What can meteorologists and supply chain professionals learn from each other?

posted by Penny Sayce
30 September 2016

Initially it might appear that the professions of meteorology and supply chain management (SCM) are worlds apart, but when you dig a bit deeper, you notice some common themes.

Meteorology was my dream job when I was at school, but A-level results didn't allow me to pursue this any further. I kept a keen amateur interest in meteorology on and off in my spare time and was recently struck by how some of the principles of meteorology popped up in SCM.

Most noticeably, members of both professions need to be able to apply the science of a systematic approach and the art of connecting the dots and understanding how changes in one area can affect another, but other comparisons can be made.

Formulas

In meteorology, a variety of formulas are used to forecast the weather based on atmospheric pressure, humidity, temperature and other factors. Formulas are also the foundations of SCM in controlling inventory, such as reorder point and economic order quantity.

Law of chaos

Of course, however well we try and bring order to our weather and our inventory with our formulas through forecasting, there is no escape from the chaos theory. The complexities of both system means that a small unplanned event can have a much bigger impact further on. In our weather this could be an unexpected storm. In SCM this could be a bull-whip effect or supply issues of a finished product due to issues with a raw material.

Advances in technology

Improvements in processing vast quantities of data at faster rates has meant the accuracy of forecasting has improved, as has the accuracy of severe weather warnings. Phys.org noted advancements such as the two-day forecast today is as accurate as the one-day forecast in 1988 and tornado warnings that previously averaged five minutes, and were only warned 26% of the time, to an average 13 minute warning 69% of the time.

The management of supply chains has also seen advances, such as increased visibility in stock movement and availability, as well as being able to offer customers a more cohesive omni-channel shopping experience.

Skills required

When you look at an ideal candidate required for meteorology, skills such as a good methodical approach, communication, ability to analyse and present complex data, an inquiring mind, good problem solving skills and the ability to work well in a team are all the similar to the combination of soft and hard skills required to be successful in SCM.

As we look to the future, both professions are seeing similar developments, such as an increase in data available, an increased understanding of the complexities in the full supply chain and global weather patterns and developments in technology to process the information. I think it will be interesting to see what we can learn from each other.

☛ Penny Sayce is company stock controller and indirect buyer at Choice Shops Ltd.

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