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How Syracuse University is Addressing the Critical Need to Reimagine Global Supply Chains Online

Written by Molly Forman on May 15, 2020

Related content: University, Graduate Programs

Patrick Penfield, Professor of Supply Chain Practice at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management

COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on industry, but there are some silver linings. There’s public health reform, the evolution of education, and the re-evaluation of transit services. The pandemic has also shed light on the critical need to reimagine global supply chains to build sustainable resilience.

“The attention supply chain has received has been pretty dramatic,” said Patrick Penfield, professor of supply chain practice at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management. With more than 16 years of experience in the industry before moving to academia, Penfield has been witness to many supply chain challenges, but none have made headlines quite like Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), toilet paper, ventilators, and Lysol. “People are realizing that there are some weaknesses that we have that were not as apparent before the pandemic. We live in a global world with global supply chains, and while that’s advantageous to us, it can also be detrimental in times like these.”

Penfield is now seeing increased interest in evolving supply chains for easier local distribution, especially for raw materials needed to create supplies for those in medical professions.

“A lot of PPE is made overseas. Now, we need to determine how to make it here in the United States,” he said. As for cleaning products, Penfield says sourcing ingredients is the main issue. Many of the chemicals needed for disinfectants come from China, and as the first country hit with the pandemic, their factories have not been able to meet the demand for orders.

To some, these complex issues may seem overwhelming in scope. To Penfield, problem solving and effecting change are why he fell in love with the supply chain management profession. He looks forward to inspiring more individuals within the field by using case studies like those supply chain challenges uncovered by COVID-19 in a new online Master of Supply Chain Management program the Whitman School announced yesterday in partnership with 2U, Inc..

“At this unprecedented moment in history, when businesses, governments, and civil society are grappling with complex supply chain challenges, my colleagues and I look forward to teaching a new generation of leaders and problem solvers who will help shape the future of this critical field,” he said in this week’s announcement.

For Penfield, his hope and goal are that this online degree becomes one of the top global programs in the world. With Syracuse University home to the nation’s first supply chain program, established in 1919, his vision seems within reach.

The demand for supply chain professionals has risen with the advent of the pandemic, but even before COVID-19 there was a need for more experts. While we often hear of the shortage of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals, Penfield says there’s a shortage in supply chain specialists, too.

“Many people are retiring from the supply chain profession, so we’re seeing a lot of vacancies,” he said. “We’re going to see a greater need for those experts to fill important positions. It’s an exciting time to get involved.”

Forty percent of all jobs are related to supply chain, and every company utilizes some type of supply chain to sustain business in an ever-evolving economy (Heizer and Render, 2014, p. 8). While there are nuances and differences across industries, the fundamental aspects of a supply chain are constant, says Penfield. That’s the exciting part about working in the profession: “You can gain experience in one industry and apply it to another because you have transferable skills. The supply chain field is ripe with opportunity.”

Are you interested in a career in supply chain management and the opportunity to make meaningful, innovative contributions to the economy? Learn more about our partnership with Syracuse University.

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