Supply chain management has seen an increase in complexity over the past few decades. No longer are supply chain managers just product procurers: they now have a tremendous amount of responsibility. Supply chain management is now at the heart of every business, covering multiple aspects, from analysis and forecasting to logistics and shipping. Supply chain managers must now be talented, experienced, and tech-savvy.
Supply Chain Management is Changing—Leading to New Opportunities
It wasn't long ago that a business only needed a single supply chain manager. Today, supply chain management is a discipline in and of itself. Businesses have found that supply chain management is critical to their operations. It's not enough to just buy supplies as the need arises: companies need to be able to anticipate their own needs. Strict analysis has to be done to reduce costs, while streamlining logistics and shipping. A business with a solid supply chain is a leaner, more competitive, and more profitable company.
Technology has been the driver of this change. In the past, it wasn't always possible to get an accurate forecast of a company's needs—at least, not without spending a prohibitive amount of time and money developing the appropriate algorithms. Today, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and big data can all be used to improve a company's supply chains.
Career Options in Planning
Planners and analysts are often entry-level supply chain professionals—essentially the first job that someone will take out of college. Planners and analysts work very closely with other departments within the organization to determine what the department's needs are and to ensure that they are met. Though they have quite a lot of responsibilities, they won't be doing high-level, organizational analysis. Instead, they'll mostly be responding to the needs of the organization as they arise.
Working as a planner or an analyst is an excellent way for a supply chain professional to begin understanding how product flows through the business and how different departments interact with their supply chain processes. Though every organization is a little different, these procurement processes and philosophies will often translate from business to business.
Career Options in Production
The final product is the result of supply chain management. Production management is a process by which a supply chain professional ensures that the operations division has the supplies that it needs to function efficiently. This is an extraordinarily important and very complex type of supply chain management. Supply chain managers must use the tools at their disposal to forecast the needs of production, because without the appropriate supplies, production can grind to a halt. The supply chain manager also must make sure that production's needs are met in the most cost-effective way.
Often this also requires forecasting in regard to how much product the organization is expecting to output, which can require detailed data analysis. Month-over-month and year-over-year, the business must be able to anticipate the level of production required, so they never underestimate or overestimate supplies.
Career Options in Procurement and Sourcing
Procurement and sourcing professionals fulfill the role that is typically thought of as supply chain management. A professional focused on procurement sourcing will be regularly auditing an organization's supply chain, ensuring that supplies are still being purchased from the most reliable and affordable vendors. Not only will a procurement professional focus on cost, but they will also analyze the efficiency and accuracy of each vendor, doing a cost-benefit analysis of each business relationship.
Procurement and sourcing professionals may negotiate with vendors to reduce their costs, or they may seek to bundle different products together to improve efficiency. They may also concern themselves with issues of contract compliance, making sure that vendors are delivering as promised.
Career Options in Delivery and Logistics
Organizations don't just need to procure supplies, they also need to make sure that these supplies are appropriately moved within the organization. A delivery and logistics specialist will use their data and analysis tools to find the most efficient and affordable ways to move product between locations. This can include internal logistics—moving products and inventory from warehouse to warehouse—and external logistics—distributing products to customers and procuring them from vendors.
It doesn't matter where you go in supply chain management; there are jobs in practically every organization. If you're interested in job security in a new and emerging field, supply chain management and logistics is an industry that is growing extremely fast. It’s an industry in which you can go from entry-level positions to extremely high-level work; it's not just a job, it's a career.