Scholarly Pursuits

Aug 01, 2002 9:30 PM  By

Rust never sleeps, and learning never stops. These adages are as true for members of the supply chain industry as for any other, at least for managers who are intent on maintaining a skilled and flexible workforce.

According to a recent Accenture survey of approximately 200 Fortune 1000 chief executives, senior supply chain managers are extremely conscious of the importance of workforce learning. One of the top three issues related to planning is hiring and developing a workforce that is trained well enough to meet strategic goals.

Not only do executives feel that the competition for skilled employees remains fierce as ever; they believe that keeping existing talent trained and responsive to industry change is currently even more important than finding new employees.

Among other concerns highlighted by Accenture’s survey of supply chain executives is the appropriate response to the seemingly inevitable economic recovery. Although a solid recovery will be good news for supply chain professionals in general, it will also signal greater fluidity in the workforce, as more job choices open up.

Easy A

One of the obvious ways to address the issue of ongoing training is to utilize the potential of the Internet as a medium for training — in a word: e-learning. To meet this need, Accenture has developed an e-learning program called the Supply Chain Academy (SCA). The Supply Chain Academy encompasses several modes and courses that range from courses for warehouse operations personnel to modules specific to warehouse supervisors. “What we’ve done is focus on getting the base professional trained,” says Accenture partner Mike Mikurak, who is responsible for the SCA.

The SCA curriculum is structured around a core set of online courses that run about an hour and a half each and can be taken at any time, 24/7. Other, longer, courses can be scheduled as part of a program that includes interactions with academic or industry experts or Accenture professionals on significant supply chain topics. These expert-directed courses may take five to ten hours over a couple of days and be conducted in a video- or audio-conference format. One of the inventory management courses, for instance, involves team-based simulation activities with other students. Guided by the course instructor, “you show how that segment of the supply chain will affect your overall business,” Mikurak says.

For those students who are working on self-directed modules, SCA schedules time for the course administrators to participate in Web chat format on the site. Instructor availability times are posted for users. In addition, some chat times are linked to course feedback. For instance, if a student is taking a course on warehouse management and productivity, after a segment quiz that “makes sure you’ve captured the right kind of information,” Mikurak says, students can participate in Web chats on the subject they have just studied.

Syllabus in sync

In case the online, self-directed, e-learning format doesn’t fit a client’s needs, the Supply Chain Academy will design customized courses for old-fashioned, on-site classroom workshops. And the SCA hosts executive seminars on specific topics. Seminars incorporate expert speakers and executive roundtables.

In addition to the courses themselves, the Supply Chain Academy site offers general supply chain background information, a useful glossary of industry terms, links to professional organizations such as the Warehousing Education and Research Council and the Council of Logistics Management and related trade magazines, and a section for supply chain news postings.

The SCA, which has been operating since January this year, is currently available only to companies who buy user access licenses, though Accenture plans eventually to make courses available to individuals as well. For more information, visit www.accenture.com.