In "The Art of War," Sun Tzu wrote, "The line between disorder and order lies in logistics." More than 2,500 years later, in war and in peace, logistics has grown exponentially in importance and complexity.
The men and women who — without computer aid — arranged for 6,939 ships, 11,590 aircraft, 156,000 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies on the beaches of Normandy in 1944 were logisticians of the first order. Twenty-seven days after the June 6 invasion, there were more than one million allied troops, 566,648 tons of supplies and 171,532 vehicles ashore. The ROI: defeating totalitarianism.
Today’s supply chain offers a golden opportunity for military logisticians to continue their careers as well as play a key role in keeping supply chains staffed with competent professionals.
Whether it’s logistics, procurement, inventory management, demand planning or any other area, industry, supply chain associations and colleges are stepping in to help veterans enter the field.
"The shortage of skilled workers is creating an imbalance in supply chain management," Abe Eshkenazi, CEO of ASCM, formerly APICS, told Supply Chain Dive. "It’s estimated that demand for supply chain professionals exceeds supply by 6-1, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of jobs in logistics will grow by 26% between 2016 and 2020."
He noted that G.I. Jobs’ 2016 Hot Jobs for Veterans lists logistician and supply chain manager at No. 3 and Operations and Facilities manager at No. 6.
What makes veterans so desirable?
Veterans understand the supply chain and its raison d’être: Get the right goods to the right place at the right time.
"Veterans have experience in transporting, tracking and delivering goods, ammunition, vehicles and life-saving equipment," Eshkenazi said. "This on-the-ground experience makes veterans suitable for nearly any supply chain management position."
One supply chain company that values vets is SAP, especially as they can help fill labor-shortage gaps created by retirement, said April Crichlow, VP Diversity and Inclusion Lead for SAP Ariba.
"Veterans often are eager to use the skills they learned in the military after they’ve been discharged," she told Supply Chain Dive. "They bring many advantages as they have directly relevant experience in supply chain and logistics," she said. "In addition, veterans typically are self-starters, quick learners, creative problem solvers, great under pressure and have a 'can-do' attitude."
But even the most eager, accomplished veterans will find, they must adjust to the civilian workforce, said Eshkenazi.
"One of the biggest challenges when employing veterans can be chalked up to a simple translation problem – 80% of military occupations have a direct civilian equivalent, but the descriptions are not aligned, so human resources specialists often don’t understand the crossover between military and civilian experience," he said. "Because of this, qualified candidates may be rejected simply because they may not understand the military experience versus civilian experience."
Helping the military-civilian transition
Professional associations such as APICS, ISM and The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) are reaching out to help support and train veterans.
"We’ve been doing quite a bit of work to grow veterans," said Nichole Mumford, Director of Marketing and Professional Development at CSCMP. "Around three years ago, we added Supply Chain Pro 1, 2 and 3 —professional-level certification programs that required experience or an undergrad degree in supply chain. We got the Department of Education to develop a [grant] to help [men and women] transition out of the military."
Working with colleges located near military bases, CSCMP certified around 14,000 veterans under the grant. After the grant ran out, the organization took the program back and began working with a number of colleges, including Broward College (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), Collins College (Dallas), Austin-Peay University (Clarksville, Tennessee) and Harper College (Palatine, Illinois). CSCMP also offers discounted memberships and exam costs.
"On-the-ground experience makes veterans suitable for nearly any supply chain management position."
ISM’s certification programs appeal to veterans with a supply chain background and tries to connect them via networking at its global affiliations, Jim Fleming, Program Manager of Certification at the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), told Supply Chain Dive. One of their certification programs is Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity (CPSD).
"That brings up an interesting angle," Fleming noted. "[One area of] diversity in the supply base is veteran-owned companies. We also teach industry how to hire vets and make connections with vet-owned companies.”
APICS recently partnered with American Public University System (APUS) to offer an instructor-facilitated preparation course for the APICS Certified Logistics, Transportation and Distribution (CLTD) designation through the American Military University and American Public University Programs, Eshkenazi said.
From boot camp to the front lines of supply chain
SAP is involved in a several programs to bring veterans into the supply chain profession. The company has partnered with RecruitMilitary, a network of large, medium and small organizations across a variety of industries and disciplines to help transitioning military men and women find employment.
NS2 Serves is an independent nonprofit initiated by NS2 a subsidiary of SAP, to help vets build high-tech careers. They receive training in SAP’s software solutions that support U.S. national security. More than 100 men and women have graduated from the program and landed a job.
"The evolution of technology is taking a tactical role in supply management, automating it away," ISM’s Fleming said. "[Vets should] continue to up-skill, to work on data analytics, which college students are exposed to. Vets need to keep that in mind to stay relevant for upcoming jobs."
Veterans2Work is another initiative SAP is involved with, Crichlow said. "Originally an online program, Veterans2Work evolved in 2014 when we partnered with St. Michael’s Learning Academy and Fort Hood [an army post in Killeen, Texas) to offer a 17-week on-site program for active duty service members transitioning out of the military."
Penn State University partners with the Marine Corps to offer The Marine Corps Supply Chain Fellowship, which condenses the two-year supply chain program offered online through its World Campus into a hybrid program that combines online courses with brick-and-mortar classes taken at the University Park, Pennsylvania, campus.
"These men and women will generally be in the Marine Corps for years, but I have received resumes, which I’ve forwarded to companies like Walmart and Amazon," Robert Novack, Associate Professor of Business Logistics at Penn State University, told Supply Chain Dive. "They’re very goal-oriented, disciplined and know how to manage people."
Novack points to FedEx and its founder, chairman and CEO, Fred Smith, a former Marine. FedEx had a conveyor system "that went on for miles. If there was a break, everything stopped," he said. "So they built their entire conveyor set in eight-foot sections. If a belt broke, just change it. Where there is failure, you’ve got to be ready for it."
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of April Crichlow.