By MATT NAYLOR
Let’s start at the very beginning (according to The Sound of Music, it’s a very good place to start) and ask ourselves – what is supply chain management (SCM)? It’s a term which we come across more often in today’s corporate environment, particularly as automation and big data begin to take hold.
“Supply chain management is about much more than just understanding how certain business processes are run.
“It’s getting people to understand the consequences of every action and every business decision, not just to the company they work for, but its rippling effects to customers, their customers’ customers, or even to the environment in general,” says Isaam Najib Rafee, managing director of Excel Minds Consultancy which has recently launched a specialist course on the subject.
“People often say that, for a business to be more successful, we need to increase sales.”
“They don’t realise that greater profits could just as easily be achieved by reducing our costs and managing our assets better, especially during an economic downturn.”
“That is why SCM is so important, as important even as sales.”
In essence, SCM is about streamlining every facet of the business to increase revenue, reduce costs and speed up processes, in a responsible and ethical way.
Your Bread and Butter
Understanding the concept of supply and demand, managing stock takes, and inventories, being able to draft legally-binding contracts, managing relationships with suppliers, managing finance, being environmentally and socially ethical – all fall under the umbrella of SCM.
Having a leader and a workforce well-versed in the subject is going to get any business ahead. From the top down, it should be the ABC of your business operations to ensure that people are doing their part to drive profits and build a competitive advantage.
It is not that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) has suddenly led to the creation of SCM, but it has certainly shone a spotlight onto it, which is why the right training for your staff is essential.
“Everyone talks about automation these days and how Industry 4.0 is changing the way businesses operate, but human competency is still the key to maximising a business potential,” says Isaam.
“Let’s say you’re hoping to do a transaction buying raw materials for your manufacturing plant.
“Automation will help to file the newly acquired raw materials and monitor your stocks and finances, but there still needs to be that initial human-to-human interaction at the beginning to complete the transaction.
“I can’t see a time in the future when humans will be completely replaced by robots and client management is one of the key examples of that.”
Indeed, equipping the human workforce to be Industry 4.0-ready has become the focal point of training providers the world over, and Excel Minds is no different.
But could instilling better business processes also help on a wider scale?
There is nothing surprising in pointing out that having highly-skilled people working in a company with smooth internal processes will see effective results.
But Isaam believes that a strong foundation of SCM training will help at a national level as well.
“A few years ago, we were looking at government strategies in terms of talent acceleration and identified that SCM was a core subject we wanted to focus on,” he says.
“As I worked through that and began to notice that Malaysia was becoming a logistic hub and the government’s drive to get Malaysia involved in e-commerce, it became more obvious that SCM was crucial to our national future.”
“Malaysia needs to attract foreign investment to propel it to the next level; if we are to achieve our goal to be a developed nation by 2020, we need as many multinational companies having bases here as possible.
“In order to do that, we need to have skilled people on the ground who can work for those companies and drive businesses forward.
“That is why achieving national goals is something every single person can be responsible for.”
The quality of training in Malaysia is certainly up to par and now, more and more organisations are beginning to take note and sending their high potential and most influential employees to learn the SCM skills that will help them thrive.
Equipping The Next Generation
The Excel Minds programme has already begun equipping the Malaysian workforce with SCM knowledge.
Accredited by the International Trade Centre (ITC, an organisation under the purview of the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO)), and recognised by the European Institute of Purchasing Management (EIPM) and the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), the programme covers every aspect of SCM in the modern world. The initiative is supported locally by the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) and the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF).
“SCM is a very simple concept, but it can also get very technical. This is where a lot of employees within the business fail to grasp the magnitude of its implementation,” says Excel Minds professional trainer Jaafar Abu.
“Those who have been through the programme suddenly have a huge advantage in the workplace and their employers will notice that effect immediately.
“Their understanding of the whole business operation and the various processes that go into it is the only way that they can become a truly valuable employee.”
Jaafar is one of the trainers teaching the ITC SCM programme, with colleague Affan Nawi sharing the sentiment of how important it is in today’s marketplace.
“No company globally can be successful without implementing a world-class SCM programme,” says Affan.
“SCM is pivotal in leapfrogging Malaysia’s logistics to become world class. Faster, cost effective and better requirements are the ingredients to successful supply chain.
“The ITC SCM programme is a key element to enhance the capabilities on supply chain and make Malaysia a competitive nation.”
Those in the programme come from a wide range of industries, seniority levels, job scopes and age groups. Yet, each is driven by the same goal of maximising their own personal input for the company’s better output.
“The trainers for each topic are real practitioners and experts in this field who are open to share their experiences so we can relate them back to our own companies,” says Sharifah Jamilah Syed Hussain, senior manager for procurement and contracts at Kemaman Bitumen Company.
“We always anticipate learning each topic as it comes while consistently being reminded and tested on all that has come before it.
“This is an excellent learning technique to ensure we remember the important facts and apply them to enhance our performance and increase our competitive edge.”
“This programme allows me to work on an existing supply chain issue with the client and provide a best-practice recommendation,” says Nurul Nadia from Shimadzu Manufacturing Asia.
“I was able to merge the tools I learnt in the classroom along with my experience to provide the client with a meaningful solution.”
As the world becomes more connected globally, understanding SCM and having an international perspective becomes more crucial in today’s world of big data and automation. This is especially so for the small and medium-sized enterprises that account for more than 98% of companies operating in Malaysia, plus the government’s 2020 goals to increase exports and gross domestic product.
It is therefore heartening to see that there are courses being provided and steps being taken to ensure that Malaysia remains competitive on a global scale in this sector.
Excel Minds and their newest training programme are ensuring that businesses of all sizes have the right people and processes in place to thrive internationally.
After all, SCM is a simple concept and can be executed easily with the right training and guidance. Hence, it should not be overlooked by any company in today’s day and age.