This sector covers a diverse range of occupations throughout supply chain including; manufacturing, sales, marketing, engineering, process management, IT and more.
Often linked with logistics, supply chain incorporates all areas of business, from sourcing raw materials to delievery of the product to the end user.
What is supply chain?
The terms supply chain and logistics are often referred to interchangeably and may mean different things within different organisation depending on how they are structured.
Logistics refers to the transportation of good whereas supply chain refers to the entire network of people, activities and resources involved in getting raw materials from supplier to manufacturer to the end user.
The dot.com revolution changed how supply chain and logistics worked because customers are now able to buy directly from suppliers through sites such as Amazon and eBay, making the above model much more complicated in reality. Supply chain often links different roles from different departments across an organisation and when done effectively supply chain lowers cost and makes a company more profitable.
What jobs could I be doing in supply chain?
There are many different types of roles available within supply chain that draw on a range of different skills. The role of a supply chain management graduate may focus on the following areas, depending on how the company is structured:
- Supplier management - negotiating the best price for goods; arranging for the delivery of stock in the right quantities; and responding to market/seasonal trends.
- Logistics management - arranging for the most efficient movement of goods around the organisation from warehouse distribution through to the transportation of goods (road/rail/air/sea); and getting the product to market quickly.
- Project management - it is likely that a graduate working in supply chain will be required to manage a project related to improving efficiency within a particular area of the supply chain.
- Sustainability - lowering an organisations impact on the environment is a key priority for supply chain management due to the potential impact of the transportation of goods. Whether through individual goals or through project work, it is likely that a graduate role in supply chain will involve a focus on sustainability.
Some companies might outsource certain aspects of their supply chain or logistics operation to third parties such as their warehouses or a logistics company.
There are lots of other roles that play a vital role in supply chain management and optimising supply chain efficiency within an organisation such as:
- Customer service (internal and external)
- Automation and robotics
- Research and development
- Information technology
- Software development
- Commercial sales
- Supply manager
- Logistics manager
- Process engineer
- Process technician
- Warehouse manager
- Supply chain consultant
- Supply chain analyst
- Supply chain project manager
What sectors could I work in?
Any company that uses or produces materials or products will have a supply chain. For example, in the UK the National Health Services (NHS) has a supply chain of medical goods from small to large suppliers, ensuring surgeries and hospitals have the equipment they need.
Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) is a sector where having an efficient supply chain is pivotal to business performance.
Where do Nottingham graduates work?
University of Nottingham graduate have gone to work in supply chain and logistics roles within the following companies:
- Astra Zenica
- Severn Trent Water
- Parcel Force
- Jaguar Land Rover
- Johnson Matthey
- Coca Cola
- Network Rail
What are future developments in this sector?
There is an increasingly fast movement towards automation and connectivity, meaning that more parts of the supply chain process will be done by technology rather than people. This is will require people to learn new skills as job roles evolve, for example using technology to improve risk prediction and anticipate issues before they arise, or being able to use technology to move goods faster in response to customer needs within an ‘on-demand’ economy.
The Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, robotics and 3D printing are predicted to have an increasing impact in this sector.
Streamlining the supply chain process is also a key priority for many organisations, such as reducing the number of suppliers. This may have an impact on the skills required to do well in this area, such as process management and relationship management. Resource-efficient sustainable production has been identified as a driving force for growth and development.
Customers and companies are also more aware of environmental and sustainability issues, for example some resources are predicted to be more scarce in the future, which will affect price, availability and more. Being able to manage these factors will be essential in running a successful supply chain operation.
Brexit may also have implications for this sector, for example extra costs of moving goods to and from the UK. At this stage it is impossible to say exactly what the developments will be.
How do I get a job in supply chain?
Life as a supply chain graduate will be fast-paced and challenging due to the nature and speed of production. Companies tend to allow graduates from all disciplines to apply for the more general supply chain management schemes providing they can demonstrate the skills that will be key to working in the environment. Although there will be some graduate schemes aimed specifically at engineering or science students due to the nature of the work involved, and in some cases these degree disciplines may be favoured.
In general candidates will need to demonstrate:
- Teamworking - you will be working with many different individuals and departments, so candidates will be required to show to the ability to contribute to a team in a proactive way.
- Communication - as well as your internal stakeholders you may be working with suppliers or with customers, so good communication skills are vital.
- Analytical ability - you will be working with data with the aim of driving efficiency. Therefore you will need to demonstrate you are comfortable analysing data.
- Leadership - whether you are responsible for leading a project or a team you will need to be proactive in making things happen.