From our smartphones to our shoes and our toothbrushes to our televisions, the 21st century marketplace relies on an intricate supply chain that moves goods and services around the globe on demand.
This fast-paced industry requires professionals with strong quantitative, analytical, communication and project management skills.
The nature of managing the entire lifecycle of a product, including how it’s acquired, distributed, transported, allocated and delivered, means that there are many career options in supply chain management (SCM). Let’s take a closer look at some of the opportunities available.
Supply chain analysts use quantitative methods to examine data and performance, identify problems, and develop recommendations for supply chain planning and operations. They also monitor compliance of vendors and suppliers, and create performance reports for stakeholders. Strong analytical and quantitative skills are required, as well as technical proficiency in databases, spreadsheets, statistical applications and other applicable software. The ability to communicate results and recommendations is also essential, along with project management skills.
Supply chain managers are involved in multiple facets of the profession, from planning, purchasing and production to storage, transportation and distribution. The supply chain manager position can be operations-oriented, which involves working with people and product flows, or it may be planning-focused, which entails demand forecasting and inventory control. In either case, the supply chain manager should be a collaborative, cross-functional problem-solver who seeks to boost productivity and efficiency at each link of the supply chain.
Customer service managers are responsible for monitoring and enhancing each part of the supply chain that impacts the customer, such as order entry, customer requests, shipment/delivery tracking, returns/refunds and order cycle times. These professionals also develop processes and procedures for resolving customer issues. Persuasion, conflict resolution, empathy, creativity, problem solving and attention to detail are among the soft skills typically required for success in customer service management.
Fulfillment supervisors work hands-on in the day-to-day operations of maintaining the supply chain. They monitor compliance and solve issues, and are actively involved with other team members. Responsible for ensuring productivity and quality objectives are attained, fulfillment supervisors should be able to handle multiple duties in a high-pressure environment.
International logistics managers deal with details relating to the global supply chain, including customs regulations, compliance, transportation and distribution strategies, scheduling and documentation. Working in areas ranging from marketing to manufacturing and purchasing to production, logistics managers should be diplomatic, knowledgeable of international commerce, detail-oriented and adept at negotiating. These professionals may have acquired prior experience in roles such as import/export coordinator or transportation planner.
Purchasing managers are responsible for procuring high-quality durable and nondurable goods and services for companies at the best cost possible. To do this, purchasing managers analyze data, examine inventory records and sales, and forecast current and future costs by looking at factors that affect supply and demand. Purchasing managers also identify and evaluate vendors based on price, delivery terms, quality and reliability. Critical thinking, persuasion, data-informed decision making and communication are typical skills required for a career as a purchasing manager.
Transportation managers oversee all aspects of the transportation system, including regulatory compliance, scheduling and tracking deliveries, and safety training in order to ensure efficient operations. Because transportation managers must often resolve conflicts, solve problems and negotiate with suppliers, they should demonstrate strategic thinking, strong communication and persuasion skills, and a high attention to detail.
These are just a few of the many potential career paths in the supply chain management field. Other options include roles in: procurement; mergers and aquisitions; distribution; performance improvement; lean operations; materials; pricing; warehousing; consulting; process engineering; and transportation.
Greater globalization and the growing role of digital technology will likely continue to transform the supply chain and the career opportunities available within the field. Supply chain management professionals may position themselves for advancement with additional experience and educational qualifications, such as a Master of Science in Supply Chain Management.