How to become a supply chain manager: a step-by-step guide
Supply chain managers are responsible for planning and overseeing all stages of production and distribution and are fundamental to the success of any business selling products or services.
In this blog, we outline how to become a supply chain manager, what salary you can expect, the day-to-day responsibilities of the role, and how courses like our online Global Supply Chain Management Masters can arm you with the skills needed to go far in the field.
What does a supply chain manager do?
A supply chain is the set of processes involved in creating a product or service and distributing it to consumers. Supply chain managers therefore plan and regulate this sequence of events, each of which can be thought of as links in a chain.
Although day-to-day responsibilities will vary depending on industry and area of expertise, some of the typical tasks assigned to supply chain managers include:
- working with procurement managers and suppliers to source the necessary products
- negotiating supplier contracts and managing relationships with suppliers
- overseeing inventory and storage planning
- monitoring the manufacturing process
- finding fast and cost-efficient ways to move products from suppliers to distribution centres or retailers
- working to reduce the environmental impact of supply chains
- using specialist supply chain software to track movement of products or services
- analysing relevant data sets to track performance, optimise supply chains and forecast
- future needs, issues, lead times and sales projections
- managing and mitigating risks such as supply chain security breaches
- keeping up to speed with new trends and technologies transforming the sector and assessing
- the potential impact on their organisation
- recruiting, onboarding and managing supply chain staff.
Is supply chain management a good career?
The market value of the global supply chain management industry is expected to reach almost $31 billion (USD) by 2026 (up from $15.6 billion in 2020), spelling good job security for those in logistics.
While supply chain management has always been an operational necessity for all businesses, emerging trends including the accelerated adoption of new technologies and automation is leading to greater expansion of the sector and the creation of new roles.
All this makes supply chain management an exciting and dynamic career path, with multiple areas to break into or progress in, including:
- inventory management
- demand planning
- customer service
What does a supply chain manager earn?
Recent global crises and geo-political disruptions, including the war in Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic, have underlined the critical need for logistics professionals with the knowledge to navigate complex issues and develop resilient, modern supply chains.
This increased recognition of the essential role supply chain managers play in ensuring the smooth-running of society may be a key reason behind a recent salary spike.
According to the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS), the average salary for all procurement and supply chain professionals in the UK is £49,743 (GBP), marking a 4.9% increase year on year.
Of course, this figure can vary significantly depending on level of experience, location, industry, and qualifications – both academic and professional.
What skills do supply chain managers need?
Supply chain managers require a mix of hard and soft skills to succeed in their role and progress to more senior positions.
Here, we highlight five key skills that employers will be looking out for on your CV.
An obvious one perhaps, but to be an effective supply chain manager, you need to have the technical know-how and skillset to rationalise inventory, reduce costs, and build predictable and resilient supply chains.
You might gain this knowledge ‘on the job’ as you progress from entry-level roles upwards, or you can gain it through degree programmes with both theoretical and practical elements.
As new technologies continue to disrupt the sector, you may also need to acquire some up-to-date technical knowledge, learning the various applications of these technologies in your supply chains. These could include artificial intelligence (AI) technology, blockchain, big data, smart contracts and 3D-printing.
Supply chain managers with data-analysis skills are highly sought after across sectors.
An ability to source relevant data, monitor performance and observe patterns not only ensures issues are identified and resolved early, but it also helps logistics professionals to spot opportunities for improvements to current process – saving their organisation time and money.
In Sussex’s Global Supply Chain Management Masters, we dedicate a full module to supply chain analytics in which students are taught various quantitative approaches to manage contemporary supply chains as well as how to apply modelling and control techniques in a number of supply chain and logistics settings.
- Stakeholder management
Arguably, logistics is as much about dealing with people as it is about managing and refining technical processes.
Supply chain managers must deal with people at every stage of the production flow – from procurement managers at the start, through to suppliers, manufacturers and retailers at the end.
This requires slick stakeholder management skills, a collaborative approach and an ability to communicate in a clear and compelling way to professionals from both technical and non-technical backgrounds.
As a supply chain manager or director, a key aspect of your role will involve managing direct reports and helping to facilitate transformational change in their careers.
To ensure your team members perform at the top of their game and reach their potential, you’ll need to develop professional development plans, encourage continuous learning, set goals, measure performance and promote a positive organisational culture.
If you have your sights set on senior leadership roles, investing in management training should be high on your agenda.
In this volatile and fast-paced industry, supply chain managers must be solution-focused with an ability to think quickly and draw on the skills previously mentioned to make difficult decisions and restore order.
The Supply Chain Resilience and Quality Management module of our online Masters course has been designed to help students navigate the uncertainties and explore the potential of digitisation and sustainability interventions in helping to overcome current vulnerabilities and build supply chain resilience.
How to forge a successful career in supply chain management
Interested in this varied and rewarding field?
Our online, part-time Masters course has been developed with career development in mind, arming aspiring logistics leaders with the contemporary insights and practical skills needed to navigate current challenges and succeed in their roles.
For more information about the course, including module descriptions, fees and funding options, start dates and recommended study hours, visit the Global Supply Chain Management MSc (online) course page.