Supply chain management is the process of getting products from one end to the other. This process can cover the entire product lifecycle, from raw material to customer support. A professional supply chain manager requires many skills for the SCM job.
SCM professionals must have both soft and hard skills to accomplish all these tasks which is why their degrees can often be amongst the highest-paying degrees, although that can vary vastly. depending on many external factors. While data and metrics can help to identify the most cost-effective supply chain strategy, it is important that SCM professionals communicate well and work together. SCM professionals need to identify potential growth areas, such as better shipping practices. They also need to manage employees and maintain positive relationships.
This may seem like a daunting task for one person, but there are many SCM specialties. Although they are both under the SCM headings, procurement and transport managers have different daily responsibilities that require different skill sets.
What skills do supply chain managers need? This article will cover topics such as:
- What does a supply chain manager do?
- What skills are required for a supply chain manager?
- Why not get a master’s degree in supply chain management?
What does a supply chain manager do?
Supply chain professionals who are successfully improving the profitability of their organizations by improving business practices. It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what a supply-chain manager does due to the many different jobs and specialties within this field. You could be a supply chain manager, focusing on relationship management, automation techniques, and risk management.
As an example, purchasing managers are focused on obtaining material or services. This is a process that includes:
- Assess your business needs
- Research best price
- Coordinate shipping information and contact the supplier
- Check that the order is in compliance with all requirements
The exact job you play will depend on the needs of your employer and your specific skillset. While florists and military professionals may have different job requirements and stresses, both must manage their supply chains well to maximize efficiency.
Focusing doesn’t necessarily mean being confined to one job. According to the Association for Supply Chain Management, companies often engage in job rotations. This gives professionals experience in different positions. This allows workers to improve their motivation and learn new skills.
Also read: 13 Types of Supply Chain Management Tools
The responsibilities of a supply chain manager can include:
- Establishing and maintaining relationships with constituents (such distributors).
- Cost-cutting without compromising quality
- Establishing packaging processes
- Third-party logistics
- Fire and hire employees
- Enhancing business capabilities
- Introduce new products
- Inventory management
- Maximizing the use of analytics and databases
- Negotiating pricing
- Organizing shipping processes
- Overseeing customer service
- Tracking and managing your orders
- New employees being trained
Very few supply chain managers are able to perform all of these tasks, except in the most small operations.
These positions are either closely related or fall under the SCM heading:
- Inventory manager
- Materials manager
- Plan manager
- Manager of procurement
- Manager Production
- Manager of purchasing
- Strategic sourcing manager
- Analyst for supply chain
- Manager Supply Chain
- Supply chain specialist
- Transport manager
- Manager, Warehouse Operations
Some positions on this list can be considered stepping stones. For potential supply chain managers, a common early role is that of supply chain analysts.
What skills does a supply chain manager need?
To fulfill their multiple responsibilities, supply chain managers must have a wide range of skills. It is possible to be a competent supply chain manager and not be the best at all things. You can be great in one or two areas of supply chain management and still have a lot to learn. Being a great manager means putting the right people in place to succeed.
This is an essential part of supply chain management. Budgets are an important part of procurement. Budgeting is a skill that supply chain professionals are skilled at. They can optimize their resources using data analytics. Stagger charts and Excel spreadsheets can be used to create forecasts or set goals.
Managers of supply chains need exceptional leadership and communication abilities. This job involves working with employees and third parties in different industries, such as shipping and warehousing.
Communicating can be literally translated as speaking. The global supply chains are growing and so is the demand for multilingual professionals. It can be a great asset to communicate effectively with business partners from another country.
Analytics has been a key component of supply chain management in just a few years. Analytics is used to identify inefficiencies and optimize budgets. Machine learning and predictive modeling take human error from decision-making. Companies looking to get more out of their analytics department will find the majority of master’s programs contain data analytics as part of their curriculum.
According to an IFS study, ethics is the most important quality that companies need to establish relationships with vendors. According to the study, 29 percent of respondents cited it as their most desired trait. 27 percent cited innovation. Michael Ouissi (IFS Chief Customer Officer) said that ethics was ranked as one of the top three traits for vendors. This is due to poor vendor advice being rated as the leading reason for failure.
A 2013 study by Supply Chain Quarterly found that flexibility directly increases business success, particularly in volatile circumstances. Organizations that can transfer operations between facilities have a greater advantage than those with rigid operations. Experts agree that the pandemic has highlighted the need to be flexible. Businesses need to be able to react quickly to changes in the short term and find long-term solutions.
Information technology skills
Information technology is more than just fixing computers. This includes the use of innovative technology to enhance business capabilities. Here are some examples of IT in the supply chain:
Advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) to use data in decision-making
Blockchain can improve record-keeping and tracking
The internet of things allows you to access live data about variables that could impact shipping routes
Optimizing your warehouse space is key to inventory management. This means that you can avoid holding too many goods or falling behind in shipments due to a lack of product. This list includes information technology, data analysis, and communication skills that can influence inventory management. When dealing with perishable items such as food and medication, it is crucial to have a good inventory management process. These items shouldn’t be stored in a warehouse too long before they go to waste.
Legal and regulatory information
Globalization has made it possible for products to be manufactured in multiple locations. This makes international regulations even more important. It is also important to know local regulations such as:
- Dodd-Frank Act for the United States
- Food and Drug Administration requirements for the USA
- Register, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals within the EU
- The European Union (EU) has restricted the use of hazardous substances.
- EU Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment
People sometimes use the terms interchangeably because logistics and supply chains are so closely linked. The skills and knowledge of logistics professionals are very similar to those in supply chain management. They can also deliver a final product to customers using techniques such as:
- Optimization for business
- Customer service
- Inventory management
Communication and leadership skills are essential for personnel management. It is important to be able to delegate tasks efficiently and with kindness. Nobody likes a boss who gives orders. Because of the large field, personnel management is essential in SCM. Because there is no one manager who can manage everything, it’s important to trust your peers (employees) and your superiors.
Problem-solving, along with flexibility, sets SCM professionals apart. In 2021, several major events impacted the global supply chains, including a pandemic in the world, the first ramifications from Brexit, and the blockade of the Suez Canal by a ship. The supply chain professionals need to be able to work around problems and get their goods to where they are needed on time or as close as possible.
Every day, supply chain managers use project management. According to the Association for Supply Chain Management, “it’s a great way to create structure and predictability from complexity.” Project management is about balancing resources such as time, money, and human capital in order to achieve desired results quickly and efficiently. While project management skills are often acquired through work experience, professionals may also pursue continuing education or certification courses.
SCM professionals must have a good understanding of markets in order to understand the demand for their products. The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has had a significant impact on the supply chain. However, it did so in many different ways. Toilet paper was very popular at the beginning. Manufacturers and stores had to adapt accordingly.
Market changes such as tariffs and market disruptions can have a significant impact on supply chain processes. This impacts international trade and relations between countries. Even though their relationship is deeply intertwined, the United States and China engage in constant trade wars. Businesses often need to respond to changes in the international market.
Why do you want to get a master’s degree in supply chain management?
A master’s degree is not required to progress in supply chain management. However, it may be very helpful. The APICS reported that supply chain professionals with a graduate or higher earned 25 percent more than those who only have an undergraduate degree. These professionals earn an average salary of over $100,000.
A master’s degree, on the other hand, can provide valuable insights that will help you excel at your job. It’s important to be familiar with the various types of SCM degrees before you can fully understand the benefits of a master’s degree.
- Master of Business Administration in Supply Chain Management
- Master of Business Administration Supply Chain and Operations
- Master of Science, Global Supply Chain Management
- Master of Science in Supply Chain Management
Although each program is different, they all combine hard skills such as data analysis with leadership and management classes. A concentration may be earned in a specific area, such as logistics or global procurement.
An MS and MBA are two different degrees. The focus is on management and business processes. Both degrees are acceptable for managerial positions. MBA programs, however, focus more on logistics management than on management. Supply chain executives are more likely to have MBA degrees than those with MS programs.
The supply chain management degree has real-world applications. Students in The University of Tennessee-Knoxville MS Supply Chain Management program “understand how supply chain management can be best used to deliver positive results for a company.” This is done through coursework and collaboration on projects with fellow classmates. These methods are common in SCM degree programs and often students leave with more knowledge than theoretical.
The SCM Master’s Program emphasizes Networking by offering formal and informal opportunities. University of Southern California Marshall organizes roundtables and networking events to connect students with other working professionals. Students can network with their classmates and develop relationships that last beyond graduation by working together on group projects.
Students at The University of Texas at Dallas complete a group capstone project that focuses on providing SCM service to a local company. Capstone projects allow you to network with other peers and establish a foothold in the industry.
Get valuable credentials
Most credentials are offered by professional organizations like the APICS. Many educational institutions also offer graduate-level certificates or training sessions that are shorter than a master’s. Boston University offers a graduate credential that is completed in less than a year. The coursework covers operations management, international trade, and global supply chains. A credential does not bar you from applying for a master’s degree.