I interviewed Dr. Eva Ponce who discussed How MIT CTL is Addressing Supply Chain Talent Stream Need for New Ways of Upskilling the Workforce.







Today we're speaking with Dr. Eva Ponce, who is the Executive Director of the MITxMicroMasters in Supply Chain Management at the MIT Center for Transportation Logistics. And Eva is going to talk about the need in the supply chain for talent streams and for new ways of upscaling the workforce. So Dr. Eva, can you first provide a brief background of yourself?


Thank you, Dustin. It's my pleasure to talk with you today and participate in this podcast. So my name is Eva Ponce. I'm the Executive Director of the MITxMicroMasters Program in Supply Chain Management at MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics. I'm also a Research Associate at the center. In terms of my research, I'm leading the Omnichannel Distribution Strategies research line, trying to analyze the impact of ecommerce in retailers, manufacturers, and the different actors in the supply chain.


Some of my background, I got my PhD in 2002. I had previously a faculty position, I was a professor in supply chain at the Technical University of Madrid (UPM) for more than 14 years. In 2014, I moved to MIT, and since then, I am part of the Center for Transportation and Logistics at MIT.


How do we know that there's this need for supply chain talent?


Some recent reports, like the World Bank study in logistic competencies, highlight the need of more supply chain talent. They highlight that there is a shortage that ranges from a lack of truck drivers to senior positions in supply chain. There is a lack of executives with the capabilities that are required today when people need to manage supply chains.


Currently, we are talking more about global supply chains, and the complexity associated to those global supply chains is higher than before. So we need to train this workforce in supply chain management. And also, if we think about any product that we receive at home, or any product that we go and buy from a store, behind every single product, there is a supply chain. We need to manage the flow of materials, the flow of information, and the finance flow associated to each of these supply chains, from the raw materials to the end product that we are receiving at home or buying in a retail store.


So in addition to that, at the Center for Transportation and Logistics, we have more than 50 partners. Our partners come to us with different challenges that they have currently in different industries, and they also highlight the need for more people trained in supply chain management. So at the Center, we are offering, for more than 20 years, a Master's degree in Supply Chain Management. Companies like Amazon, Walmart, Starbucks, and other retailers, hire these supply chain professionals to help them to manage thier supply chains in a more effective and efficient way.


More recently, we are also offering online courses of Supply Chain Management. The MITxMicroMasters program includes - five open massive online courses (MOOCs). In these courses, we offer basic tools, the fundamental concepts in supply chain management, all across the world.Anyone from anywhere with internet connectivity can have access to these massive courses and in consequence they can have access to this basic knowledge in supply chain management.


Why is the supply chain management workforce and its training needs different from what they were in the past?


So currently, there is a need to manage these global supply chains. When we are talking about supply chains, typically we need to manage suppliers across the world, located in many different cities with different languages, different cultures, and we need to manage the relationship with all of these suppliers. If we talk about manufacturers, again, you have them around the world. And then customers, if we talk about ecommerce, they can be anywhere. So this adds an extra layer of complexity to these supply chains.


Also, there are new business models. The new technology is changing the way that the customers are buying the traditional purchase process is changing. So now with the mobile commerce, the mobile technologies, we can buy from anywhere at any time. And the retailers, the manufacturers, and the whole supply chain need to be prepared and be ready to deliver these products to almost anywhere. Consumer can order these online products from anywhere and ask them to receive at home delivery or at selected pick up point (e.g. they can chose to pickup these online orders in a traditional retail store or brick or mortar).


So these new technologies, mobile commerce, and ecommerce are also adding an extra layer of complexity. And the retailers and manufacturers need to be prepared to compete in this omnichannel environment, this is a new paradigm, and they need  to be ready to offer different distribution strategies that the customer is expecting to have consumer preferences are changing.


My final question is how can we prepare for the future supply chain by upscaling of the workforce in the face of new technologies?


So this is a great question, Dustin. According to a industry expert 's interviews that I have recently conducted, I've seen that data analytics is one of the skills that companies really need to have. There is now a lot of data available, but companies need also people with the right capabilities to analyze this data. So analytic tools, statistics, quantitative models, machine learning techniques — all of these techniques and tools that help companies to manage big data, to analyze and to use this big data in order to improve, let's say, the demand forecasting on any other process, is something that definitely is going to help them.


So we are providing, in our supply chain analytics and supply chain fundamentals course, these basic tools that we see that [inaudible 0:07:29] a company, our learners can apply in order to help companies to manage in a more effective and a more efficient way, the flows of materials, the flows of information, and also the financial flows.


So these online courses are really powerful to learn these kinds of techniques.


We are also offering the supply chain technology and systems course. This course focuses more on data analytics, data modelling, and machine learning techniques. In summary, this course offers basic techniquesthat help learners to analyze big datafollowing, again, a very industry applied approach.


Where can people go to learn about these courses, the supply chain courses?


These courses are available in our website. The program is called MITxMicroMasters in Supply Chain Management. So it's easy to google MITxMicroMasters in supply chain management. Learners just need to enroll in the course to have access to the materials. The program includes five courses. These go from SC0x - Supply Chain Analytics, SC1x - Supply Chain Fundamentals, SC2x - Supply Chain Design, SC3x - Supply Chain Dynamics, and SC4x - Supply Chain Technology and Systems. So basically, we cover the basic concepts, the basic tools in supply chain. We have a very industry-oriented approach. Every single technique and tool that we teach in each course is intended to be applied in a real-life problem.


Thanks for sharing today, Dr. Eva.


Excellent.It's my pleasure. Thank you so much.



About Dr. Eva Ponce









Dr. Eva Ponce


Executive Director of the MITxMicroMasters


LinkedIn Profile