According to Harvard Business Review, the U.S. supply chain is tied to 37% of all jobs in the country, or 44 million workers. And those figures were calculated before COVID-19, which has made the supply chain ever more important with rising demand for delivery and distribution.
Ralph Garcia ’83, management lecturer at Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College of Business and Economics and a specialist in the field, points to undergraduate and graduate programs in supply chain and operations as beneficial paths for Titans.
“The demand for professionals who design, manage, operate and optimize operations continues to grow,” says Garcia, who also holds a doctorate in public administration from the University of La Verne. “This degree option is highly versatile and provides holders the most flexibility in their career options.”
Garcia notes that five years after earning his undergraduate degree in operations research, he had already served as a supply chain analyst, quality engineer, industrial engineer and operations manager.
“These roles and my subsequent MBA degree were foundational to my career path as a program manager, director and vice president,” he says. “I was also fortunate to work globally in diverse business sectors, such as medical technology, aerospace, defense and communications.”
The Supply Chain Value Add
Regardless of what professional sector you find yourself in, there is always a need for supply chain professionals, because the essentials of maximizing profits and minimizing waste and costs is crucial to the success of any business or organization.
“Whether a firm produces a product or delivers a service, the cycle of development and deployment is complex. It involves people, processes, raw materials and other resources, such as time, transportation and money,” says Garcia. “Supply chain is a critical component of operations and is the backbone of the global economy. It crosses time zones, continents, countries, cultures and economies. Regardless of your role within the firm, you will interface with the supply chain. Everything that you touch and use comes from the supply chain. So, whether you are scaling and distributing lifesaving vaccines or ordering take-out food, operations and supply chain management are vital to the success or failure of the firm.”
More recently, Garcia formulated and executed strategy for various companies and consulting firms. Among the traits of successful companies that he has witnessed is agility in response to external environmental changes.
“Whether your strategies are deliberate or emergent, being nimble and thoughtful is vital. How does this relate to operations and supply chain management? Strategic initiatives need to be operationalized for execution and realization. They often take the form of rapidly deployed customer initiatives, product development, innovation, lean-kaizen projects, network leverage and compliance mandates,” he says.
Your Supply Chain Education
Cal State Fullerton’s MBA concentration in supply chain management provides students with the acumen they need to run or lead in business, either as an entrepreneur or working for an established firm.
The concentration is particularly useful in Southern California, where world-class port and logistics facilities and a major economic engine combine to generate myriad opportunities in the field.
Elective coursework for students includes operations planning and control, purchasing and supply management, quality improvement and productivity, management of service organizations, and a seminar in team leadership skills.
The coursework focuses on the importance of solution-oriented leadership, which opens doors and improves an employee’s value.
“To be proficient in problem-solving, one must understand goals, systems, context, domain, change and decision implications. One must also possess the ability to think critically, analyze and interpret data, and practically apply tools,” says Garcia. “These problem-solving skills are expected outcomes of the operations and supply chain management curriculum. Students will have ample opportunity to employ these components within the concentration through study and experiential learning.”