Supply chain managers might operate behind the scenes but are incredibly important for those who purchase goods.
Supply chain managers play a vital role in overseeing material movement throughout an operation and ensuring it is conducted in the fastest, most efficient way. Without supply chain managers, we wouldn’t have food on grocery store shelves or the other necessities of daily life.
What Is a Supply Chain Manager
To put it simply, a supply chain manager oversees day-to-day operations within an organization’s supply chain. This may include analyzing and managing procurement, production, warehousing, distribution, or any other aspect of material movement. This role is vital to all industries that either physically produce or warehouse material that ends up in the hands of consumers.
What Do Supply Chain Managers Do?
The overall goal of a supply chain manager is to ensure that processes are running effectively and meeting an organization’s goals and performance KPIs. They do this by implementing strategies to control processes and maintain operational efficiency. While there are specific details that will vary between each organization, the general responsibilities of a supply chain manager include the following:
- Coordinate with a team to ensure they can meet demand within a specific timeframe
- Oversee employees and control operational processes
- Analyze performance while strategizing about potential solutions to mitigate future risks
- Specialize in inventory control and reduce areas of operational waste
- Correspond across various departments and ensure adequate operational visibility
A supply chain manager position will mix on-the-floor and in-office work. This is because supply chain managers need to oversee the team actively participating in production while also analyzing performance and handling administrative tasks. A supply chain manager will have a team under them, such as a warehouse manager, supervisor, or direct production members they oversee. It all depends on the size of the operation.
How to Become a Supply Chain Manager
Those interested in pursuing a supply chain manager position will need a combination of academic qualifications, professional experience, and potentially professional certifications. Below, we break down the details of each.
One of the more common routes to a supply chain manager career includes earning a Bachelor’s in Supply Chain Management or a related field. According to Zippia, approximately 70% of supply chain managers have a bachelor’s degree, and 17.2% have a master’s degree.
While most in this profession have a relevant bachelor’s degree, a supply chain manager position does not explicitly require one. Some individuals work their way into management. For example, they may have obtained an Associate’s in Supply Chain Management and were promoted from a lower position. Many supply chain companies value experience, so a degree is not always a must-have, although it does make it easier to land a job.
The amount of experience required will vary based on the company hiring for the role and your academic qualifications. Companies looking to hire someone beyond their current staff will likely require a degree and a few years of experience. As supply chain managers oversee teams, most companies seek someone familiar with warehouse settings and experience managing a team. Once you graduate from college, you may need a couple of years of experience to work your way up to a supply chain manager role.
For those seeking to bypass a degree and work their way up within a company, the amount of experience needed will undoubtedly be more, and the timeline will vary. It could take years of being on the floor before being approached about a potential management position, which is why obtaining a degree is by far the most advantageous and efficient method of working toward this goal. A degree in supply chain management can significantly increase your chances of securing a supply chain manager role.
While professional certifications are not required, they can benefit a resume. Certifications can help you stand out from the crowd, especially in an ocean of resumes that all have the same degree listed. A few of the top professional certifications include:
- Certified in Production and Inventory Management (APICS)
- Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP)
- Six Sigma Yellow/Green/Black (IASSC)
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
Obtaining these certifications will make you more valuable across all industries related to supply chain and can easily stand out to hiring managers. Certifications usually mean you sought the education for yourself on your own time, demonstrating ambition and drive to better your overall knowledge of the industry.
Important Skills for Working as a Supply Chain Manager
By far, the most important attributes to have as a supply chain manager are excellent attention to detail and problem-solving skills. Things go wrong within supply chains every day. A truck may miss a pick-up, the wrong material may go out, or your team may make costly mistakes such as accidentally damaging inventory. Truthfully, the number of things that can go wrong exceed all of the possibilities of it going right.
This is why a supply chain manager must understand processes and look at every aspect of the warehouse from a troubleshooting perspective. Mitigating potential errors and controlling procedures for the future are the most indispensable components of a supply chain. Demonstrating these skills is a must to succeed as a supply chain manager.
Here are a few of the most important skills as a supply chain manager:
- Strong attention to detail
- Interpersonal skills
- Technical skills (Microsoft Suite, ERP software, etc.)
- Project management
Having strong interpersonal skills is also key to ensuring that tasks and duties are communicated effectively to team members. Communication is integral within supply chains to achieve adequate visibility and transparency amongst everyone involved.
The Career Path of a Supply Chain Manager
The path to becoming a supply chain manager will vary based on the requirements stated by the hiring organization. As mentioned, you can become a supply chain manager without a degree, but it may be a bit more challenging.
The typical career path for a supply chain manager begins with obtaining an undergraduate degree in supply chain management, logistics, business, or analytics. Then, working another role in the field before being promoted into the position with a few years of experience. A supply chain management position is not limiting and is one of the best ways to move into higher senior-level positions. This is because you are gaining experience running a facility and a team. The next leg up is running multiple facilities as a director, then possibly national facilities, and so on. If you demonstrate capability as a supply chain manager and run your own operation, the career outlook can be overwhelmingly positive.
Types of Supply Chain Manager Jobs
The term “supply chain manager” is relatively broad and often encompasses any management area within supply chain and logistics. You can be titled a supply chain manager by working within logistics, production, or anything related to the flow of materials. Here are a few of the job titles sometimes used interchangeably with supply chain manager:
- Warehouse Manager
- Logistics Manager
- Procurement Manager
- Distribution Analyst (geared more toward Supply Chain Analyst but can be used)
- General Manager
The title “manager” is heavily associated with any position that oversees teams or materials.
Career Outlook for Supply Chain Managers
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the supply chain industry will continue to boom for the next decade. Estimates include a job outlook and growth rate of 30% for logisticians, far exceeding the national average of 8%.
The consumer demand for goods and services is only increasing, and operations around the globe are having a hard time keeping up. This has led to an explosion in hiring for supply chain-based positions. Supply chain management jobs as a whole are great for both job security and growth. As long as product demand persists, supply chain positions aren’t going anywhere.
How much do Supply Chain Managers make?
According to salary.com, the average supply chain manager makes approximately $116,000 a year. Compensation will vary based on location, company size and focus, academic qualifications, and your professional experience.
Positions for supply chain managers are only increasing, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As operations are scrambling to keep up, a role such as this would be ideal for candidates who enjoy problem-solving, a fast-paced environment, and dealing with something new every day.