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Addressing the shortage of competent staff in supply chain management

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A recent World Bank report, produced by the Kühne Logistics University, highlighted the fact that there is a global shortage of competent supply chain professionals. This shortage is acute, not only in developed economies but also in developing ones – and at all grades of personnel, from blue-collar to the strategic level.


Supply chains provide the backbone of an economy, and it is interesting to see that the current uncertainty in the UK about Brexit has highlighted the importance of having integrated, time-sensitive supply chains. For example, the Freight Transport Association in the UK says that spending two minutes checking vehicles at the Channel Tunnel may lead to a 27-mile tailback on the M2.


Who is ultimately responsible for building up a cadre of supply chain professionals to relieve this shortage? We all have a role to play. This includes governments, training organisations (such as universities and private companies), professional associations and of course individuals themselves. Working together we can bridge the gap between supply and demand.

The European Logistics Association’s (ELA) key mission is to promote the profession in supply chain management and to develop competent supply-chain professionals as well as improving the competence of current professionals. The ELA is a federation of national logistics associations and via this network it reaches around 50,000 logistics professionals.


The ELA’s goal is to promote the profession, but it does not represent the logistics sector, as supply chain professionals can be working in many different areas, including logistics organisations, 3PLs, manufacturing , food, retail , healthcare and many others. The ELA, as a neutral body, can play a key role in providing tools and using its network to fill the gap of skilled professionals.

In the 1990s the ELA developed standards of competence for professionals in supply chain management, by mapping the functions in logistics and supply chain, to draw up profiles for people working at different levels within the profession. These standards were developed in collaboration with the industry itself in order to answer to the needs of the market. The standards of competence are updated regularly to ensure that they remain current and relevant to the profession.

The ELA’s standards are now adopted by the World Bank, which uses them in its logistics performance index [LPI), as well as projects of the European Investment Bank and the United Nations. At the moment the certification based on these standards is available in more than 25 countries.


Besides the standards of competence, there are other ways to promote the profession in order to attract people to job opportunities in supply chain functions. Companies, schools, organisations and others are invited to open their doors on International Supply Chain Day. Organised annually on the third Thursday of April, next year’s event will be on the 18th – the day to celebrate the supply chain profession.

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