October 25th, 2016
4 Things To Know Before Getting Into Supply Chain
For anyone who doesn’t have up-close and personal knowledge of the supply chain field, the career—and just about everything related to it—can be somewhat mysterious. While we all know that the products we use on a daily basis have to be made, packaged, stored, shipped, and transported to their final destinations, just exactly how all of that actually takes place remains an enigma for many of us.
The good news is that supply chain as a profession has taken on a higher, more “visible” profile over the last few years. As omni-channel distribution (e.g., a strategy that provides the customer with a seamless shopping experience whether he or she is shopping online, on a mobile device, or in a retail store), has taken center stage for many organizations, the supply chains that support this concept have also grown in importance.
If the idea of orchestrating the flow of goods and services from point of origin to point of consumption—or, managing any single aspect of that process (such as the warehouse or the transportation component)—entices you, check out these four “things to know” about your prospective career:
1)Get the lowdown on the position and responsibilities first.
Do your homework and learn the ropes of supply chain management before jumping in with both feet. At its basic-level, SCM professionals oversee materials, information, and finances as they are transferred from supplier to manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer, according to Megan Ruesink, author of 6 Things I wish I knew before getting into supply chain. For example, a supply chain career can range from an entry-level purchasing/procurement function to orchestrating the entire end-to-end supply chain for a multinational corporation. “The responsibilities can vary depending on the industry and organization in which you’re working,” Ruesink writes. “Before pursuing any SCM career it’s important you understand exactly what it entails.”
2)Sharpen your math and analytics pencil.
According to Ruesink, one of the common threads found throughout all supply chain management careers is that the job is largely focused on facts and figures. It is very data and process-driven, with systems tracking supply and demand becoming increasingly complex in order to meet complicated customer demands. “But while data and systems are a stable element found in all SCM careers, that doesn’t mean you go through the same routines each and every day,” Ruesink points out, noting that because technology is changing almost daily, every new project will put new challenges and interesting tasks in front of today’s supply chain professional.
3)Get ready for a detail-oriented career that also requires a holistic viewpoint.
Much like their namesakes, today’s global supply chains are made up of individual links—each of which plays an important role in the overall success of the company that it supports. Supply chains are a key element to economic growth and stability around the globe,” writes Michigan State University’s Joe Schembri in Breaking into a Supply Chain Management Career. “A career as a supply chain manager requires detailed-oriented vision and a holistic understanding of the process that takes products from raw material to a finished product.”
4) You’ll want to develop and hone these additional key skills.
Schembri sees these skills as being particularly relevant for anyone who wants to stand out from the pack in the supply chain management field:
Communication: Supply chain professionals oversee aspects of inventory, logistics, procurement, purchasing, and transportation processes, bringing them into contact with people from across the corporate spectrum.
Relationship management: Negotiations with vendors and managing the supply chain process from raw material to end user is all part of a management role.
Strong knowledge of Microsoft Excel or Access: Spreadsheets and databases are commonplace when you’re tracking the journey of goods from manufacturer to consumer.
Negotiating: The ability to seek out and negotiate contracts is a strong trait for someone looking to enter into a managerial role.
“Like any industry, SCM can be a mystery for those on the outside looking in. And though no two industries are identical, there are some common links that connect most SCM careers,” Ruesink writes. “Understanding these insights will give you a behind-the-scenes look at what a career in this field is all about.”
Check out our infographic on the skills gap that persists in the supply chain and logistics industry!