Educating to Reduce Risk (in Your [Retail] Supply Chain)

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Editor’s Note: This post is from regular contributor Norman Katz, Sourcing Innovation’s resident expert on supply chain fraud and supply chain risk. Catch up on his column in the archive.

Being just a little past my mid-40s I realize I’m at risk (how appropriate or rather inappropriate is that in this blog!) of dating myself, but does anyone remember the phrase “The Three Rs”?

This phrase represents the basic foundation of education: reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Still to this day, and probably emphasized by all the standardized testing done which grades the performance of schools, I don’t think the necessity of this trio of core skills is any less important. However, I’d like to throw in a fourth (and actually fifth) R in regards to the benefits of education: risk reduction.

Of all the supply chains in the world, the retail supply chain in the United States is arguably the toughest and most sophisticated of them all. The smallest disruptions can result in profit losses and missed sales. Timeframes are very tight and the drive towards 100% perfection is relentless.

Retail suppliers invest heavily in technology, automation, and business processes to ensure they are complimentary collaborators with their retail trading partners, all with the goal of reducing the risk of not shipping the right products in the right time at the right quantity to the right destination in order to ensure their products are on the shelf when the consumer wants to buy them.

But what about investing in education to reduce risk? Can technology and automation eclipse the need for some sound, basic education on how to participate in a supply chain, retail or other? I would argue that such education is absolutely necessary. Without a good educational foundation, enterprises run the risk of incorrectly investing in technology and business processes that fail to truly address the root-cause of problems or don’t enable growth, planned or otherwise.

Selecting the right education provider can be tricky in-and-of-itself. There are plenty of companies who offer quality training. Do your due diligence and investigate the company and its trainers for experience and depth of knowledge. Keep in mind that anyone can offer training classes and that slick sounding company names may be just that and offer little in terms of training that will have any substance or credentials in daily business activities.

Certifications and training courses are often provided by trade associations. This is good because trade associations often carry a “name” or brand with them so there should be confidence in the quality of the education and that it will be recognized through one or more industry verticals.

Some associations are independent and are thus self-certifying. For these independent associations some have grown quite large and are well-recognized such that their certification is accepted and respected. Look at who is backing the certification and whether the backer has respect and visibility throughout one or more industry verticals. Is the training endorsed by outside entities? And just because a list of well-known companies is provided does not necessarily mean that the training is recognized as a standard or is widely respected. Do your homework! How long has the association been around and how many members does it have?

What this boils down to is that fraud can be perpetrated by training and education organizations too. Knowingly misrepresenting goods and services is fraud.

Buyer beware. Trust but verify. Due diligence.

Not just catchy phrases but ones to live by.

Norman Katz, Katzscan