The blog is written by Prof. Chandrasekaran N, Professor, Operations Management, IFMR GSB
The supply chain is about a firm strategically managing inbound and outbound processes and other firms fulfilling the ultimate customer demand. It is important to note that there are multiple nodes and flows across the supply network while managing demand and supply for goods or service. The supply chain involves managing 4 processes: supplier relationship management, internal supply chain processes, channel management processes, and customer relationship management. These 4 processes help accomplish the supply chain goals of cost and responsiveness.
The two supply chain goals are divergent. Companies that achieve global scale and class help converging the two goals or towards convergence, at least. The decisions can be: immediate from a shift to a week, referred to as ‘Operational’; a month to six quarters, referred to as ‘Planning bucket’, and finally, ‘strategic’ which are long-term decisions.
As an intern, one would get the opportunity to be with a manufacturing firm’s supply chain function or with a third-party or fourth-party supply chain solutions company. A third-party supply chain service provider is one who executes supply chain processes as desired by the client. On the other hand, a fourth-party solutions provider would advise the network’s design and facilitate the advisory service’s execution through its independent SBU or by another company.
The internship opportunities could be in vast functions of the supply chain processes. In supplier relationship management, an intern can help in supplier intelligence, market analysis such as price and trends pertaining to the availability of material, analysis of total landed cost of a material, competitor intelligence on the usage of material, and purchase source. Those who have an interest in accounting and costing may get involved in the computation of the total cost of ownership of the material, especially those used in MRO (Maintenance, Repairs, and Overhaul) items.
Similarly, the purchase of capital equipment may require a lot of analytical skillsets. An intern would be able to provide support on cost-benefit analysis and simulation of various conditions.
The supply chain involves managing warehouse operations, which includes the following:
- Secure warehouse for handling material, components, and value-added activities.
- Open warehouses like yard, especially for engineering, capital goods, automotive, metals, and agriculture-based products.
- Tankers that are used for liquids and gases.
Without getting into details of the nine-yard warehouse types, all operations in a warehouse focus on utilising cubic space, material handling equipment, and managing people towards receipt, storage, and order management of products. Interns can work in a warehouse looking at technology and engineering design used to construct and utilise a warehouse.
Modern warehouses have adopted technology in material handling and other design features. There are added sustainability and environmental angle to modern warehouse management. An intern can look at the carbon footprint generated in such warehouses and compare it with the traditional ones. Warehouse management engages a lot of outsourcing functions as well.
Firstly, most warehouse management managed by third-party logistics service providers is leased and with the property owners viewing a warehouse as a real estate. Hence, it is essential to analyse the occupancy trends, rentals’ movement to owners, and parity charging the clients. Such analytical skills and logistics infrastructure management will be crucial.
Secondly, workers in a warehouse are generally semi-skilled and unskilled suppliers supplied by the contract manufacturers. This again requires the deployment of analytics towards productivity, cost, and contract management.
Another useful opportunity for interns lies in analysing inventory, models, counting, and accuracy. This may be relevant selectively depending upon the firm which engages the interns. Furthermore, transportation management has enormous opportunities for interns. This includes analysing the transport markets, load factors, market loads versus retention services, contract management, vehicle placement analysis, documentation and completion of waybills, profitability analysis on trip cost, and overall transportation costs. Analysis of service level agreements and their fulfilment will be useful.
With all this, one may note that there is enough scope on demurrage claims, delay charges, and levy of penalties by the different stakeholders. Today, this sector uses portals for vehicle engagement, tracking, and performance management. There are opportunities in milk run, vehicle consolidation, and just in time deliveries. Several new generation companies are using mobile technology applications for performance management of transportation across the supply network.
Today order management, especially after the rise of eCommerce, has become an essential aspect of supply chain management. The use of technology and people management are necessary for order management. There are several incentives based on order deliveries and their contribution towards the bottom line. Interns may be deployed to study improvements in order management. The above are some of the indicative areas where interns can be gainfully engaged in supply chain network functions.