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Swinburne and Officeworks skilling students for the future of supply chain

Swinburne has partnered with Australia’s largest provider of office and stationery products, Officeworks, to give students hands-on insight into the rapidly evolving supply chain industry at its distribution centre.

Swinburne’s new partnership with Officeworks gives students first-hand insight into the current landscape of this growing industry.

Swinburne and Officeworks have co-created one of the units in Swinburne’s Master of Supply Chain Innovation – the Innovative Supply Chain Technologies unit.

Senior Lecturer in Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Dr John Hopkins says supply chains have been the ‘backbone’ of the global economy for decades, but the COVID-19 situation has brought their invaluable work to the fore.

“Factory closures, supply disruptions and panic buying have highlighted the critical role of supply chains in maintaining our supply of essential goods and services,” says Dr Hopkins.

“As the world starts to recover from the pandemic, the availability of skilled and experienced supply chain professionals is even more important now than ever before.”

Innovative real-world projects

“Our students experience working on innovative real-world supply chain projects, under the mentorship of industry professionals, using the latest supply chain technologies such as big data analytics and artificial intelligence,” he says.

As part of this unit, Officeworks identifies real-world challenges within their supply chain for students to complete a project on – anything from process improvement to removing waste, such as overproduction or under-utilisation.

Officeworks hosts Swinburne students at their distribution centre, provides project and career mentoring and supplies guest speakers for lectures and tutorials in the unit.

“Graduating career-ready means having a deep understanding of and connection with industry,” says Dr Hopkins. “This partnership will allow students to acquire contemporary skills aligned with the challenges that logistics companies face today.”

The future supply chain workforce

Officeworks Continuous Improvement Manager (Supply Chain), Richard Duncan, says Officeworks is excited to engage with the students who will make up the future supply chain management workforce.

“It is great to work with the innovative students at Swinburne and have the opportunity to enrich their university experience through providing mentoring and hands-on experience. It’s also a benefit for us as we are able to draw upon their unique skills and fresh thinking to help us address future challenges and opportunities within the industry,” he says.

A post-COVID-19 growth area

The global logistics and supply chain market is projected to grow exponentially as a result of the COVID-19 situation, says Dr Hopkins.

The major drivers of this growth are an increasing focus on the continued supply of essential commodities, the demand and distribution requirement for personal protective equipment, and the sudden growth in online retail. The distribution of any COVID-19 vaccine that is developed will also require an agile and secure global supply chain be in place.

Dr Hopkins says a key factor restraining the supply chain market is a shortage of appropriately skilled talent.

“As supply chains recover from the impact of COVID-19, a sudden acceleration of interest in digitalisation and automation is expected, as organisations increasingly look towards digital technologies as sources of innovation in the wake of extreme disruption.”

“Skills in emerging technologies like big data analytics and artificial intelligence are going to be needed by future supply chain professionals – and that’s why we have included them as compulsory units in our Master’s program,” he says.

The Master of Supply Chain Innovation is delivered through Swinburne’s Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship (AGSE).

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