Learning Logistics

Employees in the Middle East are sometimes reluctant to provide training to their logistics staff. However, by taking training seriously, companies can gain a competitive advantage.

  • E-Mail
By  Robeel Haq Published  March 5, 2006

Learning Logistics|~|learninglogistics2.jpg|~||~|The demand for training courses aimed at logistics professionals is increasing on a global level. The trend, which primarily started in America and Europe, has now reached the Middle East, where the number of companies investing in employee education schemes in steadily rising. “The potential of gaining competitive advantage through an efficient supply chain is now recognised across all industries,” says Stuart Burke, managing director, Hy-Tech Logistics. “Logistics companies are realising that their future is dependent on training staff at all levels. It is not limited to management but also operations staff, who will become future management.” The Middle East logistics industry has grown at a rapid pace over the past decade. The region has firmly established itself as a gateway between East and West, especially with projects such as Dubai Logistics City. However, the boom has resulted in a potential shortage of qualified logistics professions. Instead of waiting for employees to become competent, companies are starting to take control of the situation and train staff in core areas, such as supply chain management, logistics strategy and procurement analysis. “Middle East companies are starting to understand the benefits of training logistics staff,” says Professor Philbert Suresh, chief knowledge officer, TransLogistique Canada. “Although their attitude towards employee education schemes is still ten years behind their counterparts in North America and Europe to some extent, they are beginning the catch-up process.” One of the primary concerns for companies willing to consider training is cost. The investment required to provide staff with relevant training must be justified and financially viable. Although the costs will vary depending on factors such as the duration of training, a commonly cited benchmark for development budgets is upwards of five percent of executive payroll. “I recommend calculating budgets only after looking carefully at your training objectives,” says Suresh. “It’s best to start with the end results you are seeking and work backwards.” Before developing a training plan, companies must clearly define their objectives. The more specifically these can be stated, the better the training experience will become and the higher the return on investment. A variety of factors can be considered, including the most suitable type of training for the company and employee, the employees most likely to benefit from training, and desired outcome of providing an employee education scheme. Companies may also decide to measure the results of training by setting Key Performance Indicators (KPI), thus highlighting the improvements made by each employee. Of course, companies should remain realistic and avoid expecting to accomplish too much in a short period of time. “We place great emphasis on providing training programmes to both new and existing employees,” says Euan Air, division director, business development & marketing, Barloworld Logistics Middle East. “The training programme for each individual is mutually designed and carefully monitored to ensure that individual targets are met. We run many of our training programmes as in-house courses facilitated by our own experts and external consultants. However, we also encourage our staff to undertake external postgraduate courses and will actively sponsor suitable candidates.” Logistics training can cover a diverse range of different subjects and skills. TransLogistique Canada has summarised a list of useful logistics related topics using the TWIMP model (Transportation, Warehousing and Inventory Management, Information Technology, Materials Handling, Packaging, Marking and Labelling). “Supply chain management is a key skill for all professional logisticians,” says Burke. “This is supported by the core management skills and the more detailed technical skills built around the functional areas of inventory, warehousing, transport, production planning, global sourcing, supply chain network planning and customer services.” Training courses are available in various different forms. The different modules can be taught through conventional classroom training, distance learning, on-the-job training, or a combination of all three. DHL, for example, recently enrolled around 20 senior employees from across the Middle East onto a logistics training programme certified by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT). The course is a mixture of one-to-one tutoring and distance learning. The first workshop has already taken place in Dubai and students will receive either a certificate or diploma after completing the programme, which normally lasts 12-15 months. The amount of time spent on training courses can also vary. Employees maybe sent on one-day intensive programmes, or part-time postgraduate courses lasting two years. As the pace of competition increases in the Middle East logistics industry, the amount of time spent acquiring new skills is also expected to rise. In theory, the region is likely to follow the trend in other parts of the world. For example, the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) has reported an increase in learning hours received per employee: rising from 27.9 hours in 2002 to a projected 45 hours in 2005. Although many companies currently expect these learning hours to take place outside office hours, it can be beneficial to make some provision for studying in the workplace, where networking opportunities and mentoring from experienced colleagues will form an important part of the learning process. “There is a happy medium to be reached between employer and employee,” says Burke. “Studying after a days work is difficult but employers on tight margins sometimes cannot afford loss of productivity. A combination of both could prove beneficial to both parties.” Finding a happy medium will result in optimum results for both the employer and employee. Whilst the company will gain from improvements in productivity and service levels, the individual will benefit from increased motivation and greater confidence to perform their responsibilities more efficiently. "The benefits of our large investment in staff training should ultimately be measured in increased cash flow," says Air. "However, we have also found that success comes in more indirect ways as well, for example we are benefiting from higher employee retention figures." For the employee, investing their time and energy in training courses can also lead to greater opportunities for career progression in the future. “To the individual who takes ownership for his or her self-development, the training will lead to a greener pasture with satisfying careers,” says Suresh. Whether the employee is placed on a one-day seminar or two-year course, the process of learning is ongoing. For example, the member of staff may gain full knowledge of supply chain management, but the industry is constantly changing, and the need to keep skills and knowledge updated is very important. “Supply Chain Management as a discipline is constantly being researched and developed as industries change with new technologies,” says Burke. “As supply chain practioners we must welcome change and adapt accordingly, hence the learning must be treated as continual.”||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code