Global Focus: Taking Supply Chain Management in China to the Next Level

Mastering the challenges of the opening Chinese logistics market will require more than valid licenses and modern transportation equipment


Chinese government, logistics service providers and production companies will only improve their transportation situation if they have access to well-educated and experienced Chinese supply chain managers and logistics professionals.

In recent years, the focus of education at colleges, universities and professional schools has been on virtually any topic but logistics or transportation. Often, attention has predominantly been drawn to course subjects such as marketing and sales, with implicit promises of wealth and fortune. With the privatization and liberalization of the Chinese market, Chinese students (abroad and at home) have enrolled in these courses with great enthusiasm.

At the current state of China's rapid development, it has become increasingly clear that the best sales forecast or investment financing won't help much if a company's operations are encountering difficulties due to delayed or damaged shipments, or due to unnecessary warehousing costs. Today, many Chinese supply chain managers lack knowledge in substantial areas of logistics such as transportation planning or warehousing, but normally they are the only ones that can stay up-to-date with bureaucratic regulations and constantly shifting government policies to meet delivery schedules.

Therefore, China's growth policy and especially companies operating in China will only succeed if they are able to educate, attract, retain and further develop Chinese supply chain managers and logistics professionals. The Chinese government and many companies have recognized this need and are currently taking appropriate measures to address the situation. While politics is opening up the logistics service market, companies try to cover their needs through their own training activities. For example, DHL has recently opened up its own corporate university in Shanghai to develop its employees and profit from the dynamic growth rates in the Chinese logistics industry.

The private sector continues to seek solutions to this vexing issue. For example, an upcoming conference in Shanghai on March 6-7, 2007, "Supply Chain Excellence: China Sourcing Summit," will bring together supply chain managers and chief procurement officers from Western and Chinese companies to discuss the challenges and chances of China's rapid economic growth.

But be aware. Chinese employees are still hard to retain, and so far only a few companies have found viable solutions for not spending their money on HR development programs.

About the Authors: Prof. Dr. Christopher Jahns is rector of the European Business School (ebs), Oestrich-Winkel, Germany, and executive director of the Supply Management Institute SMI in Wiesbaden, Germany. Roger Moser is director of SMI International Network, Shanghai. Martin Lockström is director, SMI China, Shanghai.

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