If you take a creative approach to problem solving, enjoy working in a fast-paced environment and have the skills to motivate and lead a team, then working as a warehouse manager may be for you
Warehouse managers oversee the efficient receipt, storage and dispatch of a range of goods. Responsible for a vital part of the supply chain process, you'll manage people, processes and systems in order to ensure goods are received and dispatched appropriately, and that productivity targets are met.
You'll also be responsible for workplace health and safety standards and for the security of the building and stock. Specialist warehouses may store temperature-controlled products, such as food and pharmaceuticals, and hazardous materials.
As a warehouse manager, you'll need to:
- liaise with customers, suppliers and transport companies
- coordinate and monitor the receipt, order, assembly and dispatch of goods
- use space and mechanical handling equipment efficiently, making sure quality, budgetary targets and environmental objectives are met
- have a clear understanding of the company's policies and vision and how the warehouse contributes to these
- coordinate the use of automated and computerised systems where necessary
- respond to and deal with customer communication by email and telephone
- keep stock control systems up to date and make sure inventories are accurate
- plan future capacity requirements
- organise the recruitment and training of staff, as well as monitoring staff performance and progress
- motivate, organise and encourage teamwork within the workforce to ensure productivity targets are met or exceeded
- produce regular reports and statistics on a daily, weekly and monthly basis
- brief team leaders on a daily basis
- visit customers to monitor the quality of service they are receiving
- maintain standards of health and safety, hygiene and security in the work environment, for example, ensuring that stock such as chemicals and food are stored safely
- oversee the planned maintenance of vehicles, machinery and equipment
- where appropriate, oversee the maintenance and operation of warehouse management systems and automated storage and retrieval systems.
- Salaries for graduate training schemes in warehouse management range from £18,000 to £25,000.
- Junior management roles that are not part of a graduate training scheme usually attract salaries of £17,000 to £20,000.
- Experienced warehouse managers can earn £22,000 to £35,000, while senior managers can earn in excess of £40,000.
Salaries may be part of a package with a range of benefits including a company car, staff discount, pension, life insurance and private health insurance.
Income data from The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) UK. Figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours typically include early starts, late finishes, weekends and shift work. Senior managers often work a more conventional week but may do long hours when necessary.
Working hours for most managers are heavier in high seasons; planning for Christmas within the retail sector begins during the summer and rises to a peak in December.
What to expect
- Work is divided between the shop floor, warehouse and the office, though this depends on the size of the operation.
- Opportunities are available throughout the UK, commonly located within easy reach of motorways and rail, sea and air terminals.
- It may occasionally be necessary to travel during the working day.
- Overnight absence from home and overseas work or travel is uncommon, though there is scope to undertake overseas placements.
- Freelance consultancy work may become possible with significant experience.
Although you don't need a specific degree to become a warehouse manager, the following subjects are particularly relevant:
- business information systems
- business, management or economics
- business with languages
- operational research
- retail management
- supply chain management
- transport, distribution or logistics.
Some large companies offer graduate training schemes. You'll usually need a good first degree to get a place.
Entry without a degree, HND or foundation degree is possible and you can work in warehousing straight from school or college, either by applying to an employer direct or through an apprenticeship.
On-the-job experience linked to professional qualifications provides a common entry route for post A-level entrants who can work their way up to management level. Qualifications offered by CILT UK are suitable for those entering the profession through to strategic management level.
Apprenticeship opportunities are available as a warehouse operative, supply chain assistant or supply chain warehouse operative, for example.
Although industry experience is an important factor in recruitment, some employers prefer applicants with a degree.
Although you don't need a postgraduate qualification, a Masters in logistics and supply chain management may help give you the edge with some employers, especially if the course provides placement opportunities to give you practical experience. Search postgraduate courses in logistics and supply chain management.
You'll need to have:
- excellent oral and written communication skills
- numeracy and an understanding of finance for stock management
- people management skills, including the ability to inspire, lead and motivate a team of people, delegate work and explain ideas
- teamworking skills
- planning and organising skills to effectively manage the flow of stock
- analytical ability
- accuracy and attention to detail
- initiative and decisiveness
- technical and IT skills, particularly when it comes to database management and spreadsheets
- problem-solving skills and the ability to work on a tactical and strategic level
- the ability to work under pressure and to tight deadlines
- a flexible approach to work as many warehouses operate shift patterns
- knowledge of the legal requirements of operating a warehouse.
Experience of working in a team and dealing with people in a warehouse setting will improve your chances. Getting a forklift licence will be helpful. Having retail experience and experience of working in a supervisory role is also advantageous.
Try to get some vacation work or an industrial placement in a warehouse to test your suitability for this area of work. Consider a general warehouse position when starting out, for example, as a trainee supervisor with a smaller organisation. Experience in these jobs can lead to line-management positions.
Opportunities exist in a range of sectors. Typical employers include:
- academic institutions
- the armed forces
- central and local government departments
- freight forwarders
- haulage contractors
- the National Health Service (NHS)
- major supermarket, retail (including online retail) and wholesale companies
- manufacturing firms
- specialist warehousing and distribution firms.
Increasingly, a number of companies across all these sectors, including the NHS, contract out their logistics activities to firms of specialist logistics service providers (LSPs) to manage all or part of their supply chain. These companies provide storage premises, materials, handling equipment and vehicles.
There are some opportunities for freelance consultancy work with small practices. This gives you the chance to work with many different organisations, and at various levels, depending on the nature of the project. Consultants may specialise in areas such as:
- supply-chain modelling
- transport and distribution planning
- warehouse automation.
Look for job vacancies at:
Vacancies also appear on company websites and in the local, national and trade press.
Specialist recruitment agencies also advertise vacancies. These include:
Training varies from company to company. Some larger companies offer comprehensive graduate training schemes. These usually last up to two years, with periods spent on rotation in various departments and locations, learning on the job and often studying at the same time for relevant professional qualifications.
Warehouse management can be seen as a specialism within the wider context of logistics, transport and supply chain management. This means that training, especially with a large operator, is likely to include other areas, such as transport management and administration.
If you're not on a formal graduate training scheme, you'll typically learn on the job under the guidance of experienced supervisors and managers. You may also undertake NEBOSH or IOSH health and safety qualifications.
Many companies encourage their employees to take professional qualifications. CILT UK offers a range of regulated and accredited qualifications, short courses, workshops and lectures, seminars and conferences. Membership provides the opportunity to network with other managers.
It's also possible to take a Masters course in operations, supply chain and logistics management.
You can progress through the industry by gaining relevant experience in a range of settings and operations of different sizes. There are opportunities to move into either third-party logistics (3PL) organisations, which provide outsourced logistics services, or in-house operations.
Gaining vocational and professional qualifications will help your career development.
With experience there are some opportunities to move into senior management posts, such as regional or national operations manager or director. You can also move into other management posts throughout the wider logistics/supply chain management sector.
There are also opportunities for experienced managers to work in Europe and other emerging global markets. Being able to speak a foreign language would be useful if you're looking for opportunities abroad.
Find out how James became an operations manager at BBC Bitesize.