Without a doubt, supply chain jobs are undergoing rapid evolution. Professionals are now required to reach beyond their traditional field of expertise and develop cross-functional, cross-cultural and cross-country leadership skills, so a CEO of a leading procurement organisation has stated.

APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi shared his observations on the changing face of supply chain jobs with Supply Chain Divemagazine while attending the APICS 2018 Conference. The organisation has recently rebranded to the Association for Supply Chain Management, ASCM, to reflect the transformation the profession is undergoing – this was the last conference to use the old acronym.

There has been a major shift of emphasis in supply chain jobs away from individual professional development and towards companies creating programs for teams that require supply chain pros to extend their knowledge beyond their conventional subject matter expertise, Eshkenazi observed.

Candidates for today’s roles are now expected “to lead an organization cross-functional, cross-cultural, cross-country … and expectations are significantly higher than they were before.”

This huge shift has meant that new-gen supply chain professionals can earn a seat on the C-Suite, although Eshkenazi believes that a gap has grown between the career expectations of a previous generation of professionals and those of the next generation. The generation between them may find it challenging to fit into either group.

Meanwhile, at the Conference itself, Anna Barej (senior director of global supply chain sourcing and international markets at McDonald’s) pointed to the gradual emergence of a more integrated view of supply chain that involves a new breed of professional: the supply chain advocate. Staff in this procurement role will engage clients, market by market, function by function. This role is intermediary, focused on strategic conversations at corporate level while taking heed of the problems of suppliers and attempting to resolve these issues.

Finally, new generation supply chain professionals are expected to be tech-savvy and capable of reaching a deep understanding of the commercial implications of new technologies like blockchain, machine learning and artificial intelligence, so that investment decisions can be made.