The future of purchasing, procurement and supply chain functions is of critical importance to us at Procurify. To get a sense of what is being taught in university lecture halls about these core concepts, we caught up with Angus Chak, a UBC student focusing on supply chain studies, to ask him what he’s been learning on campus.
Q) Tell us about your studies – you are focusing on transportation, logistics and supply chain at the University of British Columbia. What does that entail?
A) So, at the Sauder School of Business, we’re all bachelor of commerce students. So, when we graduate there is no specific specialization on our degree. But, we have to take a specialization in a certain field of interest. But the school does want us to have a broad view of the entire business world. I liked that aspect, I took a marketing course, accounting and brand management course that I did well in. The school also offers international experience, I went to Shanghai last year and saw some examples of supply chain functions there and I will be going to Prague in September, so I’m really getting that global feel.
But, for me, supply chain is all about efficiency and that is a something I really like. I don’t like having to take the long route to something, just because that is the way something has always been done. I like to be direct and make things more efficient. And, it is such a fundamental part of any business especially in the marketing aspect – for example going into a new market to get more revenue. Unless you have a proper supply chain, you are not going to get that product to that new market.
Q) Can you explain more about your focus on supply chain? What does that entail? And, what drew you to the field?
A) Our focus on supply chain is quite broad. We take course such as operations management, which would be that statistical side of supply chain management. We look at business logistics and we take electives such as international supply chain and e-business and supply chain, so looking at implementing GPS, RFIDs and cloud technology into businesses.
As for what drew me to the field, I think because the program is so general in the first few years, I think everyone goes through a period of looking at a bunch of options like HR or marketing but I landed on supply chain because I was really interested in it. It presents a lot of ways to innovate in the future, which is really exciting.
Q) So, looking specifically at your supply chain studies, what has been identified as critical issues in supply chain management?
A) Supply chain has always been a very old school industry so a lot of the people who have been working in the industry for a long time are very hesitant to innovate or implementing new technologies. Many people in the industry like to do things the way they have always been done. Sustainability is also a huge issue now because supply chain can be a huge polluter of the environment – marine, trucking and air freight. It is necessary in many cases, but it is still a huge polluter.
Q) What do you see as the missing pieces in supply chain management? What are the decision makers in the industry missing out on? What are they slow to adopt?
A) Supply chain is such a data-driven industry. If you want to innovate, you need data. You need data to show how your supply chain has been affected. A lot of professionals especially in smaller and mid-size companies they just go on their feeling and go on vendor relations. If you have good vendor relations, which is fantastic, you may not want to deviate from them even if they aren’t the best supplier anymore.
In Vancouver, it is a saturated market for logistics providers, third party suppliers, so they are very aggressively trying to innovate past the competition. So, even though some businesses may have great vendor relations that relationship may blind them to choosing something that may work better for them.
The status quo is always a huge thing in supply chain, people aren’t willing to deviate. They just do things the way they always have and that can lead to some very inefficient processes and operations.
Q) So what then do you see as the future solutions to supply chain management?
A) Larger companies such as Canadian Tire and Johnson & Johnson are starting to implement a lot of supply chain technology. They see the research and they see the savings. Warehouse management, cloud technology are examples of that technology. It is taking some buy-in, but once they see the results, it makes their life easier and saves them money it provides incentive to continue.
Personally, I have a great interest in Africa. In the past, it has been difficult to implement supply chains there because of government corruption and lack of infrastructure. But right now a lot of people want access to mines there so they are developing more transportation infrastructure. I would say in the next 7 to 10 years, there will be a huge boom in that area in Africa.
Q) So, on a more personal note: when you’re done school, what position are you looking to find when you’re done school? What do you hope your job will be?
A) I’m really excited to work with consumer good companies such as Johnson & Johnson or Adidas, getting their products to stores. I really want to work in demand planning or in a distribution position, either gauging the demand we will see in the future or working with trucking, shipping or air to get manufacturers to actual retail stores. Further down the road, I would love to get into consulting.