Careers in supply-chain management can be interesting, fast-paced, and lucrative, but not many people know about the field. Jobs can vary from industry to industry, but most industries need some form of supply-chain management. Positions that used to be considered transportation, logistics, and shipping and receiving are rolled into this emerging field — and it’s growing!
The demand for goods continues to increase as well as the number of different consumer products on the market. Most businesses need a way to ensure they get the supplies required to make their product and a means of transporting and tracking those products on their route to consumers and end users. With more countries in the world exporting parts and materials, supply-chain logistics can get complicated.
Don’t forget the elaborate systems required to move products from warehouses to consumers’ doorsteps overnight or within two days. The increase in online shopping and the expectation of faster delivery drive supply-chain management to grow and develop into a technologically-advanced field. There is a lot to know about careers in supply-chain management.
What Does a Supply-Chain Manager Do?
Any company that makes a physical product needs to manage its supply chain. The supply-chain manager oversees the shipment of materials into the factory and the distribution of the final product to consumers. Any commodity going into or out of the manufacturing center is handled by a supply-chain manager.
The supply chain differs by product and industry. Materials may be sourced from nearby or half way around the world. The manager may not decide where to source the materials, but they are responsible for coordinating their shipment. Materials may be carried by ship, train, truck, or a combination of transportation methods. The supply-chain manager makes sure the materials get from the port to the rail station and end up at their destination.
A supply-chain manager works within a budget and given timeframe on each project. Profit margins must be protected by finding the most efficient and economical way to move materials. A supply-chain manager stays informed about shipping costs and knows when to go by rail or road. A slight mistake in logistics on one load could mean additional expenditures.
Depending on the supply route, customs and duty may be involved. A supply-chain manager must get the goods across international borders and comply with all trade tariffs and taxes. They may work in conjunction with a freight forwarder or other shipping professionals to be sure all requirements are met, and no extra time is lost coming through customs.
Most materials, unless they are sourced locally, also travel through different time zones. A supply-chain manager coordinates drop-offs and pick-ups within the local time zone no matter how far the materials travel. Keeping track of when shipments are expected to arrive means converting travel times from one time zone to the next.
When the manufacturing process is complete, the supply-chain manager is responsible for getting the products out to consumers. Businesses have different distribution channels. Some ship merchandise to a central warehouse and then move it to individual stores based on their inventory needs. Other businesses go directly to consumers with their products, holding them in a warehouse and shipping them out one at a time to individual customers.
Supply-chain managers work in warehouses to keep track of the product coming in and going out. Inventory control is an important part of the financial picture of a manufacturing and warehousing company. If a product is perishable, it has to be moved and sold within a certain timeframe. Even products that are not perishable may have a limited shelf life based on the market.
The supply-chain manager controls the bottom line in many companies. Decisions about which products to manufacture and how many to make are based on the inventory-control data the supply-chain manager maintains. If materials do not arrive on time, money can be lost paying workers to stand around and wait for the supplies they need to do their work. Too much inventory sitting in a warehouse can represent lost profits or poor cash flow for the business.
Job Description for Supply-Chain Management
The need for supply-chain management is so pervasive that some companies exist only to provide these services for other businesses. Some businesses find it best to outsource their supply-chain management to experts in the field instead of developing their own in-house expertise.
Several factors are coordinated to accomplish supply-chain management for most businesses. The management process involves:
- Inventory control
- Materials management
- Product development
- Investment recovery
- Strategic sourcing
These are all elements of supply-chain management and are usually tasked to different members of the organization. Each one can be considered a separate skill or focus — a specialty. When all aspects of supply-chain management are running well, a business can become extremely profitable.
Since supply-chain management covers all inbound supplies and outbound products and is used in many different business models, job descriptions vary. Jobs in supply-chain management carry different titles, like:
- Operations manager
- Purchasing agent
- Logistics analyst
- Expediting clerk
- Purchasing manager
- Storage and distribution manager
These jobs all handle a different aspect of supply-chain management. A single business may need several different people with various job titles to coordinate to accomplish all the tasks that fall under supply-chain management.
Job descriptions for positions in supply-chain management often require a combination of computer and communication skills. Supply-chain management is data-driven. You need the ability to operate a database and other types of tracking software. When you work in the field, you are both creating data and using it to make decisions and solve problems.
Communication is essential to the field — most products do not come from one supplier and go to one distribution center. There are multiple entities that need to coordinate to bring supplies in and send products out. Even in inventory control, multiple people or groups are involved in day-to-day operations.
Supply-Chain Management Starting Salary
Supply-chain management applies to almost every industry around the world. It is a major part of the US economy since it touches everything and everyone. All products need to be moved at least once to get to the consumer. Everything you buy started out as something else in a different location and traveled some distance to get to you. Supply-chain management represents almost 10 percent of the economy.
Average salaries in the supply-chain-management industry vary by position. The lowest paid job in this industry is a warehouse manager or traffic director. These positions earn more than $50,000 annually, on average. The high end of the pay scale belongs to the general managers at an average salary around $100,000.
The average salary in the supply-chain-management industry is $90,000. Salaries start around $50,000 and increase with experience and responsibilities. The top-earning jobs in the industry, division manager, supply-chain director, engineering manager, and general manager, each average more than $100,000 a year.
Not only is the field of supply-chain management growing rapidly, but the chances for advancement on this career path also come swiftly. There is a shortage of people with the training and experience to handle upper-management positions. Getting into an entry-level job could be the ticket to an upper-management position in just a few years. Movement from an entry-level salary to the upper end of the pay spectrum is faster than in many other industries.
Many people may be unaware of the details of a career in supply-chain management now, but soon, the industry will become much better known. The global economy and marketplace make supply-chain management essential for all businesses making and selling products of any kind. More and more, people working in most industries will see how their work is in some way dependent on the movement of material goods from one place to another.
Supply-chain management affects every aspect of a business, from design to sales. The ability to source materials efficiently can mean the difference between a profitable product and a loss of revenue. Accurate inventory tracking supports sales efforts and helps grow the bottom line of a business.
Between 2012 and 2022, the supply-chain-management field is expected to grow 22%. Although the manufacturing sector has taken a hit in recent years, logistics are still in high demand and continuing to grow. Supply-chain-management jobs can be found in many different industries, not just manufacturing. As the field grows in the next several years, more people will be needed to fill the hiring gap. Some projections show that the demand for workers in this area out-paces the supply by a ratio of 6 to 1.
The number of supply-chain-management training programs and degree programs is increasing, but not at the same rate the industry is growing. Positions in supply-chain management will likely be available for the foreseeable future.
Career Paths in Supply-Chain Management
Entry-level supply-chain-management positions require some education, although you might be able to get started with some relevant experience and a certification in an area of supply-chain management. Employers are looking for proven skills in the following main areas:
- Data analysis: Analyzing data to make decisions is an important skill for supply-chain management. You may be able to demonstrate this skill from your experience in another field. Balancing your personal budget is a form of data analysis where you gather data about your spending habits and compare it to your income to make decisions about what you can afford to buy.
- Negotiations: Any time products are bought and sold, there is an opportunity to negotiate the terms. Having experience with negotiations can help you get into the supply-chain-management field.
- Communication: You should be able to demonstrate good communication skills if you have any prior work experience. Most jobs involve some use of electronic, telephonic, or in-person communication tools. In supply-chain management, these skills are extremely important.
- Networking: Building relationships is a skill that is more common in the social-media age. Your social-media activities might also demonstrate a networking deficit, so be careful. Employers are looking for supply-chain-management professionals who can interact positively with professionals in various industries, building strong networks to get the job done.
- Data management: The technical ability to run database software is valuable in supply-chain management. You’ll want to highlight any experience you have with Excel, Access, or any other programs that store, organize, and retrieve pieces of data.
Without these skills and experience, you will have a tough time getting into supply-chain management. You might consider taking a training course or focusing your current job duties to help you develop the skills you need before applying for an entry-level supply-chain-management position.
Logistics and Supply-Chain-Management Degree
A degree in logistics and supply-chain management can make it easier to transition into this field. As you move up along your career path in supply-chain management, you may need additional education. Starting with a supply-chain-management associate degree is likely to help you get the job you want a little faster.
Careers in supply-chain management start with a good educational foundation in logistics, procurement, and distribution, along with the fundamentals of real-world problem solving and business ethics. The associate degree program at Vista College can give you the foundation you need to be competitive in the market.
The supply-chain-management program at Vista College is delivered online, making it convenient to complete an associate degree while working a full-time job or prepare for a competitive job market while managing other responsibilities. You do not have to be on campus to take advantage of the online program at Vista College.