Commentary | Smart Moves

Supply Chain Management: A Needed and Growing Opportunity

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Dean Vella, Education Specialist, University of San Francisco and Bisk Education, 866-442-6587

Today, successful companies rely on the skills of supply chain management professionals to keep their goods and services flowing to the marketplace quickly, efficiently, and as cost-effective as possible. Supply chain management is a bright spot among up-and-coming careers, with employment opportunities in a wide variety of industries, in firms of all sizes. If you're interested in a challenging career with a variety of specializations, as well as prospects for advancement, you might want to check out supply chain management.

What Is Supply Chain Management?

Supply chain management includes all the activities a business employs to keep its products flowing, from sourcing raw materials, to delivering finished goods at the point of purchase. Top firms in industries such as automotive, food and beverage, computer hardware, electronics, and pharmaceuticals practice supply chain management to deliver goods consumers want or need at a price the market will support.

Businesses from manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, to warehouses, healthcare providers and government agencies use supply chain management principles to plan, assemble, store, ship, and track products from the beginning to the end of the supply chain.

Supply chain management encompasses collaboration with suppliers, intermediaries, third-party service providers, and customers, and includes:

  • Sourcing raw materials and parts
  • Manufacturing and assembly
  • Warehousing and inventory tracking
  • Order entry and order management
  • Delivery to the customer

Supply Chain Management Jobs

Skilled logistics managers are in demand because of their ability to spot complications and create effective solutions — all in support of a company's objectives. Supply chain management professionals fulfill roles that offer a multitude of employment opportunities, which can be divided into two general areas:

  1. Planning. Working in office environments, these supply chain managers are involved in areas such as inventory control, forecasting demand, and handling customer service issues.
  2. Operations. Often located in distribution facilities, port terminals and operations centers, these jobs involve day-to day management of people and the flow of products.

Specific job titles fall into one of several categories; among them are:

  • Forecasting. This specialty includes supply chain analysts, planners, and project managers, who use analytical and quantitative methods to manage the supply chain process. They typically focus on performance improvements and identifying potential problems.
  • Fulfillment. Job titles include fulfillment supervisor, distribution center supervisor or distribution team leader. They are often responsible for receiving, storing and shipping products, and typically supervise teams focused on these activities.
  • Purchasing. Roles include purchasing manager, acquisitions manager and buyer. Professionals in these positions typically direct buying activities, locate suppliers, negotiate contracts, and coordinate materials management.
  • Storage and Distribution. Known as warehouse operations managers, directors of logistics, or warehouse and delivery managers, these supply chain management professionals are skilled in inventory management; from receiving and storing goods, to filling orders across town or around the globe.
  • Customer Service. Also known as customer order managers and logistics or distribution coordinators, these professionals plan and direct activities of customer service teams, to ensure accurate orders, efficient shipments, and timely delivery of products.

Skills Required

How can an aspiring supply chain manager prepare for a career in this growing, competitive and complex field? You'll not only need outstanding communication, negotiation, and leadership abilities, but also a core competency of knowledge in the basics of supply chain management, such as distributions strategies, planning, and procurement. In addition, a broad range of specialized knowledge in areas such as globalization, risk management, logistics and lead-time management will serve you well.

Professionals in every category of supply chain management have obtained these in-demand skills and industry knowledge by enrolling in professional education courses. Relevant coursework will provide an understanding of the essentials of supply chain management, such as strategy, planning, sourcing, sales support, and customer service, as well as advanced techniques and skills in technology issues, key trends and tactics, and continuous improvement methods, such as Lean Six Sigma and Kaizen.

Supply Chain Management Certifications

Supply chain management professionals at any stage of their careers can further distinguish themselves by earning industry-recognized certification. Leading organizations, such as The Association for Operations Management (APICS), and the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), recognize qualified supply chain managers with the following prestigious designations:

  • CPSM. The Certified Professional in Supply Management designation, offered by ISM, is recognized internationally.
  • CPIM. The Certified Production and Inventory Management certification is offered by APICS, and is well known to thousands of employers worldwide.
  • CSCP. The Certified Supply Chain Professional designation, also offered by APICS, is the most widely recognized credential in the field.

Earning supply chain management certification demonstrates a high level of commitment to your career, as well as expertise in the field. Certification may also give you a competitive edge when seeking supply chain management positions, as employers often show preference to CPSM, CPIM, and CSCP designees.

Launch Your New Career

Does becoming a supply chain manager appeal to you? With the right mix of skills, industry knowledge, and certifications, you can prepare to launch a promising career in this exciting field. Explore professional supply chain management training and certification courses, choose the one that fits your needs, and get started on breaking into this exciting, fast-moving field.

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