Specialist supply chain recruitment agencies are beginning to look for a new and unfamiliar professional for today’s supply chain jobs: the data scientist.

As reported in Supply Chain Management Review, a recent roundtable discussion at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) addressed the rise of machine learning and data management in supply chain practice.

Supply chain management today relies heavily on the ability to capture, analyse and accurately interpret gigantic quantities of data, and there has been a change in the functional makeup of supply chain teams.

Data scientists arrive in new-generation supply chain jobs, either as permanent staff or specialised supply chain interims, equipped with the knowledge required to derive actionable insights from vast pools of structured and unstructured data.

Demand for their talents has become enormous in most industries – this makes them difficult to retain, there are always alluring offers emanating from pastures new.

One solution discussed during the MIT roundtable was to keep them motivated by offering intellectually stimulating problems that feed their desire to rise to challenges.

Supply chain work has a unique advantage: it’s very fast-moving and professionals with data science expertise are unlikely to get mired in interminable projects that only creep forward inch by inch.

However, it’s also becoming necessary to offer this sought-after talent clear career progression pathways by creating new senior roles.

When recruiting for this talent, it’s important to remember that hiring is a two-way street and other abilities are required beyond high-level tech skills.

One of the more important is communication: your prospective supply chain data scientist should be able to describe complex algorithms in ways that ‘mere mortals’ in their organisations can readily understand.

As Ken Cottrill of MIT explains: “Just as digital transformation is an unfamiliar journey for supply chain professionals, so the supply chain is unfamiliar territory for data scientists. This will change as the journey progresses.

“Meanwhile, supply chain leaders must find ways to integrate data science into their functional map.”

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