Interview with Ben Chew, Business Director, TBC HR Consulting Pte Ltd
1. What are the challenges to supply chain workforce recruitment in Asia? Tell us more about the current state of the job market and the ongoing talent crunch.
One of the main challenges to supply chain recruitment in Asia is attracting young talent and finding means to bridge the talent-skill mismatch – wherein employers harbour high expectations from graduates coming out of schools, and in terms of aligning suitable roles and responsibilities with skills to meet the industry demands.
While at one end of the spectrum, government agencies and educational institutions are working towards bridging the mismatch gap with initiatives to infuse training early on in the academic curriculum, a career is logistics and supply chain is chosen by a rare few. Hence there is dearth of skilled manpower in this sector.
Logistic is establishing itself rapidly as a key sector in Singapore economy, and the demand for professionals in this sector is increasing steadily. To meet the talent crunch, there has been an upshot in hiring of foreign talent for skilled job roles in the supply chain and logistics sector in Asia. Also significant consolidation seems to be garnering much spotlight in the supply chain world of operations.
Considering the new industry renewal plan, unveiled by the Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam recently, there will be exciting job opportunities for Singaporeans in logistics and supply chain. The Government further intends to hand out 50 SkillsFuture Study Awards to encourage Singaporeans to develop new skills demanded by the logistics sector of the future.
2. With the dawn of the automation era, what have been the significant game-changing trends in recruiting workforce for supply chain operations?
Mechanical functions in supply chain and logistic operations will soon be replaced by robots. Automation undoubtedly offers a cost-effective alternative to human labour. However, jobs that require skilled technical manpower and human intervention can never be replaced.
Automation in distribution centres have led to increased cost-efficiencies, maximised savings and enhanced performance output, since robots never call-in sick days or miss work. Hence, product supply chain delays can be completely avoided through use of automated technologies. Large MNCs and SMEs alike are now opting for robots to take over planning and management roles.
However, in the sphere of recruitment use of advanced automation has led to quick and effective background screening of candidates. Also technical proficiencies of applicants can be tested using robots, during rounds of interviews and prompt scores can be made available using automated tools.
The robotic evolution has created demand for an entirely new set of workers with technical skillsets to control workings of dehumanised systems. Also an entirely new set of tools are available for the production line manager to now smoothly transition to robotic systems using standard parameters, set of commands and harness on the potentials of IoT.
3. How do you think organisations into SCM and logistics in Singapore can work towards bridging the industry-academia gap when it comes to training fresh grads to meet competitive industry demands?
Organisation into SCM and logistics in Singapore are required to step up to the industrial revolution 4.0 and train fresh graduates with on-the-job training to stay competitive. While the shift is alarming, and change is dynamic, organisations need to collaborate with the academia to introduce training programmes and workshops to train students in supply chain technology.
Graduates with a technical bent of mind, flexibility and agility to adapt and learn will be in demand by logistic and supply chain majors. While artificial intelligence is threatening many job roles to go obsolete, there are many job roles that have stood the test of time to require human intervention despite advancements.
Government of Singapore needs to take several initiatives to amend the educational curriculum and encourage institutions to inculcate technical training as an integral part of the supply chain management programme, and train fresh graduates to stay abreast of the industry trends.
In these times of change, talent retention is also one major challenge faced by global organisations, more evident into the supply chain realm of operations. It is required by companies to look upto people as valuable assets and invest continuously into their training and development, to set pace with the tech-savvy future.
Flexi-working arrangements and other employee benefits will help companies retain the talented workforce in supply chain.
4. How can industry-academia collaborate to provide next generation training programs for students to meet the changing demands of the SCM industry?
While there has been quite industry uproar that, automation has resulted in loss of lower-skilled jobs. Automation in a way has also led to evolution of new job roles in process design, automation, and supply chain operations. Industry-academia need to collaborate and work in tandem to develop next generation training programme to groom talent for the techie future.
As recently, The Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and the Supply Chain and Logistics Academy (SCALA) launched the Logistics Professional Conversion Program (PCP) to reskill working Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs) who are keen to join the logistics industry.
Also, the International Enterprise (IE) Singapore and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) have joined forces to retrain mid-career professionals for the international trading sector. ICC Academy’s industry-relevant Global Trade Certificate (GTC) programme is initiated to train graduates with knowledge on letter of credits to supply chain financing, operations and understanding trade finance from the banking perspective.
5. What are the bottlenecks to leadership training and development in Supply Chains across Asia?
Quite evident, are these two bottlenecks to leadership training and development in Supply Chains across Asia:
• Need for training programmes to develop mature leaders in association with the government to develop best practices and accelerate the supply chain transformation through leveraging disruptive technologies.
• Leaders today have limited supply chain knowledge and the industry is facing dearth of experienced professionals in leadership roles in manufacturing, distribution, supply chain management and planning roles. Leadership training needs to be provided to experience mid-level professionals to stay abreast of the technological advancements and leverage on the IoT.
6. How can organisations in Singapore capitalise on the power of data to find, recruit and train best talent in Supply Chain?
Since supply chain operations are generating massive amounts of data, artificial intelligence in turn is helping companies analyse the vast amount of data, gain a better understanding and perspective of the variables in supply chain and anticipate future demand-supply trends.
Use of artificial intelligence in supply chain will help businesses to evolve and innovate rapidly, create an agile supply chain process flow that is capable of dealing with economic downturns, change in consumer demands and uncertainties.
Automated tools can be used to streamline the recruitment process in supply chain, churn out the best talent from the pool and recruit them for suitable job roles quickly. Candidate background screening can be made possible at rapid pace with automated technologies.
Technology can be used to develop training programs to bridge the talent-skills mismatch gap witnessed by supply chain companies in Asia through data mining and analysis.
The use of AI in supply chains can ultimately help in spawning an ecosystem, wherein supply chains link each other seamlessly for smooth flow of processes and human resource transition to technical middle-level job roles remains unaffected. Further productivity and quality of products delivered remains uncompromised, to meet customer satisfaction goals.