What the industry is looking for in logistics and supply chain managers in Australia and New Zealand

Kamrul Ahsan, Senior Lecturer in Supply Chain Management, College of Business and Law, RMIT University and Shams Rahman Professor of Supply Chain Management, College of Business and Law, RMIT University present their recent findings on the Australian and New Zealand job market. 

Logistics and Supply Chain Job market

According to Australian Industry Standard skill forecast, the Logistics and Supply Chain (LSC) industry sector contributes approximately AU$102.8 billion to the Australian economy which is equivalent to approximately 5% of GDP. It employs over half a million people which is predicted to grow by 6.5% by 2024. Furthermore, the unprecedented growth in e-commerce due to COVID-19, demand for the postal, courier, and other related logistics services have grown considerably which has further boosted the logistics and supply chain job market. For example, since March 2020 job advertisements in this sector went up by 9% month-on-month.

As a result, there is a shortage of professionals and labour and the gap between demand and supply is widening. Issues such as ageing workforce, radical changes in job roles due to technological and digital transformation of the workplace, unplanned talent management strategy are all contributing factors. Sixdegrees executive search forecasted that over the next 10 years, LSC jobs such as drivers, warehouse supervisor and operator, forklift drivers, purchasing officers will become redundant, whereas managers, analysts, planners, and data manager jobs will flourish. Failure to align such a mismatch between demand and supply will invariably make it harder to attract top professionals to run the LSC sector. To be able to work efficiently and effectively in the current and future ‘new normal’ environment having a diverse set of competencies is necessary.

Where are the Job Markets?

We identified and collected 387 LSC manager job advertisements from seek jobs sites Australia (sekjobs.com.au) and New Zealand (seekjobs.co.nz) and analysed based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of occupations (ANZSCO 1220) for LSC managers. Approximately 68% of jobs are from Australia (265 jobs) and 32 % are from New Zealand (NZ) (122 jobs). About 25% of these jobs (96) require a tertiary degree in the supply chain (31), logistics (18), operations (23), procurement (13), and business (11).

The majority of the jobs (67%) are from three big cities: Sydney (102), Melbourne (94), and Auckland (67) where most of the LSC related businesses are located (see Figure 1). These jobs are for food and beverage; FMCG; and transport, distribution, and warehouse logistics industry businesses.

Figure 1: Distribution of locations of LSC job markets

Market demand for competencies

Based on APICS supply chain competency and CILT (Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport) key knowledge area (KKA) frameworks, we identified 35 competencies that are grouped under foundational, workplace, personal effectiveness, professional related competencies and shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Logistics and supply chain competency framework

Results of our analysis show that the top 10 market demand competencies are communication, leadership, teamwork and collaboration, operations and enterprise economics, safety management, computer literacy, inventory management, analytical thinking, customer focus, and continuous improvement and lean management (Figure 3), of which five can be considered as ‘hard’ competencies (operations and enterprise economics, safety management, computer literacy, managing inventory, and CI and lean management) and the remaining five as soft competencies (communication, leadership, teamwork and collaboration, analytical thinking, and customer focus).

Of the top 10 competencies, one belonged to personal (communication), three belonged to foundational (operations and enterprise economics, computer literacy, and analytical thinking), four to the workplace (leadership, teamwork and collaboration, inventory management, and customer focus), and two to professional (safety management, continuous improvement (CI) and lean management) competency categories.

Figure 3: Rank order of competencies as per market demand

Eleven highly demanded competencies in Five LSC managerial positions

Figure 4 shows the top five competencies for different LSC managerial positions such as supply chain, procurement, operations, logistics, and warehouse. It also shows that 11 competencies are common to managers of all managerial positions. We provide a brief discussion on each of these competencies.

Figure 4: Top five competencies of logistics and supply chain managers

Competency 1: Communication

The majority of the LSC jobs (45%) considered ‘communication’ as the most essential competency. The communication skill is a part of personal effectiveness competency and it is within the top five competencies for LSC managers. For all LSC managers, having a high level of verbal, written, and presentation communication competency is indispensable. Ensuring a constant, timely, relevant communication with both internal and external stakeholders is critical. Sound communication is sought to ‘manage and motivate and work closely with peers and senior management teams, and other organisational units’, ‘build and maintain trust and rapport a solid working relationship’, and ‘organise meetings and/or events with appropriate authority’. E-mail and telephone communication are still the most sought-after type of communication tools.

Competency 2: Leadership

Leadership is identified as the second most demanded competency (42.6% jobs required) for all managers. They are expected to demonstrate the competencies in different ways such as: ‘lead and supervise personnel to build team, ‘inspire, support and motivate others to drive business outcomes’, ‘providing leadership and guidance to team members in a tough environment’, ‘driving performance improvement’, ‘ability to lead by example’, ‘senior leadership experience’, and ‘supportive leadership’.

Competency 3: Teamwork and collaboration

Managing and leading a team are strongly emphasised by 42% of managerial jobs. Under this competency, managers are expected to ‘support and manage teams’, ‘mentor junior members’, ‘manage team’s workload’, ‘mentor or coaching a team’, ‘create a team environment’ and ‘bringing together a team’ to develop a high performing team. The requirements of the specific task from job advertisements are the ability to work within a team, be a team player, contribute to a team, liaise or collaborate and maintain a strong relationship with the team, work collaboratively across departments, strong team ethics, can work for an international or multi-cultural or diverse team.

Competency 4: Operations and enterprise economics

About 26% of all managerial positions require operations and enterprise economics knowledge and skills from the job seekers. For an operations manager, it is the key competency. 93% of the advertised jobs emphasised on this competency for Operations managers. More specifically, they are required to understand the importance of and demonstrate the ability to ‘forecast, plan, organise and run optimum day-to-day operations to exceed customers’ expectations’ and to ‘ensure the performance of the business is achieved across people, safety, financial and operational metrics’. Moreover, the job requires to ‘determine the success or failure rate of business improve efficiencies and drive operations to meet cost, quality, delivery, inventory turnover, returns on assets, and working capital priority’.

Competency 5: Safety management

Safety is considered to be the fourth most important competencies for LSC managers. About 22% of jobs require safety management related competency, and it is most frequently demanded by the operations manager (38%) and warehouse manager (39%) jobs. LSC managers must ensure a workplace environment with a ‘culture of safety first’, and ‘keen eye for detail and safety’. Specific tasks include ‘meeting health and safety compliances within a given’, ‘ensuring a safe work environment in DCs and warehouses at all times, and complies with all requirements of the relevant State and Federal WHS and Environmental Acts/Regulations’.

Competency 6: Computer literacy

Computer literacy is identified as the sixth most frequently mentioned competency and it is mostly required by the supply chain managers. The majority of the jobs require to have a working knowledge of SAP (modules MM / WM / APO / PP / MRP), and advanced to intermediate level proficiency in Microsoft Office with complex spreadsheet analysis, and warehouse management system (WMS). Furthermore, within the ‘computer literacy’ competency some jobs are required to have an understanding of Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) such as Maximo, MEX, Agility & QFMand.

Competency 7: Inventory management

Inventory management is the heart of any supply chain system and managing inventory is a critical competency expected from managers. About 19% of jobs require inventory management competency. It is required to conduct and manage business operations efficiently and effectively, and hence maintaining and controlling the accurate level of inventories were emphasized. These managers must have the ability to ‘align inventory with the sales forecast’, ‘predict how much to order, when to order and where to order’, and control the accurate level of inventory. They must ‘review inventory system-regularly for its appropriateness’, ‘check inventory levels for all items and adjust as required’, and ‘manage finished goods inventory to minimize obsolescence’. Other important aspects of inventory management competency include ‘continuous improvement of the inventory process and periodic reporting of inventory to the relevant stakeholders.

Competency 8: Analytical thinking and problem solving

About 19% of LSC managerial positions require this competency. Within this competency, managers are expected to have the capacity to analyse data, apply information, and judiciously devise ways to solve supply chain problems. They must possess a ‘strong analytical and problem-solving skills’, ‘data-driven decision-making capability’, and ‘superior analytical skills for the preparation of product demand forecasts, financial profitability of product and inventory management issues.

Competency 9: Customer focus

Customer focus competency is the 9th most demanded competency for the manager jobs and about 17% of jobs require ‘customer focus’ related skills. Managers are expected to possess demonstrable capabilities in driving ‘customer service excellence’ and perfecting customer experience’. This competency is much required from logistics and warehouse managers. Job advertisement shows that potential managers are expected to imbed an ‘excellent internal and external customer service culture’, and ‘ensure the exemplary customer service in place’. It is also expected to have a proven history of ‘delivering exceptional customer service outcomes’, ‘manage the supply chain team to achieve customer service excellence’, and ‘ensure exceptional customer service levels are met or exceeded’.

Competency 10: Continuous improvement (CI) and lean management

LSC jobs emphasized improvement initiatives through the reduction or elimination of waste in all areas of supply chains. About 16% of jobs require managers to possess CI and lean management skills and ability. This competency is much demanded by the operations managers compared to other managers. ‘Identification and reduction or elimination of waste’, commitment to ‘ongoing quality and continuous improvement’, ‘taking responsibility to lead continuous improvement initiatives using lean concepts’, ‘collaborating across the business to promote change, and meeting best practice standards’ are the core attributes required from the managers under this competency. Furthermore, few specific abilities are required in areas such as 5S and Six Sigma.

Competency 11: Negotiation and conflict management

Negotiation and conflict management competency is emphasized by 14% of all managerial jobs. This competency is most important for procurement managers and about 29% of procurement manager jobs require ‘an outstanding negotiation skill’. These managers are expected to demonstrate the ability to ‘lead the negotiation of contract terms and pricing’, ‘manage supplier selection and negotiation’, ‘manage stakeholder and negotiation conflicting issues’, and ‘manage conflict by identifying and handling conflicts in a sensible, fair, and efficient manner’.

Who will be benefitted from this study?

Identified market-based competencies can help potential job seekers to prepare for potential jobs and re-skill to deal with the changes due to technological and digital transformation of the workplace. LSC job keepers can use this competency framework and identified critical competencies for employee assessment, training, and career progression. Recruitment agencies can use this model to prepare the job advertisement in line with the expected competencies of different managerial positions.

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