Supply chain managers are responsible for the movement of goods, from manufacturers and suppliers to the customer

As a supply chain manager, you'll oversee and manage every stage of the production flow, from purchasing the raw materials to the delivery of the final product.

You'll ensure the right amount of product is made at the right time, as well as coordinate the storage of the product. Organising the movement of goods from distribution centres to customers and stores involves forecasting trends and managing inventories.

Responsibilities

Your tasks will vary depending on the sector you work in. However, as a supply chain manager you'll typically need to:

  • work with procurement managers and buyers to source the right products
  • negotiate contracts with suppliers and customers
  • control manufacturing and delivery processes
  • plan and implement logistical strategy, ensuring targets are met
  • oversee product storage, handling and distribution
  • use computer software to track goods from origin to delivery
  • work on forecasts and inventories, keeping an accurate record of the process and analysing performance
  • manage the costs involved while maintaining quality
  • ensure you're aware of exactly what is happening throughout the supply chain
  • manage and motivate a team of supply chain staff
  • improve the overall supply chain performance and look for any possible innovations to the process
  • develop new and existing relationships with suppliers
  • manage and minimise the risks (for example operational or reputational) that could affect or interrupt the supply chain
  • consider the environmental impact of the supply chain in order to meet sustainability targets
  • implement new technologies and stay alert to new trends and developments in the sector.

Salary

  • At entry level, for example as a graduate trainee/buyer, average salaries are around £24,337.
  • Salaries for supply chain executives rise to an average of around £30,420. Supply chain analysts can earn an average of £34,601 and supply chain planners, £29,984.
  • The average salary for supply chain managers is around £46,998. At supply chain director level the average salary is around £104,868.

According to the 2020 CIPS/Hays Procurement Salary Guide, the average salary for all procurement and supply professionals is £48,415 - an average salary increase of 4.9% from the 2019 survey (as compared to a national increase of 3.4%).

Salaries vary depending on a range of factors including your experience, location, the sector you work in, the size and type of company you work for, and your professional qualifications, e.g. chartership.

Salaries are highest in the professional and business services sector, followed by banking, finance and insurance, and then telecoms.

Additional benefits may include a bonus, company car, private healthcare, life assurance and pension.

Income data from the 2020 CIPS/Hays Procurement Salary Guide. Figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You'll usually work Monday to Friday, between 8am and 6pm. However, many companies run 24-hour operations and this may include shift work, with evening and weekend hours on a rota basis.

There may be some opportunities for flexible working.

What to expect

  • The working environment is usually office based, although you may need to visit warehouses, suppliers and customers.
  • Supply chains are generally complex, and the career can be fast-paced and challenging. However, there are good career development prospects if you have the right combination of skills and experience.
  • Jobs are available in towns and cities throughout the UK.
  • Male professionals are earning significantly more than women, particularly at a senior level. For example, according to the 2020 CIPS/Hays Procurement Salary Guide the average gender pay gap at advanced professional level is 33%.
  • You may need to travel during the day and stay away from home overnight to visit other sites. There may be some travel overseas to visit parts of the supply chain.

Qualifications

Supply chain jobs are open to all graduates, but it's common to hold a degree, HND or foundation degree in a relevant subject, such as:

  • supply chain management
  • business management
  • finance
  • computing
  • information systems
  • logistics management
  • transport management.

NOVUS, an industry-led, not-for-profit organisation governed by the Chartered Institute of Logistics (CILT), works with the University of Huddersfield and Aston University to offer supply chain management courses which are sponsored by a range of industry-leading companies. Students are allocated a mentor to work under and have the chance to work in one of these organisations during a placement year and on a summer placement. Students who achieve a 2:1 or above and complete a satisfactory placement year are guaranteed a graduate job.

NOVUS Lite courses are also available at some universities, providing some of the benefits of the NOVUS scheme. For more information, see the NOVUS website.

Graduate trainee schemes are available, usually with large organisations. They typically last one-to-two years and you'll rotate around different departments to get experience across the whole supply chain.

Entry without a degree is possible in an entry-level role such as administrative assistant, purchasing assistant or trainee buyer. It may then be possible to work your way up to the role of supply chain manager by taking relevant professional qualifications offered by organisations such as the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) or CILT.

It's also possible to take a supply chain apprenticeship, combining paid work with part-time study.

There are postgraduate degrees available in supply chain management, logistics and transport planning. Search for postgraduate courses in logistics and supply chain management.

Taking relevant CIPS or CILT qualifications may help with career progression.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • strong planning skills
  • a logical and systematic approach to work
  • good time management, with the ability to work under pressure, maintain accuracy and keep to deadlines
  • the ability to solve problems and make decisions, as well as to think strategically and laterally
  • excellent relationship management skills, with the ability to work collaboratively with internal and external teams
  • negotiation and influencing skills
  • business management and analytical skills
  • excellent communication skills, both written and oral
  • the ability to lead and motivate a team
  • IT literacy, skills in Excel and the ability to handle electronic data
  • and understanding of risk management in the context of the supply chain.

Work experience

Some degree courses have a placement year option. This provides the opportunity to gain practical business experience, increase your skills and develop a network of contacts. There may also be options to undertake shorter placements during your course.

You could also apply for summer internships, which are usually available with larger organisations and companies. Many large logistics companies have schemes in place, as do organisations such as supermarkets.

Employers

Businesses source materials, products and services from all around the world, and any company that has a product to get to customers will have a supply chain. This means that jobs are available throughout the UK in the private, public and charity/not-for-profit sectors. Supply chains can be hugely complicated processes with multiple operators and contributors.

Typical employers of supply chain managers include companies in the following sectors:

  • manufacturing and engineering
  • healthcare (e.g. the NHS) and pharmaceutical
  • retail and wholesale
  • local and national government
  • IT and telecommunications
  • transport, distribution and storage.

Look for job vacancies at:

Recruitment agencies such as Robert Walters, Hays and Michael Page also advertise vacancies. Vacancies are also advertised on LinkedIn.

Professional development

Supply chain management is a fast moving profession and it's important that you keep your skills and knowledge up to date throughout your career. You can do this by taking professional qualifications offered by professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) and The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT).

To become a full member of CIPS (MCIPS), you'll usually need either an accredited undergraduate or postgraduate degree or the CIPS professional qualifications in procurement and supply. As a member of CIPS you can work towards chartered status by undertaking and recording your continuing professional development (CPD) and by taking the CIPS Ethics Certificate.

CILT offers a range of supply chain qualifications from level 1 entry certificates to advanced Level 5 and 6 certificates and diplomas. You can see the available qualifications at CILT - Qualifications.

You can become a member (MILT) of CILT with a combination of experience and qualifications. See the institute for further details on criteria. There is also the possibility to progress to chartered member and then onto chartered fellow.

Membership of a relevant professional body also provides the opportunity to get access to events, resources and advice, as well to network with your peers.

Career prospects

There are various entry points into the profession and a variety of career pathways once you're in. It's possible to get an entry-level job or a graduate trainee role and work your way up to supply chain manager from there.

If you're on a graduate trainee scheme, you'll get the opportunity to rotate through departments to get an insight into the whole supply chain process. You may be able to fast track your career with accredited qualifications, leadership development, and personal coaching and development.

You can progress across all sectors to senior management and even to board level. The sector is characterised by career pathways that lead directly to senior management roles for those who have the right skills, experience and determination.

Becoming a chartered member of CIPS or CILT may help your career progression as it demonstrates your ability to keep up to date with the skills and knowledge needed in this fast moving industry.

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