Trucking is arguably one of the most vital jobs in the United States. When you consider that 70 percent of the freight that moves through the country is transported by trucks, the trucking industry is the backbone that holds the U.S. upright. As important as trucking is, however, it would be nothing without a strong running supply chain. Manufacturers need a constant stream of materials and resources to produce goods and retailers and other companies need a constant stream of deliveries in order for their business to operate.
“The U.S. supply chain economy is large and distinct. It represents the industries that sell to businesses and the government, as opposed to business-to-consumer (B2C) industries that sell for personal consumption,” the Harvard Business Review says. Much the same way that the trucking industry keeps many U.S. citizens employed, the U.S. supply chain industry accounts for 37 percent of all jobs in the country, employing approximately 44 million people. Interestingly enough, these jobs also pay significantly more than a number of professions and are largely responsible for bursts of innovation within the economy.
“The intensity of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs, a proxy for innovation potential, is almost five times higher in the supply chain economy than in the B2C economy. Patenting is also highly concentrated in supply chain industries,” HBR adds.
It’s the supply chain that links so many different industries and companies together.
So what is it that makes the supply chain industry pay so well and be responsible for such innovation? It might just be the fact that it’s the supply chain that links so many different industries and companies together.
The Importance of Supply Chain Services
As we mentioned above, the trucking, manufacturing and retail industries rely heavily on supply chain services to function and survive in today’s economy. With a heavy focus on lean manufacturing, many companies simply can’t afford to have extra products or parts lying around – there needs to be a constant influx, giving these companies what they need precisely when they need it. But it doesn’t explain why it stands out from other sources of employment. To that, Mercedes Delgado, a research director and scientist of MIT and Karen Mills, senior fellow of Harvard Business School, have taken a look at the categorization of employment and made an interesting discovery when it comes to the supply chain. “Only 10% of employment in the economy is in manufacturing, and 90% is in services. It is commonly thought that most of those service jobs are low-wage occupations at restaurants or retail stores, while the manufacturing jobs have higher wages. But not all services are the same.” – Delgado and Mills stated in the recent HBR article. “With our new categorization, we can separate supply chain service jobs – which are higher-paying – from the Main Street service jobs that tend to be lower paying. These supply chain service jobs include many different labor occupations, from operation managers to computer programmers, to truck drivers. They comprise about 80% of supply chain employment, with an average annual wage of $63,000, and are growing rapidly,” they added.
On average, these jobs pay about three times more and have 18x the STEM intensity over Main Street services, and the job market is growing fast.
Through their work, they’ve also uncovered a subcategory of the supply chain industry which is traded services. These services are traded and sold across many different fields such as engineering, design, software publishing, logistics services and many others. This subcategory, in particular, showed some of the highest wages and STEM concentration of the entire economy. On average, these jobs pay about three times more and have 18x the STEM intensity over Main Street services, and the job market is growing fast.
“Our supply chain economy framework leads to a more optimistic view of the economy. If we were to focus on supporting supply chain services, particularly those in traded industries, the result might be more innovation and more well-paying jobs in the United States.”
How Does this New Category Affect Policy?
While it might not seem like an important find, this new categorization is actually very important, especially when it relates to U.S. economic policies. For starters, there needs to be a heavier investment in skilled labor. While the supply chain industry has the majority of STEM workers already on the payroll, there is a shortage in America in general. This makes it hard for both sides to continue the level of growth and innovation. Many companies already have a hard time finding the necessary talent to keep them moving forward.
Supply chain industries are even more at risk since continuous innovation not only needs new talent but the ability to retain existing talent.
Supply chain industries are even more at risk since continuous innovation not only needs new talent but the ability to retain existing talent. The second point from Delgado and Mills is that we need to support regional industry clusters. “Suppliers produce inputs for businesses, and therefore, they particularly benefit from being co-located with their buyers in industry clusters. Catalyzing and strengthening organizations that support regional clusters is one way to promote buyer-supplier collaboration.”
Finally, it’s a matter of making sure that supply chain service providers have access to the necessary funds to continue their work. Many of the products and services that they create are things that can’t be patented which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to continue generating the necessary capital. Having government policies in place that would guarantee loans or credit support for suppliers would go a long way to ensuring stability and funding for these service providers to start and grow.
The supply chain is a very large industry within the United States and one with the potential for some dynamic growth. Supply chain service providers play a crucial role in not only ensuring that other industries are able to function but also provide the necessary access to these resources that will help this new category of the industry to grow and the American economy as a whole.
Are you part of the supply chain talent pool?
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