The embrace of Industry 4.0 in supply chain logistics means exciting innovation in the industry – yet also summons new challenges in adaptability and skilled workforce development. RMIT’s new Graduate Certificate in Supply Chain Automation is bridging the gap.
As the ramifications of Industry 4.0 are increasingly felt in supply chain operations, automation becomes not just an innovative advantage but a requisite for survival and efficiency. The new Graduate Certificate in Supply Chain Automation (GC SCA) launched by RMIT is a beacon of light amidst this shift, offering a holistic educational avenue to navigate through the intricacies of technology, logistics, and supply chain management.
“The sector is dealing with significant labour shortages and shortages around the availability of space of property and real estate,” says Paul Childerhouse, RMIT’s Head of Supply Chain and Logistics. “This conundrum, in tandem with the burgeoning financial viability of technology and the enhancement of information technology within supply chain operations, underpins a palpable need for workforce evolution.”
Paul envisions a future wherein robots and technological solutions not only alleviate existing pressure points but also refine forecasting accuracy and resource utilisation by leveraging data analytics and comprehensive connectivity throughout the supply chain.
“The ultimate goal we’re aiming at is to help companies improve their performance and be able to survive in this competitive market coming after globalisation,” says Shahrooz Shahparvari, Lecturer in Supply Chain and Logistics at RMIT, and an architect of the GC SCA.
“Due to globalisation, companies strive to curb their rising costs or maintain their revenue margins,” Shahrooz says. “In this leveling market, companies often can’t sell similar products with more than a 10 to 12 per cent revenue margin. To remain competitive, they must reduce their costs by leveraging integrated technologies that work in tandem. Many of these technologies aren’t new. For instance, AGV robots and automated systems have been in use for 20 to 30 years. The challenge lies in automating various operations within the supply chain and ensuring these systems communicate effectively under a unified ecosystem. This helps in achieving holistic performance optimisation across operations.
While technology isn’t a new player in this field, its swift evolution and the integration of AI and machine learning underscore a vital need for a workforce that can seamlessly merge technological understanding with practical applications.
Yet, Australia finds itself in a peculiar position on the global stage, where the integration and sophistication of supply chain technology are concerned. With an industry leaning towards a traditional “wait and see” approach – as Shahrooz puts it – there’s always a contest between minimising implementation risk and ensuring compatibility with new technological generations. Nevertheless, companies like Coles have begun to integrate advanced technologies into their operations, signalling a slow but tangible shift towards a future that embraces technological advancements.
In light of this, the introduction of RMIT’s GC SCA stands out as a pivot towards addressing the skills and knowledge gap prevalent within the industry. The origin of this course is deeply rooted in the frustrations of industry practitioners, who, according to Paul, voiced a palpable need for skill enhancement amidst a rapidly transforming logistical landscape.
“A lot of it came from their frustration in terms of recruitment,” Paul says. “That kind of drove us to then think, ‘Okay, as an educator – there’s a gap here that we need to provide for.”
WHAT IS THE GC SCA?
The GC SCA is tailor-made for professionals, necessitating a minimum one-year part-time commitment and crafted to cater to individuals who have already embarked on their journey within the logistics sector.
“All entrants need to have some professional experience,” Pauls says. “It’s not open to fresh-faced graduates,” Paul emphasises, underlying the course’s commitment to fostering advanced skill development amidst those with foundational industry knowledge.
The certificate is comprised of four courses, starting with digitisation.
“This course explores how we dissect a supply chain, map its technological needs, and align those with specific requirements – evaluating the best tools to use,” Paul says. “The subsequent course centres on understanding diverse contexts. It delves into the various warehouse needs, sectors, and the robotic technologies currently in use or being adapted. This course is more hands-on, assisting learners in grasping the different scenarios in their workplaces.
“The third course emphasises rigorous analytics. We’re not discussing advanced programming-type analytics, but rather the utilisation of a range of analytical tools to bridge what’s achievable with what’s essential. The final course revolves around people. Arguably the most challenging, it concerns the application and implementation, ensuring people are engaged throughout the process. It touches on project management and the art of persuading various stakeholders about the direction and advantages of the chosen path, as well as how to retrain or steer a business towards this new horizon.”
A prominent cornerstone of the GC SCA is its intrinsic alignment with practical applicability and real-world scenarios.
Shahrooz, focusing on delivering the first course of the certificate, lays emphasis on comprehending the business supply chain and being adept with different standards required to facilitate communication at an industrial level. He notes the importance of understanding the options available, the specific needs of a business, and strategic decision-making, weaving a curriculum that doesn’t just impart knowledge but empowers informed decision-making.
“Interlaced with insights from industry partners and real-world case studies, the GC SCA doesn’t just theorise about supply chain logistics and automation but catapults its students into the real-world scenarios, encouraging them to engage, analyse, and apply their learning in a tangible context,” he says.
The GC SCA is not simply an educational pathway but a bridge connecting the present with the future, ensuring that the journey through the terrains of supply chain automation is navigated with adept knowledge, strategic understanding, and a forward-looking perspective that continues to evolve in tandem with technological advancements.
Key to the development and running of the GC SCA are the relationships between RMIT and their industry partners: Linfox, TMX and Toll.
“We genuinely see RMIT as the thought leader, being at the cutting edge of research and where it meets practice,” says Daniel Esdaile, Associate Director for Supply Chain Strategy at TMX. “At TMX we’ve had a long and fruitful relationship with RMIT. Many of the TMX team started off at RMIT – and we’re delighted to be able to team up to offer practical, hands-on training to help educate the next generation of supply chain automation practitioners.”
A notable example of this is the emphasis on utilizing TMX’s Metaverse solution, a virtual environment where students can not only design a facility but also articulate the logic behind their design concepts, which Daniel indicates is “ongoing and will likely develop further over the next 6 to 12 months.” This innovative approach is not just a nod to the future of educational methodologies but is also a testament to the program’s commitment to ensuring students are adeptly skilled in utilising emerging technologies insupply chain management.
But it’s not just about equipping those who take the program with tech know-how. It’s about inculcating the underlying skills and perspective to best judge when and how a technological intervention makes sense.
“The technology will undoubtedly continue to evolve, so it’s crucial to teach the concepts determining which technology suits a particular process and why,” says Daniel. “Similarly, it’s essential to understand when not to use certain technologies; the optimal materials handling solution must balance cost, service and ultimately, the best return on investment. That’s the core understanding we aim to instil with this certificate.
“Though we recognise that technology advances rapidly, the foundation should be understanding the problem at hand and identifying the technology to address it. Additionally, it’s beneficial to be aware of the innovations emerging in the market. From TMX’s standpoint, we are deeply involved in ongoing tenders, giving us insight into new innovations and processes. We will continue supporting RMIT by providing the most relevant content for their courses in a timely manner.”
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