How workforce planning & development can improve supply chains

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A study by the World Economic Forum (WEF) found that reducing global supply chain barriers could increase world GDP by nearly 5% and boost international trade by almost 15%.  The study concludes that addressing barriers could be six times more beneficial.

Shortages in the supply chain capability poses a challenge to employers and Australia’s economy as a whole but workforce planning and development strategies can support growth.

Internationalisation

The internationalisation of production has given rise to complex cross-border flows of goods, activities, people, information and resources, otherwise known as supply chain trade.  Companies can improve their system – the process of moving products from supplier to customer – through workforce planning and development.  For example, fast and efficient processes and procedures have been specifically highlighted as being important to the smooth operation of value chains and to boosting competitiveness.

Workforce issues & how to fix them

Let’s have a look at four common issues for enterprises connected in a supply chain – and how they can be fixed.

Problem #1: Lack of access to trade-related information

Solution: Online tools for providing feedback and accessing inquiries, summary guides on procedures, user manuals available online, guidance on how to undertake appeal procedures, and quick references among web pages with user friendly guidance on key issues.

Problem #2: Poor communication between stakeholders

Solution: Structures and frequencies of consultations with stakeholder groups, including project managers, paying client organisation, participating networks, team members, community and external groups, and the end user.  The key is to know how to connect into this organisational grid and how to identify tipping-point key stakeholders and their value propositions.

Problem #3: Varying business cycles

Solution: Understand various cycles when attracting and recruiting employees.  For example, November and December may post challenges to retail and distribution companies experiencing the holiday rush, while January and February may pose another challenge due to the possibility of lay-offs.

Problem #4: Complicated trade documents

Solution: The simplification of trade documents

These may include for example documents required as part of governmental procedures, supply chain management and payment requirements.  National and international businesses, traders and transport operators have to cope with numerous documents and forms, often containing redundant and repetitive data and information.

Simplifying trade documents aims at reducing document and data requirements, reducing time and error, and harmonising data elements that facilitate the document transmission between countries.

Problem #5: Lack of internal & external border agency co-operation

Solution: National legislation encouraging cooperation and coordination, responsibilities clearly defined, documentary and physical controls, control delegation from other border agencies to customs at the national level, regular meetings and exchange programs.  Workforce development can help prepare employees with the skills involved in leadership, management, negotiation and team skills.  A recent report by Southern Cross University described these skills as “crucial for world-class purchasing professionals.”  Many of them can be gained through short courses and on-the-job development.

There are other solutions that businesses operating supply chains can integrate.  This includes employing a value-chain approach to trade sector strategy development, sharing information about target markets, consumer standards, financing and legal practices, and supporting independent professional knowledge.

Key skills are required to successfully operate in a supply chain network.

The supply chain workforce needs to be able to problem solve, collaborate with team members, communicate with customers, plan and organise, manage conflict and enable technology.  There is a focus on applying academic learning including cognitive functions and thinking styles, maths, statistics, analytical thinking, and reading and writing for comprehension. An awareness of others, integrity, interpersonal skills and creativity are also important traits of the supply chain employee.

Workforce planning & development in supply chains

There are options for businesses wanting to improve their supply chain capabilities.

Southern NSW Harvest, for example, offers a range of free, half-day regional business skills workshops.  Courses include Managing Customer and Supplier Relationships, How to Write Tenders that Stand Out and Win, and Capability Statements and Value Propositions.

Delivered by RESA and Austmine, the South Australian Supply Chain Development program develops businesses by leading them on a development pathway to enter the Australian resources industry supply chain.

Participants will understand how to develop many skills including an understanding of the resources market, the ability to define and refine their value proposition, an understanding of how to create a “point of difference” with competitors, and business development skills for strategy development and direction for marketing position.

The Australian Government also runs a supply chain facilitation program for Australian small and medium businesses looking to improve their supply chain performance and better connect.  The program is tailored to assist and enable eligible businesses to participate in domestic and global supply chains, generate sustainable business growth and find opportunities to connect and network with their customers.

Companies participating in domestic and global supply chains looking to generate sustainable business growth and improve customer and supplier relationships should focus on workforce development.

Supply chain management is about people, expertise and performance – not only about processes.  A workforce plan can help the supply chain workforce become ‘job ready’, build skills, confidence and resilience for success, while assisting employers to meet their future labour requirements.

If you would like to know more about implementing workforce strategies in your enterprise or supply chain, please contact Wendy Perry via wendy@wb.switchstartscale.com.au.

August 2015

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