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Supply Chain - at the Center of Business

Supply chain sits at the center of most modern organizations. Traditionally logistics was focused on moving material from one place to another, simply to ensure delivery of a certain product at a certain time and at a certain place. Today traditional logistics is still part of the equation, but the concept of supply chain has been developed to encompass a much broader set of processes. In essence supply chain involves the flow of material, money and information between players in the entire value chain - from suppliers of raw materials to the end consumers. The allure of supply chain today comes from its natural central position in the modern organization – as a business unit supply chain works closely with most if not all aspects of the organization; marketing, finance, IT, customer service, engineering, and quality to name a few. For more and more organizations supply chain is not only an essential requirement of their business, but also a way to gain a competitive advantage. For some it may even transform their entire business model.

Currently supply chain challenges are also growing more complex with increased globalization, and greater demand for responsiveness and customization from customers. As these challenges continue to grow the need for supply chain experts who can successfully manage these complexities increases day by day.

Careers in Supply Chain

As a function which touches upon multiple aspects of the organization, supply chain needs people with the ability to work cross-functionally – that is with a wide range of talents and a constant willingness to learn. A central position in the supply chain function requires the ability to understand how all the different parts of the business works together, as well as the capacity to communicate across these parts. This means that students with various backgrounds can potentially find a fit within supply chain. In the past however, supply chain – or rather logistics – was seen purely as a support function, and as such specialized training was uncommon. Today the study of supply chain is still a niche study when compared to say finance or marketing. This gives the graduates with good supply chain educations an unparalleled advantage in the job market. In addition to this, the supply chain function is not necessarily affected directly by macro events, such as the recent economic crisis. During downturns the focus on supply chain tends to strengthen as a push is made for increased efficiency and savings, while during upturns the focus is shifted towards increased availability of products and added benefits to the customers.

Why post-graduate study?

Due to the traditional views of logistics in the past, skilled supply chain professionals are rare and in high demand. With the relatively low number of educational institutions offering specialized supply chain degrees today, this trend is likely to remain for some time.

Case study of a unique education model – MIT Zaragoza Master’s in Logistics & Supply Chain Management, Zaragoza Logistics Center

The MIT-Zaragoza Master in Logistics & Supply Chain Management (ZLOG) is a program in a unique setting – a research lab fully focused on supply chain management based in the largest logistics park in Europe. ZLOG is an intensive nine-month course designed to create supply chain professionals with the skill set and experience required in today’s globalized supply chain industry environment. The average ZLOG student enters the program with 5 years of work experience (ranging from 0 to 10+ years) and an excellent academic track record, many with a second master degree already completed. In addition to developing analytical and leadership skills through the strong curriculum and extensive industry interaction, ZLOG students gain valuable international experience by studying in a diverse classroom environment at Zaragoza Logistics Center (ZLC) in Spain and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US.

By Ms. Marija Milenkovic, Director of International Education
Zaragoza Logistics Center, Spain and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US