What Supply Chain Managers Do
All companies use some form of raw materials and/ or finished goods as they carry out their normal business operations, and most need to move those goods and materials from one location to the next and/or purchase them from vendors.
If anything fails in the process, it can halt business operations or cost the organization a considerable amount of money to correct. For this reason, most companies have logistics and supply chain management professionals, and larger corporations may even have teams devoted to it. People who work in logistics and supply chain management cover five main aspects, including planning/ strategizing, sourcing/ procuring, manufacturing, delivery/ logistics, and dealing with unneeded or unwanted products.
Who would enjoy a career in Logistics and Supply Chain Management?
While supply chain management sounds simple, it can actually be quite a challenge, especially if a vendor fails to deliver as promised. Moreover, those who handle procurement have a major impact on the company’s bottom line, so good supply chain managers must be incredibly detail-oriented and strategic.
They also have to understand the needs of their organization inside and out in order to ensure operations are never slowed or halted due to supply issues. Equally, it’s quite helpful for supply chain managers to be excellent communicators and negotiators, as developing strong relationships with vendors can pave the way for a long-term mutually beneficial partnership.
Who mightn't like the career?
Comfort with technology, such as supply chain management software, as well as spreadsheet programs like Excel, are essential components of the job, so it’s not a good fit for people who aren’t good with computers or multitasking. Supply chain managers can also sometimes feel like they’re under attack daily, either by the company they work for because objectives aren’t being met or by vendors for payment issues, tough negotiations, or canceled orders. For this reason, it’s not a good career path for those who are riled easily.
Lastly, being committed to ethical behavior is paramount, as some vendors will try to buy their way in with gifts, rather than offering fair bids and quality goods or services. Those who can be swayed by this not only hurt their organizations, but often wind up without a job.
Most organizations expect at least a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management, logistics, business, or a related field. Getting experience as an intern or in an entry-level position is beneficial. It is also helpful to join a recognized professional organization, such as the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport or the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply.
It’s essential for candidates to select an industry and/or niche that’s well-known to them and to research the company in advance to get a better idea of what its needs, goals, and expectations will be before the interview. Questions typically surround areas of expertise as well as prior experience managing challenging problems.
- Supply Chain Manager Interview Questions
- Supply Chain Manager Job Interview Tips
- Tips and Advice to Help You With Your Next Supply Chain Interview
Moving into Logistics and Supply Chain Management from another career
Supply chain management requires a specific set of skills that few will have without related degrees or certifications. Occasionally, an individual may be able to move into supply chain management by starting out with a company in an entry-level role that relates to one part of the supply chain, such as warehouse work or procurement. For further reading, see “Supply Chain Career Changes – How to Get In, Get On, and Get What You Want” and “Breaking into a Supply Chain Management Career.”
Supply Chain Analyst
Role: Newcomers to the field with no experience typically begin in an analyst role. They may be referred to as a general supply chain analyst or cover a specific niche, such as sourcing, materials, production, inventory, demand planning, deployment, or transportation. The analysts spend their days gathering and analyzing data, and communicate their findings to their supervisors, so the supervisors can make informed decisions.
Supply Chain Specialist
Role: Supply chain specialists focus more on optimizing the supply chain, and they may also have a niche-specific role. Their job is to monitor the existing supply chain, spot inefficiencies, and find ways to help overcome them. They also ensure that all inventory levels are where they should be, and that ordering is occurring as needed. Specialists oversee the work of analysts.
Supply Chain Manager
Role: Managers oversee the specialists and analysts, handling the interviews, training, and disciplinary issues as needed. They create the processes junior employees must follow, work with other departments to ensure needs are being met and that future needs are anticipated. They also work with suppliers and evaluate and negotiate contracts with them.
Supply Chain Management Director
Role: Directors of supply chain management look at the entire supply chain for an organization and try to identify ways to increase efficiency or reduce costs in a way that customer satisfaction, safety, or quality are not diminished. They also pay attention to market trends, identify potential issues, and perform risk assessments. If an individual moves beyond this role, it’s typically to an executive position, such as COO or CEO.
Managers and above often travel for work in order to visit sites their organization sources goods and materials from. With some organizations, the travel needs are negligible, though it can sometimes include frequent international travel too.
Supply Chain Analyst: Data from PayScale indicates that base salaries average USD$58,000 in the United States, ₤27,000 in the United Kingdom, CAD$56,000 in Canada, and AU$84,000 in Australia.
Supply Chain Specialist: USD$51,000, £31,000, CAD$61,000, and AU$80,000.
Supply Chain Manager: USD$79,000, £39,000, CAD$76,000, and AU$110,000.
Supply Chain Management Director: USD$118,000, £77,000, CAD$115,000, and AU$182,000.
Bonuses, profit sharing, and commission are not always a big part of a supply chain manager’s take-home pay, but it can add 10-15% or more onto a professional’s salary in some cases.
Why Supply Chain Managers move on
Interestingly, not only do most professionals stay in supply chain management, but they also tend to stay with a single employer for most of their careers. Those who find themselves unhappy with their careers or are unchallenged by the work simply make a lateral transfer to a different area of supply chain management.
However, some do decide to move on when they feel they’re pitted between their employers or vendors too frequently, while others fail to make accurate forecasts and either decide the career isn’t right for them or are asked to leave. Depending on what areas an individual has specialized in, countless business and financial careers may be a good fit.
For further reading, see “Operations and Supply Chain Management Career Paths and Patterns,” “What to Ask Yourself Before You Quit Your Supply Chain Management Job” and “Exit opportunities for supply chain?”