From a lack of truck drivers to merchandise stuck on container ships off the coast of California, supply chain issues are an increasing problem as we end 2021.
The University of Scranton offers a Supply Chain Manufacturing Certificate to help local executives and operations managers manage the flow of materials, goods, and inventories to their factories and warehouses.
“We focus on using the data we have and analyzing it and interpreting it and presenting it in a way so we can make actual decisions,” said David Mahalak, operations, and analytics faculty member. “We also focus on management techniques and continually evaluating current operations to see if there are ways that we can adapt to respond to what’s happening in the current moment. We want graduates to be able to meet customer demands to the best of our ability.”
In June, the White House issued a report identifying issues with the supply chain, including insufficient U.S. manufacturing capacity, geographic concentration of global sourcing, and advances by competitor nations.
“We have issues at the ports,” he said. “Those products at the ports can’t get dispersed.
“And they aren’t just products, they are raw materials. Those raw materials can’t get to the manufacturing facility to get products produced.”
There’s also a shortage of commercial drivers license drivers. The American Trucking Association estimates there’s a nationwide shortage of up to 80,000 trucker drivers, a number on the rise from 60,000 just a few years ago.
“When products get into the port, and there’s nobody to transfer it from the port to the facility, that’s another problem,” he said.
Malalak, an engineer, has worked in the field for more than ten years and began working for a government contractor. In addition to teaching, he also works as a private consultor on supply chain issues.
He said the program analyzes supply chain issues from a holistic viewpoint.
“We recognize that in a supply chain system, there’s interconnectivity through all of the operations,” he said. “It could be warehousing, logistical movement, and then accounts receivables, payables. All of these components are interconnected. When we are discussing this with our students, we talk with them about the management side and help them understand the analytics to move forward from bottlenecks.”
The certificate program comprises four, three-course credits in operations management, supply chain management, quality management, and integrated enterprise management systems.
The program is meant for working professionals. He said the faculty understand real world problems, and courses are taught from a perspective of reaching solutions on a practical basis. Malalak said there’s a lot of diversity in those taking the classes.
“I think the biggest thing that businesses don’t understand is how these businesses impact one another,” he said. “How does changing a supply chain routing system impact my warehouse operations? How does that balance all of these demands?”
Malalak said in many cases, it means making driving routes efficient and taking into account off-loading times.
“I’ve worked with a lot of business in our region that have grown over time,” he said. “In that growth, I don’t think many people have used the tools necessary to understand the supply chain issue. When you get to a certain point of scale, the supply chain issues can inhibit your profitability.”
Is there optimism in the supply chain issue becoming resolved?
“I think there’s a lot of things you have to consider,” he said. “The reduction in truckers is a concern. We have to start thinking about a replenishment of younger workers.”
He also said the technology will be key in resolving some issues, including automated warehouses.