Solving the Supply Chain Technician Shortage

Industry working with educators can fill the pipeline

Supply chain technicians and mechanics are estimated to number nearly 2.4 million in the U.S. By 2025, this number will grow by 11 percent. In addition to the new growth, companies are expected to replace about 22 percent of members of their current supply chain technician workforce—creating about 770,000 total technician-level job openings in the next 10 years.

The actual number of supply chain technicians is hard to pinpoint for a number of reasons. Although there may be a number of employees whose job responsibilities fit the description of a supply chain technician, there are a variety of job titles for the position—with many failing to reflect the expanded skill set needed to address technical needs in today’s automated warehouse.

“The role of the supply chain technician has evolved from that of a general mechanic or industrial mechanic with HVAC, general building or forklift maintenance responsibilities to a role that combines traditional skills with the knowledge to maintain automated systems as well,” explains Steve Harrington, industry liaison for the National Center for Supply Chain Automation (SCA). “We define today’s supply chain technician as a person who maintains, supports, operates, upgrades or installs the automated material handling equipment and systems that support the supply chain.”

Although supply chain technicians are required to understand programmable logic controllers, they are not software technicians, points out Harrington. “They are more hands-on technicians that have the skills to work with programmable logic controllers (PLCs), micro-controllers and sensors in modern automated warehouse systems—troubleshooting them but not fully programming the system.”

As multiple industries such as manufacturing and supply chain become more automated, the demand for multi-skilled technicians who can work in a fast-paced environment increases. For this reason, material handling industry members find themselves competing with manufacturers for the same employee.

By Sheryl S. Jackson

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