logistics magazine joined forces on January 20 to bring together a group of eight supply chain employees for a discussion of their careers and opinions of the sector. Participants were selected to be representative of the diversity in the supply chain sector; they ranged in age, in geographical location, in educational background, and in their areas of knowledge and experience. Industry, academia and government were represented. Newcomers to Canada were also included.
- Cindy Brown, Supply Chain Manager at Farmers Dairy in Halifax, N.S.
- Garland Chow, Associate Professor, Operations & Logistics at the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business in Vancouver, B.C.
- Danny Daly, Client Solutions Manager at Trusted Retail Solutions in Mississauga, Ont.
- Alain Guerard, Supply Chain Manager at the City of Calgary
- Juliane Hennig, Senior Purchasing Officer at SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary, Alta.
- Dave Jupp, Managing Director of Near North Customs Brokers Inc. in Barrie, Ont.
- Michel Tanguay, Regional Manager – Sales for Albatrans-Robert Logistics Group Inc. of Montreal, Que.
- Sher Zaman, Director, Human Resources for Supply Chain Management Inc. in Mississauga, Ont.
Their two-hour conversation, led by CT&L’s Editorial Director Lou Smyrlis, was taped for use in eight to ten clips on CT&L’s “Transportation Matters” web TV show, which, in mid-December, was ranked the 28th-most-viewed YouTube channel in its category (Reporters – Canada) for that particular week. A transcript of the discussion will also be presented in the magazine in coming months.
Focused on participants’ personal experiences in the sector, the discussion touched on such human-resource-related topics as attraction to the sector, retention of employees, leadership, education, the value of designations, the impact of technology, and personal motivation.
Not too surprisingly, most of the participants “fell into” the supply chain, but, although they didn’t exactly choose to make a career in the sector, they’ve stayed because they love the pace, the diversity and the opportunity. This falling into the supply chain as a way of entering the sector may be diminishing, however. Garland Chow sees industry expanding its presence on university campuses to get the message out about careers in the supply chain. Increasingly, he says, students are choosing supply chain studies as a result.
While technical and analytical skills can be taught in school or on the job, it seems that other skills that are harder to teach are rising in importance in the sector. The abilities to work as part of a team and to communicate well were stressed, along with inter-personal and negotiation skills. The sector’s emphasis on partnering demands that its successful practitioners have solid soft skills, as well as a firm understanding of the technical aspects of their jobs. A good grasp of the organization’s overall needs and functions appears to be another important attribute of a good supply chain manager.
While teamwork is an essential element of supply chain undertakings, leadership is equally important, according to participants. Although leadership takes different forms, depending on a person’s role – Danny Daly, for instance, leads by example, jumping in to help others get a job done; Alain Guerard focuses more on the ability to influence – it is of primary importance, says Sher Zaman. That’s why his company provides internal leadership-development programs to employees.
Are supply chain education and designations required to make a career in this field? It depends on who you talk to and, probably, what your role is in the sector. To fill entry-level positions, Dave Jupp looks for people with a willingness to work and a positive attitude, but focuses more on education when hiring higher-level employees. Cindy Brown sees a supply chain education as an indicator of real interest in the sector and a good base for development. Mentoring and on-the-job training, according to Cindy, are critical to build an employee’s skills and knowledge.
Alain Guerard, on the other hand, doesn’t think that new hires must necessarily have a supply chain education. Alain likes to hire young people who are good communicators, who can be mentored by older employees to develop the skill set necessary to do well in their jobs.
Participants agreed on the merits of continued learning, whether it’s achieved through formal education, on-the-job training, attending seminars or conferences, networking or reading. Dave Jupp believes that individuals with career aspirations owe it to themselves to be educated and to stay up-to-date in their field.
Although their roles vary, many participants enjoy their ability to “make a difference” for their respective organizations. Michel Tanguay knows that, in his work, he has a major impact on the success of both his clients and his own company. Cindy Brown agrees; she noted that opportunities abound for those in supply chain roles to make an impact.
What motivates other participants in their careers? Juliane Hennig, for one, is never bored. Her enthusiasm for her work is clear. Alain Guerard’s is, too…he loves his work. According to Garland Chow, students today are looking for jobs in the sector with growth opportunities; even as they interview for jobs, they want to know about the prospects for ongoing training.
Talking about the year to come, participants were perhaps unexpectedly optimistic about the opportunities open to supply chain managers to shine, as Juliane Hennig put it. The economy may be bad, but supply chain practitioners are in a good position to help their organizations and Canadian industry to rebuild. Michel Tanguay believes that strong, lean supply chains will be the motor to restart the economy. Danny Daly thinks that the process finetuning that companies are undertaking as they deal with the downturn will eventually improve their performances. Dave Jupp thinks so, too. By focusing now on inefficiencies, companies will come out of the recession stronger, he says.
Find out what else was said: watch out for video clips of the discussion appearing throughout the year on CT&L’s website, at www.ctl.ca
, and for a full transcript of the conversation in print.
Continuous Improvement in the Classroom
This month, I attended meetings at which the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council, in conjunction with the Canadian Standards Association, assembled stakeholders to discuss the creation of standards for the accreditation of training and education programs in the sector. Like any standards, these are planned to be objective yardsticks. Educational programs or courses that are submitted for review and meet the requirements specified in the standard, once finalized, will be accredited by the Council.
Discussion at one point focused on communication between students and teachers, which got me thinking about the divide between ideal-world and real-world communication in learning environments.
One of the principles put forward at the meeting was that of lifelong learning. I enjoy the parallel of this concept with continuous-improvement supply chain philosophies, such as kaizen.
In a professional setting, there is no room for knowledge building that fails to be applicable in the workplace. Operating with this in mind, students/trainees should ideally receive feedback on their course submissions, as well as in related areas such as problem solving (e.g., "You missed the main issue"), presentation and writing (e.g., "I can’t understand your argument"), and working with teams (e.g., "You caused disruptive tension with your classmates").
On the other side of the equation, instructors also require feedback that provides information about both the degree of customer satisfaction (e.g., "You demonstrated knowledge and answered questions") and the teacher's effectiveness (e.g., "You made it easy for me to pay attention and learn").
Through this kind of communication, teacher and student answer each other’s question, “What can I do to be more successful in doing my job/building my career?” Since, in an ideal world, both parties subscribe to the principle of lifelong learning, each will want the information that answers his respective question, to enable him to improve his performance.
The attitudes of teachers and students will never be standardized, but you can count on market forces to keep the parties somewhat aligned: students won’t waste their time in programs that don’t deliver value, teachers want to remain employed, and institutions want to attract students.
Many evaluations, rather than providing objective information that would help a student or teacher truly develop skills, address questions such as:
- Was it fun? or,
- Did I get a good mark?
And consider, would a teacher really be open to feedback that indicates, for example, that she is boring or her thinking is outdated?
Most of the training that I am involved with focuses on skill building (in negotiations and communications, for example), so, as with golf and languages, there is always potential for growth. I will confess to not always wanting it, but I do solicit and appreciate feedback from my students and clients. It is easy, however, to see how the commitment to lifelong learning could waver on either side of the equation.
Chris Irwin works with organizations undergoing change to reduce interpersonal noise in cross-functional and cross-generational communications. He is on faculty at the Schulich School of Business, and teaches in PMAC’s Strategic Supply Chain Management Leadership Program. He blogs on related issues at www.microob.com
, and can be reached through that website.
Conference Board Survey on Adult Learning
The Conference Board of Canada is looking at adult learning issues. They want to know your views on education and training opportunities.
What motivates adults in Canada to take part in education and training? What challenges do adults face when making education and training decisions?
By participating in the survey, you will help to improve education and training opportunities for adults in Canada.
Recent Canadian Chamber of Commerce Reports
Several reports issued by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in recent months may be of interest to supply chain practitioners. Visit http://www.chamber.ca/article.asp?id=3057
to find the following reports and more.
- Economic Outlook 09 – released December 22, 2008
- A Canada-U.S. Border Vision – released December 8, 2008
- Moving the Canadian Economy, Four Pillars For A National Transportation Strategy – released November 25, 2008
- Building a Twenty-First Century Workforce: A Business Strategy to Overcome Canada’s Skills Crisis – released November 7, 2008
- An Action Plan for a Competitive Canada – released September 23, 2008
Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association and A.N. Deringer, "10 + 2" Seminar
, January 27, Toronto, Ont.
January 27: London, Ont.
February 5: Mississauga, Ont.
Supply Chain & Logistics Association Canada – Toronto Chapter, Supply Chain Strategy: What Are the Leaders Doing?
: February 5, Woodbridge, Ont.
: February 10, Calgary, Alta.
Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association, Half-day International-trade Workshops
February 10: Letters of Credit (a.m.), Risks Forwarders Face (p.m.)
March 3: Cargo Insurance (a.m.), Incoterms (p.m.)
March 31: Cargo Insurance (a.m.), Incoterms (p.m.)
April 1: Letters of Credit (a.m.), Risks Forwarders Face (p.m.)
April 21: Cargo Insurance (a.m.), Incoterms (p.m.)
April 22: Letters of Credit (a.m.), Risks Forwarders Face (p.m.)
Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association, Air Dangerous Goods Training
Initial: February 10 to 12, April 21 to 23; recurrent: February 11 and 12, April 22 and 23
Initial: February 10 to 12; recurrent: February 11 and 12
Initial: February 17 to 19, April 28 to 30; recurrent: February 18 and 19, April 29 and 30
Initial: February 24 to 26; recurrent: February 25 and 26
Initial: March 3 to 5; recurrent: March 4 and 5
Montreal (en français)
Initial: April 28 to 30; recurrent: April 29 and 30
Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association, Air Cargo Security Coordinator Training
Initial: February 11; recurrent: February 12
Initial: February 23; recurrent: February 24
Supply Chain & Logistics Association Canada – Toronto Chapter, Tour: Whirlpool Canada
, February 12, Milton, Ont.
Supply Chain & Logistics Association Canada and Canadian Industrial Transportation Association, Supply Chain Leadership – Raising the Bar
, featuring the Transpo 2009 Exhibition, April 28 and 29, Vaughan, Ont.
Joint Learning Initiative and Van Horne Institute, Supply Chains and the Environment: Connecting Business Strategies and Sustainability
, May 25 and 26, Calgary, Alta.
McMaster University, Translog 2009
, June 17 and 18, Hamilton, Ont.