Redesigning supply chain curriculum in Pakistan.

Business education is a vital part of economic development of a nation. It equips an ordinary person with a solid foundation to withstand ever-changing business scenarios and redesigning supply chain curriculum in Pakistan.

Redesigning supply chain curriculum in Pakistan.

Business education is a vital part of economic development of a nation. It equips an ordinary person with a solid foundation to withstand ever-changing business scenarios and Redesigning supply chain curriculum in Pakistan.

Curriculum plays a in delivering quality education in higher education programmes. However, the debate on curriculum development has always been a central point over the decades. For instance, should medical students be taught and trained about the way diet and lifestyle influences the health of people.

Amongst many business operations, the supply chain management has developed in importance over the last couple of decades because of global competition and outsourcing initiatives. Walmart, Amazon, Nike, Apple, Toyota, Unilever and many more small-to-global giants successfully established themselves by developing a resilient supply chain network.

Supply chain is an end-to-end web of operations, which involves procuring raw material, processing them at different stages, and producing and distributing finished goods to serve final consumers.

Owing to the complex global environment, successful management of supply chain provides numerous benefits and opportunities for both business graduates and the corporate world. However, due to the spanning nature of supply chain management (SCM) in multiple tiers of local and global business operations, and academic texts, it makes this discipline the most critical candidate for optimum improvement.

SCM emerged from many disciplines, and like other management functions such as marketing, finance and human resources, it should primarily be taught from a business management perspective.

However, according to an exploratory study conducted by the writer of this article, which was presented in the management sciences conference organised by the US-based Production and Operations Management Society in May 2019 in Washington DC, the SCM education under business management schools is heavily influenced by systems engineering concepts.

A majority of respondents in that study, who had graduated in SCM under the business management programme and had acquired considerable industry experience, was of the view that the SCM curriculum in business management needed a serious revision.

In comparison to other business programmes, the SCM programme is relatively more dynamic in nature. One of its main characteristics is the number of streams flowing out of this programme such as inventory and warehouse management, transportation management, material management and procurement.

A large number of institutes of higher education from economically developed nations to least developed countries are offering degree programmes in SCM.

However, this demands constant and careful upgrading of the programme by including latest theories, practices, technologies, tools and techniques and retiring redundant content.

Both undergraduate and graduate-level SCM programmes fundamentally aim to inculcate technical, social and conceptual skills into students. However, the focus of each set of skills should differ at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

For example, undergraduate courses should focus on developing technical skills more than the remaining two sets of skills because after graduation students are expected to work as first-line managers where technical skills (scheduling optimal order picking and deliveries, monitoring and evaluating supplier performance, etc) matter most.

However, graduate-level programmes should focus more on developing conceptual skills (outsourcing or insourcing, mode of transportation, warehouse location, etc) to solve strategic and abstract problems. Nevertheless, social skills (communication, negotiation, conflict management, etc) are also quite important for both levels.

Besides that, investing a sufficient amount of time in having meaningful industry experience in the form of internship in supply chain programmes would also enhance the competence of SCM graduates.

It is also important that the SCM programme, at both undergraduate and graduate levels, must be designed in a way that it keeps its distinct needs. Undergraduate programmes should have greater breadth whereas graduate programmes must have more depth.

One of the reasons behind this approach is that undergraduate students generally do not possess fundamental management skills, therefore, the undergraduate programme may include courses which could develop a sound understanding of business management operations in general and supply chain in particular.

The graduate programme should focus on deeper learning, challenges and strategies (ie including a large number of case studies having regional and global challenges).

Furthermore, the following themes should be kept in mind while designing a SCM programme:

Relevancy of course

The SCM curriculum should be relevant to the business management domain. Thus, teaching individual courses in production management and quality control is more suited to those who specialise in systems engineering or industrial management, and not to those who work in procurement or logistics areas.

Supply chain graduates are broadly employed in two major areas – procurement and logistics (distribution and inventory management). None of the respondents to the study was found to be running a production department or carrying out quality control inspection.

Thus, the concern in relation to relevance of course contents becomes empirically validated.

Similarly, teaching advanced calculus and quantitative methods individually should be merged with business mathematics to create a slot for other practical courses. However, management-oriented numerical courses for data analysis must be taught by using latest IT applications.

Duplication of contents

Another issue which needs the attention of programme designers is that many courses in the SCM degree programme have overlapped and have repetitive contents.

For instance, the concepts of Economic Order Quantity, forecasting techniques, QC tools and JIT approach are repeated in courses such as Operations Management, Inventory and Warehouse Management and Procurement. Such duplication of concepts can be altered by including more emerging concepts.

Applied contents

Owing to the rapidly changing customer requirements, government legislations and global competition, SCM programmes need to be kept current and future-oriented.

Contents or courses such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), quality assurance, workplace compliance models, advanced procurement skills, operational risk management, port and cargo management and data analytics (ie descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive analytics) using advanced simulation software should be included in future supply chain management programmes.

Besides that, contents related to soft skills such as personal development, advanced communication skills, entrepreneurship, workplace relationship, ethics, conflict management, leadership and related case studies should be incorporated into the SCM programme curriculum to produce well-equipped graduates.

More importantly, there is a need for incorporating a values-based approach into the SCM programmmes. The excessive focus on adopting a competitive attitude for a future manager undermines the role of managers as human beings and organisations as social entities.

Over the years, it has been observed that courses and teaching material in the development of programme curriculum are heavily influenced and blindly adopted from what is being followed in the economically and scholastically successful western institutes of higher education.

Societies and people within, at various levels of their development phase, operate in dynamic environments and their complexities are different. Therefore, it is important that programme curricula and support material should be carefully designed by keeping local requirements and best practices in consideration.

On the same lines, eminent quality management philosopher Dr Edward Deming advised, “To copy an example of success, without understanding it with the aid of theory, may lead to disaster.”

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