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APICS CEO: Want Your Company to Endure Rapid Change? Invest in Employee Skills

Getting products from the factory floor to your doorstep isn’t easy—and still consumers want products faster. Today’s supply chain never stops running (or becoming more efficient), and it’s a key reason why the best employees in logistics stay sharp on skills.

It’s not just a matter of credentials. To succeed, workers need the strategic sense to move product (and people) more efficiently than before. Abe Eshkenazi, CEO of supply chain management association APICS, tells Fortune that consumers feel the impact of supply chain disruptions. So why not solve it with skilled talent?

The problem is real. According to a July 2018 U.S. Institute for Supply Management business update, backlogs have grown as manufacturing activity has expanded, nearly eight years running.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “People see the shortage of [pharmaceutical] drugs, child labor issues, factory collapses from unsafe working conditions—all of this impacts the value of the organization’s brand,” says Eshkenazi.

One defense against that fate is great leadership. And beyond that? A skilled workforce courtesy of investments in training and professional development, Eshkenazi says.

“When a recession hits, it’s the first thing that gets cut,” he says. “Professional development is not binary. You can’t turn the switch on and off.”

There’s reason to be hopeful—companies are increasingly coming around to this view. For example, Walmart, America’s largest employer and No. 1 on the Fortune 500 list, promised to fund college degrees in business or supply-chain management for U.S. employees. After all, a commitment to workforce training and development could generate quality jobs and a more agile supply chain.

Watch the video above for more from Fortune’s interview with Eshkenazi.

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