Supply Chain Management Job Opportunities: Unlocking the Possibilities
Supply chain management has always been important to businesses. To deliver exceptional customer service, companies need to organize their supplies and deliver them to customers promptly. This importance was heightened in 2020. The pandemic not only increased the number of online shopping orders; it also increased the need for supply chain managers (SMCs).
SCMs are not only responsible for delivering products promptly. From raw material procuration to demand planning to operations, they’re responsible for overseeing the entire supply chain.
It’s no wonder that the current job outlook for SCMs is so high: it’s expected to grow by 28% by 2031 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). In this guide, we’ll look at the different types of supply chain management jobs available. We’ll also look at emerging trends as well as career advancement options.
Types of Supply Chain Management Jobs
Supply chain management is more of an umbrella term for lots of different careers, rather than one area of expertise. Each stage of SCM requires a specialist. The main types of supply chain management jobs include the following:
Sometimes referred to as a procurement agent, a procurement specialist deals with the purchasing of raw materials. The work at the very beginning of the supply chain.
To ensure the quality of the finished product, procurement specialists need to find the most premium materials for the best price. They need to negotiate with suppliers, set up regular orders, and ensure that supplies arrive on time.
The logistics coordinator ensures that raw materials are in the right place at the right time. They also oversee pick-up and delivery times, and ensure that everything is organized logistically. When timings don’t line up, they need to come up with alternative logistical solutions.
Logistics coordinators also analyze the flow of the supply chain and find ways to improve it to make it run faster and smoother.
Supply Chain Analyst
Similar to a logistics coordinator, a supply chain analyst will very closely examine supply chains and identify areas that need improvement.
Supply chain analysts need to identify and replace areas of the chain that are losing the company money. They need to come up with alternatives and propose these alternatives to the other departments and supply chain professionals.
The operations manager organizes staff, sales, and pricing. They coordinate staff to deal with different areas of the supply chain and make changes as necessary. If they identify an area that needs process improvement, they will reorganize operations to make this improvement.
Demand planners work alongside marketing, sales, and finance departments. Their main responsibility is forecasting demand, i.e., how many products will be needed to meet the estimated demand? They need to make sure this demand is reflected in raw material numbers. They also need to ensure minimal product surplus.
Inventory Control Manager
Those working in inventory management keep a close eye on inventory at every point of the supply chain. They’ll do stock counts to check enough products have been made. They’ll also keep close track of product deliveries and make sure it’s in the right place at the right time. They may be responsible for ordering materials when needed.
Inventory control managers are also often required to improve supply visibility.
The warehouse manager oversees and controls warehousing operations. They organize staff, security, maintenance, safety, and all other elements that make up warehouse operations. They need to make sure supplies are made available when necessary, and that they can easily be exported from the warehouse.
Transportation managers have to outsource drivers to transport inventory from A to B. They also have to organize a company’s internal transportation infrastructure to meet product demand.
Supplier Relationship Manager
Supplier relationship managers determine which suppliers are most and least important to business success. Supplier relationship managers will then cultivate relationships with the most critical suppliers to secure benefits for the company. I.e, faster delivery times, cheaper materials, and so on.
The main goal of a sustainability manager is to find ways to make a company more environmentally friendly. Most of the time, this means finding and working with sustainable suppliers. However, it could also involve finding sustainable means of transportation.
Educational and Professional Requirements for SCM Jobs
Although a promising career path with lots of work opportunities, it’s not exactly easy to become a supply chain manager. If you want to land the perfect supply chain job, you need to first follow these steps:
Degrees and Certifications
To get into supply chain management, you need at least a bachelor’s degree. Preferably, this degree should be in supply chain management. However, there are many other bachelor’s degrees that are relevant to SCM and would put you in good stead to gain employment in the field. This includes finance and business management majors.
If you want to ascend to the top positions in supply chain management, you’ll also need to gain a master’s degree in logistics and supply chain management. This could add between one and three years to your time in education but would guarantee you a lucrative position in the field.
Relevant Work Experience
Supply chain professionals tend to start at the bottom and work their way up. So, soon after graduating (or, during your degree), you should start gaining work experience in an entry-level position. This includes supply planning, product distribution, and business operations roles. This can either be done voluntarily or as part of a paid internship.
If you’re set on gaining a top supply chain job as soon as possible, you may want to take on leadership roles, too. Anything that can prove you can manage a diverse team will help widen your supply chain management prospects.
No matter what part of the supply chain you work in, you’ll need the following skills:
- Communication – The supply chain depends on strong communication to run smoothly. Reports need to be made, stock needs to be ordered, and information needs to be transferred between departments. Therefore, strong written and verbal skills are a requirement.
- Time management – In business, time is everything. Raw materials need to be ordered in enough time, finished goods need to leave the warehouse at a certain time, etc. If you get your timing wrong at one point in the supply chain, the whole operation suffers.
- Analytical understanding – You’ll have to fill out data systems and understand your colleague’s analytical findings. You’ll need to compare data sets and draw conclusions from them. You may also have to improve data systems that already exist.
- Technological comprehension – Supply chain management is a modern job with modern technology. You need to be able to comprehend and use e-procurement and e-business systems.
Internship and Training Opportunities
Many major U.S. companies offer supply chain management internships and training programs. For example, DHL offers SCM internships and college recruitment programs. Starting with an internship at a major company would be a surefire way of boosting your career prospects.
Networking and Professional Associations
As with any industry, it’s important to keep up to date with changes and developments in the field. There are several established organizations you can join that will help you network, explore career options, and understand changes in the industry.
The best U.S. supply chain networking organizations include:
- American Production and Inventory Control Society
- The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals
- HR Technology Conference
- Material Handling Association of America
- International Warehouse Logistics Association
Emerging Trends in Supply Chain Job Market
Despite the high estimated job growth of supply chain management careers, the profession is still under threat from emerging trends. Particularly AI, but there are lots of other aspects that will change – and have already changed – how supply chains are operated. They include:
Automation and Robotics
Automation and robotics are being used to take over mundane warehouse tasks. This includes moving around heavy stock and manufacturing goods (through robotic process automation). Not only does robotics speed up production, but it also means that employees are less injury prone. Robots can work side-by-side with humans and can complete more dangerous tasks.
AI is being introduced to supply chain management to carry out analytical roles. This includes analyzing the supply chain to identify delays. Being able to identify delays in advance helps supply chain managers to better prepare for them and make backup plans.
AI can also more accurately take infinitary counts, fill out data systems, and perform other routine tasks.
Blockchain technology can be used to track goods as they travel along the supply chain – from supplier to customer. The ledger records when a product moves from one stage of the chain to another. With this precise information, companies can provide updates to customers and clients about the progress of a product.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) can be used to get a fuller picture of how a supply chain is progressing with a specific order. This is to do with physical objects exchanging data with one another. Sensors, mail trucks, and computers can all exchange data to determine progress.
The IoT can be used to determine stock numbers, estimate delivery times, and so on. Overall, it provides greater transparency and ensures the best level of customer service is delivered.
Computers have always been used by supply chain professionals to forecast the future demand for a product. Statistical and analytical data has been fed to computers to predict upturns and downturns for decades now. However, the capabilities of predictive analytics have improved massively in recent years.
The digitization of everything, as well as tech’s growing capacity for data, has made it possible for SCMs to predict more accurately and further into the future.
Sustainability and Green Logistics
The ‘sustainability manager’ has become increasingly important to SCM. It’s not all about finding the most cost-effective means of buying materials and transporting goods anymore. Finding the most environmentally friendly and sustainable means of doing so is now as equally as important.
Not only does this help to lower your emissions, but it also increases your customer reach. Some people are less interested in buying based on quality or design, and more interested in supporting companies with solid sustainability measures in place.
Advancement and Career Paths in SCM
As aforementioned, many professional SCMs gain a bachelor’s degree and start in an entry-level position. Gradually, they work their way up in the company over time.
Advancement Opportunities within Organizations
Entry-level positions in SCM include:
- Transportation dispatcher
- Procurement specialist
- Logistics analyst
- Warehouse analyst
If you network effectively, you could climb toward a senior SCM role. However, gaining the ‘supply chain management’ title isn’t the highest professional level you can ascend to. There’s a host of other job roles above this, including:
- Chief operations officer
- Chief supply chain officer
- Supply chain director
- President of supply chain management
Consulting and Contracting Opportunities
Once you build up sufficient practical SCM experience, you could take on a consulting and contracting role. This would see you working for a business that analyzes other companies’ supply chains and identifies areas that need fixing. You would then offer solutions and contract new suppliers, drivers, and so on.
Starting a Business or Entrepreneurship
After learning the ropes from an established SCM company, you could start your own SCM business and let your entrepreneurship flourish. By paying close attention to emerging trends, you can build an SCM company that is ready to take on modern challenges.
Of course, you would need plenty of financial backing, and would also need to acquire relevant tax permits. However, climbing the SCM ladder and conducting plenty of market research could set you in good stead for starting your own SCM business.
Professional Development and Continuing Education
As we’ve shown, SCM is an industry that’s currently undergoing a lot of change. Therefore, you need to be able to undergo professional development stages and even enroll in continuing education to stay on top of your game.
You’ll easily be able to find short SCM courses online and classroom-based through educational institutions across the U.S. For example, you could enroll in an online course in supply chain analytics with Rutgers State University. Or enroll in an import/export course at the International Career Institute.
Enrolling in additional courses could be your key to advancing your career in SCM and ascending towards senior roles.
Importance of Soft Skills in SCM
There are many skills you don’t immediately think of when considering SCM that can make or break an SCM company. Soft skills include:
Communication and Collaboration
A healthy working relationship is required at all stages of the supply chain. For this to come about, communication and collaboration are key. Without it, more problems would arise than a company would be able to handle.
Changes in the supply chain need to be communicated quickly and effectively to other departments. Otherwise, small problems begin to have a knock-on effect on every aspect of the supply chain. Through communication, errors can be rectified and the supply chain can be kept on track.
Leadership and Management
To effectively manage supply chains, you need to be able to take charge. It’s a complicated job role in which anything can happen. At the head of every aspect of the chain, a strong leader needs to be able to determine the best solutions to problems and put them into action.
Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving
When something goes wrong with supply chains, it only takes one solution to resolve it. The same mistake is rarely made twice. This means that most supply chain problems are unique and, therefore, require unique solutions to resolve. This is why critical thinking and problem-solving are such important parts of the job.
Those in a supply chain management position need to be on the ball and ready to come up with original ways to circumnavigate snags in the chain. This line of work has many facets, meaning many things can go wrong – sometimes, all at once. So, a critical thinker who can solve problems under pressure is ideal for the job.
Adaptability and Flexibility
No two weeks will likely be the same when working in supply chain management. Supply and demand can be highly volatile, meaning the number of raw materials you need and the number of products you make will be continually changing. Therefore, you need to be able to adapt to change and work flexibly.
Plus, when things go wrong in the supply chain, flexible workers can adapt their daily duties to the contingency plan.
Creativity and Innovation
Although supply chain management careers are highly technical and analytical, they have plenty of room for creativity and innovation. In fact, problems and delays in the supply chain require innovative and quick-thinking solutions. This is where creativity is required.
Plus, there’s only so far analytical data can take you when it comes to satisfying customer needs. Sometimes, creativity is required to deliver the best service possible for the customer. Creative thinkers can also come up with ways to better relationships with suppliers as well.
Diversity and Inclusion in SCM Jobs
As with all professions, there is an ongoing drive to make the SCM sector as diverse and as inclusive as possible. As a prospective SCM professional, you need to be aware of all the main initiatives that have recently been put in place to boost both diversity and inclusion.
Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in SCM
Diversity and inclusion are important as they open the SCM field up for everyone – at every stage of the supply chain. A diverse team creates a diverse range of ideas and strategies, boosting the success rate of the company as well as its profitability.
Having a diverse team helps you fill talent gaps, boosts your company’s adaptability, and increases job satisfaction and retention.
Strategies for Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
Strategies for promoting diversity and inclusion include:
- Ensuring diversity and inclusion reaches all areas of your business – not just your employees. Buy raw materials from a diverse range of suppliers, hire diverse and inclusive delivery companies, etc.
- Allow everyone in your workforce the chance to come up with business initiatives. Implement a range of ideas from your workforce and make sure each employee’s contribution feels valued.
- Teach managers and team leaders the importance of inclusive workplace culture and ensure that they implement it. Make sure each area of your business maintains a comfortable environment, where employees can confidently interact with one another.
- Hold cross-department workshops and team-building sessions. Ensure that each member of the team can interact and contribute.
SCM is a wide-ranging occupation, with plenty of opportunity for growth and development. From logistics coordinator to sustainability manager, there are plenty of areas of specialty within the SCM bracket. Plus, with so many positions available, there’s a high likelihood of advancing your career within a company and landing a senior position.
You can start working in a warehouse and end up as a chief operations officer. Plus, with the job outlook for SCM predicted to grow exponentially now is the time to start your SCM journey. However, you need to be ready for change – as the world of SCM is currently going through a transformative time, with the rise of AI, automation, and blockchain technology.
Luckily, flexibility is a huge part of the complicated field of SCM anyway. So, if you’re serious about forwarding your career and adapting to new challenges, SCM could be for you.
What is the average salary for an SCM professional?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, supply chain management jobs pay employees an average salary of $77,030 per year. This equates to $37.03 per hour, which is massively above average. Of course, this is only the price for supply chain management roles. Lower-level supply chain jobs will most likely pay a lot less.
What are the benefits of pursuing a career in SCM?
The main benefit of pursuing a career in supplier management is that the sector is set to increase massively in the next 10 years. This opens up plenty of career advancement opportunities. Other benefits include a sizable salary and the ability to travel while working.
How can I switch to a career in SCM from a different field?
The best way to switch to a career in supply chain management would be to enroll in a supply chain course at college – however, that’s not the only way. Anything that could be considered transferable to an SCM role, you should try doing in your current job. You could try your hand at ordering raw materials or taking on a leadership role in a team project, for example.