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What is Supply Chain Management and How Can I Land a Job in It?

Supply Chain Management Careers+The term of ‘supply chain management’ is something of a buzzword, dating back to about the 1990s (though the role at the term referred to had been around for decades before that). As a buzzword, it can be awfully muddling trying to figure out exactly what it is and if it’s worth getting into as a career move-let alone how to pull that off assuming you do! We’re going to take some time out to untangle the knots around this term and then you can see for yourself if this is a field that you’d like to get into or for which you are suited.

What is Supply Chain Management?

Ok, supply chain management is clearly a buzz term, but what does it actually mean? Well, the phrases encompasses a broad range of things, making it nearly as vague as the term itself to pin down, but what it boils down to is the management of the flow of goods from its raw stages to the finished product in the hands of consumers. For example, supple chain management is involved in sugar from when the sugar cane is harvested, to processing, to packaging, to distribution to selling to arrival at a customer’s doorstep (if it’s been shipped as opposed to being purchased at a grocery store). This means that practically everything is under the umbrella of supply chain management, from sugar to shoes, from bread to mattresses! It’s a huge field with millions of jobs for just about anyone which makes it hard to peg down exactly where you’d like to work.

Generally speaking, when professionals talk about supply chain management, they are talking about jobs wherein you will be managing the flow of particular goods. For example, someone working in this field may be planning the routes that will help a truck full of sugar get from the factory to the stores in the most cost effective way. Another example, someone who is purchasing furniture from a wholesaler to have it shipped back to another city where it will be sold is also in supply chain management. We don’t think of it as supply chain management-we think of it as purchasing or freight planning-but it’s kind of under the same umbrella nonetheless. At the bottom, it’s about making sure you have the right approach to your supply chains so that money is saved and everywhere gets where it needs to go in good time. Phew!

Getting a Job in Supply Chain Management

Although this is a very broad niche, it can be a bit difficult to find a job. There are a couple of reasons for this: it’s very broadly defined, many organizations just don’t have a department for it and in order for the department to work, it has to bring together many of the right people in order to get it off the ground.

All of this is not to say that the positions don’t exist. They certainly do and the field is growing since there are more and more goods being bounced around a broader area. It just means that you might have to exert some creative thinking in order to convince people that the job needs doing, let alone hire you to do it. If there is a demand for this job, then what do you need in order to get hired?

It’s not at all easy, but there are some of the things which employers look for when hiring Supply Chain Management Employees:

  • Graduated from a group of SCM programs from the right schools. The big firms and organizations don’t do much hiring outside of certain points.
  • Internships can get you ‘through the back door’ if you don’t have just the right experience
  • Experience in supply chain work such as purchasing or management
  • Certification in things like purchasing, production and inventory management
  • Proficiency in the right software such as SAP, Oracle or i2
  • Detail oriented
  • Communication and people skills
  • Most people who end up in supply chain management didn’t start there at all; they tended to start somewhere else in a firm, such as management, purchasing or other fields and end up promoted into supply chain on the merits of their experiences. So it’s highly unlikely you’ll go straight to supply chain from school, but you can work towards it by showing your organizational skills, bringing new ideas and innovation to the way your firm brings in their goods and by keeping your ear to the ground for opening positions and applying for them.

    The job outlook for supply chain management is pretty healthy and in demand, but the positions can be hard to land because they are so specific in their needs. Therefore, if this is your ultimate goal, getting the right education and having the right experience is an absolute must. Good luck!