Mastering The Essential Skills And Technologies For Successful Supply Chain Management
If you want to make it in the supply chain industry, there are several hard and soft skills that you must to develop. There are so many different positions in the sector, but pretty much all of them require you to have at least some kind of formal training.
The more supply chain skills you gain, the more likely you are to find employment in SCM. This is why it is so important to develop both the soft and hard skills that you will need to build a career in supply chain management.
In this article, we will cover the hard, soft, and professional skills that can help every supply chain professional succeed. We will also cover the effect that technology has had on the supply chain, along with the challenges facing SCM companies.
Supply Chain Management Skills Overview
Supply chain management is all about managing the flow of goods and services. It comprises the steps needed to transform raw materials into finished products, as well as how these finished products are stored and shipped.
Supply chain management is incredibly important in a modern business environment, as it can help a company achieve different objectives.
It can be used to improve product quality by controlling the manufacturing process. SCM also controls shipping procedures, which can boost customer satisfaction, and avoid shortages and oversupply. Both of these factors can increase a company’s profit margins – the top priority in the business world.
In recent years, technology has played a big role in supply chain operations. It has made improvements by allowing companies to track shipments, monitor inventory levels, and record all shipment-related data.
Technology has streamlined many complicated supply chain processes, which has made it even easier for companies to cut costs. The future will require SCM professionals get to grips with technologies such as RFID for inventory management, CRMs for third-party management, data analytics for process optimization and blockchain for tracking.
Hard Skills for Supply Chain
Hard skills are can be measured and are usually developed through training and work experience. There are several hard supply chain skills required in the industry. These include the following:
Data analysis refers to the ability to organize and gain insight from data relating to the supply chain. Data analysis skills allow supply chain professionals to determine the best shipping routes, optimize budgets, and identify inefficiencies in the production process. Experienced supply chain managers are able to use their analytical skills to extract useful information from unstructured data.
Data analysis skills can give supply chain managers a competitive advantage in the workplace. This particular hard skill allows them to evaluate a business, introduce strategies to improve internal processes and to optimize the movement of products.
Logistics and transportation
Logistics and transportation management skills are incredibly useful in the supply chain management industry. They are a non-negotiable when it comes to managing operations and keeping processes running smoothly.
These operations can include storing, purchasing, and distributing resources to specific locations. Supply chain managers require these skills to perform these processes as efficiently as possible, ultimately reducing overall expenses for SCM companies.
Warehouse management and inventory control
Warehouse and inventory management refers to optimizing the available space in storage facilities. This is why inventory management skills are very useful in a supply chain.
These skills can help supply chain professionals ensure that a warehouse doesn’t hold unnecessary goods for too long, or that a company doesn’t fall behind on shipments.
Procurement and sourcing strategies
Knowledge and practical experience in this field is essential if you want to work as a procurement and supply chain professional. Supply chain professionals who are well-versed in these processes can purchase the right products from the best suppliers, while keeping costs down.
Budget management skills are also useful for procurement and sourcing. These help supply chain professionals optimize available resources so that the allocated budgets for projects are not exceeded.
Quality management and control
Quality management skills are very important for supply chain managers. They help a supply chain management professional determine whether there are issues with the quality of products, for example. These skills can also be used to iron out inefficiencies in the production process and improve customer satisfaction.
Soft Skills for Supply Chain
Soft skills are often associated with character traits and interpersonal skills. While it is possible to learn these skills, it is often a lot more difficult to do so. Soft skills are not quantifiable, as they relate more to how a person works, instead of the hard skills they use to perform their work.
We will provide some examples of useful soft supply chain skills below.
Collaboration and communication skills
Collaboration and communication skills are crucial for effective supply chain management. SCM professionals must be able to explain complex supply chain concepts to people without knowledge of the industry.
This is because these professionals often engage with clients who aren’t too clued up about the supply chain. If your supply chain company operates internationally, it’s wise to develop communication skills beyond your native language. This can often mean learning the ethics and customs used in other countries and cultures.
Collaboration skills are equally important, as there are many components in supply chains that all need to work together seamlessly. If you want these parties to collaborate effectively, you will also need to develop persuasion and relationship-building skills.
Team management and leadership skills
There are usually hundreds of employees in any given supply chain. It follows that supply chain managers need to learn how to deal with a team appropriately and effectively.
Supply chain managers need to be good at delegating tasks efficiently and in a kind way, as employees do not respect managers who bark orders at them.
Supply chains often consist of a number of managers due to their size and complexity. This is why it is essential to build relationships with both your employees and superiors, as a single manager cannot effectively manage an entire supply chain.
Time management and organizational skills
Time management skills are essential for supply chain managers – every aspect of the logistics process is measured at least in part by time. These skills can be used to set schedules and manage processes to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Time management skills help managers order products at the correct times, and make sure that they are delivered to customers timeously.
Adaptability and problem-solving
Adaptability and problem-solving skills are what separate a great supply chain manager from an average one. Many issues can arise in a supply chain due to its complexity and number of links.
This means that a supply chain manager needs to be able to think on their feet at all times and tackle problems proactively.
There are many situations that call for these skills. For example, in 2021, when the Suez Canal was blocked by a single ship, multiple supply chain managers collaborated to develop a solution.
Supply Chain Professional Skills
Both hard and soft skills are needed to work effectively in a supply chain, and can be gained through education and certification courses.
There are very few jobs in the supply chain that provide employees with on-the-job training, so it is incredibly important to enroll in some type of training program if you want to land a job in the industry.
There are various positions in the supply chain management industry; each with different training and education requirements.
Some of the positions that fall under or are closely related to supply chain management include:
- Supply chain analyst
- Procurement manager
- Supply chain manager
- Supply chain specialist
- Warehouse operations manager
- Inventory manager
- Production manager
- Purchasing manager
- Transportation manager
Developing Your SCM Skills
There are several to further develop your supply chain skills. Hard supply chain manager skills can only really be developed through training and industry.
If you want to take on a more advanced role in a supply chain, you will need some experience in that area. You will likely also need to go through additional certification courses to bolster your skills.
This is because hard supply chain skills are not innate, and can only be learned and honed over time.
It is slightly more difficult to develop soft supply chain skills if you weren’t blessed with them to begin with. However, there are still plenty of courses that are designed to help working professionals develop better time management, leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills.
While these courses aren’t always specifically aimed at supply chain managers, they can still be extremely beneficial.
If you work in supply chain management, you should always try to find ways to upskill. The industry is always changing, and even if you aren’t trying to move up the ladder, these new skills and methods can give you a competitive advantage.
Importance of Technology in Supply Chain Management
Technology has become a crucial part of supply chain management; significantly improved both efficiency and organization in the logistics process.
In recent years, automation and machine learning have come into their own, simplifying a number of supply chain operations. Automation technology can email orders to your customers, notify managers when stock levels are low, and print the correct shipping labels.
Technology will continue to advance in the years to come, and it likely won’t be long before a large portion of the supply chain industry is entirely automated.
Deloitte is a company that has helped provide supply chain companies with technological solutions to help them become more efficient. For example, they assisted an Australian freight company by creating an in-vehicle monitoring system to promote safer driving.
Challenges and Solutions
Some of the major challenges faced in the supply chain industry include:
- Cost control
- Unexpected delays
- Increasing freight prices
- Difficult demand forecasting
- Difficulty adapting to new technology
Many of these problems can be solved with SCM technology. If your company is struggling to adapt to new technology, employ someone external to train your staff members.
You can also get a company to develop software specifically for your business, which will make it much easier for your employees to adapt.
AI can help determine customer demand, inventory levels, and warehousing costs, which makes demand forecasting significantly easier. Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done about the cost of goods and increasing freight prices.
The only strategy a supply chain company can try is to manage its budget to accommodate unexpected price increases and other difficulties.
Deere & Company, for example, was able to successfully solve some of the problems facing its supply chain. The company specializes in agricultural vehicles, with most sales occurring from March to July.
However, the company replaced the inventory of its dealers weekly and via direct shipment, which proved too costly. Deere & Company underwent a supply chain network redesign and began consolidating shipments and using break-bulk terminals during the peak season.
It also made use of more third-party logistics companies to create a network that could be optimized at any level.
There are many essential skills that you will need if you want to work in supply chain management. The majority of these can only be gained through targeted training and education – investing in further education is well worth it should you want to progress in the industry.
Many of these supply chain management skills are vital if a company is to gain a competitive advantage over competitors. This is why it is so important to pursue further education where possible.
What are the essential skills for a supply chain management professional?
There are many essential supply chain manager skills, including those mentioned above. In summary, the most important skills in this industry include:
- Time management
- Communication and collaboration
- Data analysis
- Inventory management
- Quality management and control
How can I develop my leadership skills for SCM?
You will need to go through a leadership course if you want to develop leadership skills for supply chain management. These courses can teach you how to communicate with your employees, delegate tasks, manage your time, and solve any problems that arise in the supply chain.
How can I stay updated with the latest advancements in SCM technology?
You can stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in supply chain technology through training – and keeping an eye on the latest trends. There are many training courses that can get you up to speed with the latest and greatest supply chain technology solutions.