What’s a supply chain and why does it matter? MCC’s Jeff Schwartz has the answers

A student in the CDL program at MCC-Business & Technology takes a driving test on campus administered by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. (Photo by Ernie W. Webb II)
A student in the CDL program at MCC-Business & Technology takes a driving test on campus administered by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. (Photo by Ernie W. Webb II)

There are chain stores of all kinds, chain necklaces, chain letters and the food chain. But do you know what a supply chain is? And why does Metropolitan Community College have a supply chain program?

Well, if you want a textbook definition, here goes: A supply chain is the sequence of processes involved in the production and distribution of a commodity.

Got that?

Jeff Schwartz is manager of the Center for Supply Chain Education at MCC-Business & Technology.
Jeff Schwartz is manager of the Center for Supply Chain Education at MCC-Business & Technology.

Fortunately, Jeff Schwartz, who earlier this year became manager of the new Center for Supply Chain Education at MCC-Business & Technology, can explain it better.

A loaf of bread you buy at a grocery store? It took all the elements of the supply chain — including production/manufacturing, purchasing, inventory control and transportation — to get that bread onto a supermarket shelf.

“A loaf of bread has no value to consumers as stalks of wheat in a Kansas field,” Schwartz says.

In other words, transforming wheat and other ingredients into bread is merely one link in the chain, one step in the journey from wheat field to your kitchen.

Those working in the supply chain field get “the opportunity to touch every department in a company,” Schwartz says. Sales, accounting — “it all runs through supply chain.”

But the supply chain, or logistics, field is often described as an invisible industry. The good news for workers: Plenty of jobs are available.

A May 2014 Fortune article described the $1.3 trillion U.S. supply chain industry as big and getting bigger, delivering “48 tons of freight (worth about $48 billon) daily and already (employing) roughly 6 million people” who work mostly behind the scenes.

The headline on that story: “Wanted: 1.4 million new supply chain workers by 2018.”

MCC was already offering training for various parts of the supply chain, but now those programs have been brought together under one umbrella.

Our truck driving program — also known as CDL, for commercial drivers license — and forklift safety and warehousing class are two components of MCC’s supply chain program.

The CDL program in particular has grown significantly over the last two years: “The people who leave here can drive anything,” Schwartz says. And they immediately find jobs, he says.

Four credit classes that fall under that supply chain umbrella are being relaunched:

+ Logistics Management (BSAD 210) starts Oct. 12 (running the second eight weeks of the semester).

+ Operations Management (BSAD 211) and Transportation Operations and Management (BSAD 212) are expected to be offered again starting Spring 2016.

+ Carrier Management (BSAD 213), dealing with truck line and railroad issues, will be offered down the road, perhaps Fall 2016.

Along with classes for individuals, the supply chain program also offers customized training for businesses. Over the past year the program has customized CDL courses for Kansas City Water Department workers and signal operations employees of BNSF railroad, among others.

“In today’s environment, a company’s supply chain can make the difference between product success or product failure, and just like a chain, the failure can happen at any link along the way,” Schwartz says. “The people who understand supply chain are in demand, and I am eager to share those possibilities with our students.”