© 2022 | WUWF Public Media
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
850 474-2787
NPR for Florida's Great Northwest
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

UWF Links Students To The Global Supply Chain

Scott Keller

Managing the global supply chain is a complicated process with a lot of moving parts. Add a global pandemic to the mix and you’re going to need trained professionals to juggle those parts.

So what exactly is the global supply chain?

“I usually say boats, planes, trucks, and trains,” said Scott Keller, a professor of supply chain management and logistics, and department chair for the Department of Commerce at the University of West Florida.

Keller came to UWF some 15 years ago and taught a logistics and transportation class.

“And the students really gravitated to (them). And so we moved straight from the two classes into a certificate program," he said. "And then that certificate program kept growing and our students began to get really good jobs, well-paying jobs. And not too long ago, I’d say it was probably about six or seven years ago we started thinking about a stand-alone supply chain degree. Prior to that, it was a specialization within our marketing degree.”

Since then, those thoughts have turned into actions. Today there is a stand-alone supply chain logistics management degree at UWF. Earning this degree has cleared some pretty diverse career paths for graduates. Keller has been reaching out to find out how some of those grads have been doing, and recently spoke to one named Adam.

“He’s up in Cincinnati and he just started a new warehouse operation for one of their computer and technology clients," Keller explained. "So Adam had to, over the last several weeks, figure out how to layout a million square feet of warehousing space. He had to lay out the processes, he had to lay out based on velocity and based on volume that’s coming through the facility. They had to think about their mechanics, their racking systems, all of this assistance that will help that product move through that facility and ultimately get to the customer.”

Dr. Keller thinks students should be able to find a position anywhere along the supply chain.

“Exactly. They could be a buyer negotiating prices with a supplier. That supplier could be a supplier for aluminum cans for a soft drink beverage company. Or it could be (former student) Monty, who is working for the soft drink beverage company, and he’s managing 36 drivers out in the field everyday scheduling deliveries.”

These skills can be used in large and small ports around the country. Keller has experience working at the Port of Long Beach in California but says a smaller port, like Pensacola, can be ideal for customers who need personalized service.

“We can look after your freight coming in and out. We can move it quickly out of our port and through our port. Whereas (in) Long Beach, California, I remember the 710 Freeway that empties into Long Beach. We had 1,100 trucks a day on a busy day. Coming just into my facility, the company that I worked for. We had trucks backed up for a mile waiting to get into our facility. So there’s really a logjam, a bottleneck. So your smaller ports are definitely attractive because they have less congestion. And that’s something that shippers are looking at.”

The degree program in supply chain logistics management has only been offered at UWF since 2015. Dr. Keller says the program will continue to grow as more students learn about it.

“We know marketing, it’s been around for 100 years. We know management, we know finance. Those are very well understood by our parents and grandparents as some of the foundations of business. Supply chain and logistics — those are terms that are relatively new. So getting the word out and letting students and parents of students know that your student can get a great job, before they walk across the stage, in the supply chain.”

The global supply chain was disrupted almost from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. From shortages of toilet paper in the beginning to the current shortage of computer chips that go into cars and other machines. Keller believes things should be back to normal by early 2022.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.