October 7, 2023

The crucial role of education in the supply chain profession


By Bart De Muynck

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FreightWaves or its affiliates.

This week I attended the Council for Supply Chain Management Professionals’ Edge conference in Orlando, Florida. This council, known by most as CSCMP, celebrates its 60th birthday this year and it plays a crucial role in the education of supply chain professionals. 

It was great to see many supply chain colleagues at this event and have conversations around the current topics in the industry. Even more exciting was the attendance of many supply chain students from across the U.S. and even Europe. It is clear in talking to them and hearing their enthusiasm about our profession that supply chain is in good hands.

In today’s world, the supply chain profession is the backbone of global commerce. It ensures that goods move seamlessly from production to consumption, impacting everything from product availability on store shelves to the efficiency of online shopping. Education plays a pivotal role in preparing professionals for the complexities of supply chain management. Additionally, effective leadership is indispensable for navigating this intricate landscape and driving innovation and growth.

In the last decade, we have seen universities excel in their supply chain programs, from the University of Arkansas to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville to newer programs like at the University of South Florida. I have personally had the pleasure of speaking at most of those universities and I will be speaking at several more in the coming weeks and months. As an industry expert and adviser, I see education and providing students with insights on the practical realities of supply chain management and the technologies used as a vital part of my profession. Sharing our knowledge should be a core function of every supply chain professional. It’s only if we all come together that we can really transform this industry and create progress for the greater good of all.

Why is education so important in supply chain management? Supply chains are no longer simple linear processes. They are global, multifaceted networks. 

Education equips supply chain professionals with the knowledge to understand the complexities of international trade, regulations and logistics, enabling them to make informed decisions. The supply chain profession is constantly evolving. 

New technologies, strategies and sustainability initiatives emerge regularly. Education provides professionals with the tools to stay current and adapt to industry changes. Supply chains are susceptible to various risks, including disruptions, economic fluctuations and cybersecurity threats. 

Education equips individuals with the skills to identify, assess and mitigate these risks effectively. Big data and analytics — which I regularly write about — are transforming supply chain operations. Professionals need to understand how to harness data to optimize processes, reduce costs and enhance customer experiences. Sustainability is a growing concern in supply chain management. 

Education in this field ensures that professionals can integrate sustainable practices into their strategies, contributing to environmental and social responsibility.

But education alone isn’t enough. It needs to go hand in hand with a new and powerful type of leadership. 

Effective leaders in the supply chain profession should possess a strategic vision. They can align supply chain operations with overall business goals, driving efficiency and profitability. Supply chains are subject to constant change. Leaders must be adept at managing change initiatives, whether it involves implementing new technologies, processes or supply chain models. Collaboration is key in supply chain management, both within the organization and with external partners. Leaders foster a culture of cooperation, ensuring that all stakeholders work together seamlessly. Challenges are inevitable in the supply chain, from unexpected disruptions to resource constraints. Leaders excel in problem-solving, finding innovative solutions to complex issues. Effective leaders need to understand the importance of talent development, especially if they want to fulfill their promise of digital transformation. 

As I have said many times before, digital transformation requires a different mindset and requires digital talent. One of the main tasks of leadership is to mentor and nurture the next generation of supply chain professionals, ensuring a strong pipeline of skilled individuals.

In the supply chain profession, education and leadership are symbiotic forces that drive success. Education equips professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the complexities of the field, stay updated on industry trends and make informed decisions. Meanwhile, effective leadership is essential for strategic alignment, change management, collaboration, problem-solving and talent development. 

Together, these elements ensure that supply chains remain efficient, resilient and responsive to the ever-changing demands of the global marketplace. As the world of supply chain management continues to evolve, the importance of education and leadership will remain undeniably crucial.

Look for more articles from me every Friday on freightwaves.com.

About the author


Bart De Muynck is an industry thought leader with over 30 years of supply chain and logistics experience. He has worked for major international companies, including EY, GE Capital, Penske Logistics and PepsiCo, as well as several tech companies. He also spent eight years as a vice president of research at Gartner and, most recently, served as chief industry officer at project44. He is a member of the Forbes Technology Council and CSCMP’s Executive Inner Circle.


The second annual F3: Future of Freight Festival will be held in Chattanooga, “The Scenic City,” this November. F3 combines innovation and entertainment — featuring live demos, industry experts discussing freight market trends for 2024, afternoon networking events, and Grammy Award-winning musicians performing in the evenings amidst the cool Appalachian fall weather.

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