Supply Chain Management
Overview of Supply Chain Management
A degree in Supply Chain Management provides an understanding of key concepts such as sourcing, procurement, inventory operations and management, warehousing, freight transport and logistics. Other knowledge areas based on specialization may include business process outsourcing, product management, freight transport, supply chain information systems, circular economy, six sigma for quality management, retail operations, supply chain strategy and sustainability.
Skillsets expected from Supply Chain Management graduates in the industry analyzing, designing and managing effective supply chain operations, forecasting and modelling supply chain operations with data to solve problems and inform decision-making, planning and resourcing supply chains, project management, use of enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications and other information systems for managing supply chains.
Supply chain management graduates are expected to have acquired competencies that make them a good fit for jobs in these career disciplines:
- Business Administration & Management: supply chain is a key operation for several companies that make and/or distribute products. Supply chain professionals can ascend to executive positions in business, with opportunities to rise in level to Chief Operating Officers and Chief Executive Officers.
- Public Administration & Governance: Government institutions have one of the largest procurement arms in their state economies, with several of them alongside NGOs having to cater for the welfare of their citizens. This necessitates having a transparent supply chain that provides equal opportunities to qualified suppliers or vendors.
- Marketing, Sales & Services: product availability and timely delivery are arguably the most important steps in the sales process when the customer decides to buy. The larger the company and the more geographically distributed its customer base, the higher the need for supply chain management.
Job roles in these career disciplines may include working as a buyer, purchaser, purchasing agent, purchasing manager, operations planner, operations manager, logistics analyst, supply chain manager, logistician, logistics manager, production, production coordinator, inventory specialist, transportation coordinator, storage and distribution manager.
Other roles include supply chain data analyst, supply chain finance manager, supply chain project manager, and supply chain information systems manager.
Other Career Disciplines:
- Consulting: supply chain professionals can make a career as a management consultant providing advisory services to the organizations in the industries listed above.
- Design and Engineering: supply chain engineers plan, design, and operate supply chains and may come from a more analytical and technical perspective, rather than management.
You can learn more about each of these career clusters to discover specializations, deciding if which you will fit into, jobs available, know more about what they do, relevant skills and find out further learning options in each discipline. For an overview of career clusters, visit Career Disciplines.
Supply chain management graduates work with organizations in the following industries:
- Logistics & Transport: Top employers in the industry are courier, package delivery, freight and express mail service companies, with global leaders having sea, land and air operations. Other leading employers are cold chain, warehousing and port management companies. This is itself the supply chain industry and intersects with other industries such as maritime and aviation.
- FMCGs: Top employers include consumer good manufactures and distributors to retailers. In addition to product development and marketing, supply chain management is fundamental for the success of consumer goods company.
- Retail & Sales: top employers are hypermarkets, supermarkets, discount department stores and grocery stores who have operations distributed across regions or the country.
- e-Commerce: customer fulfillment in record time is a competitive advantage in the industry. e-Commerce companies, based on their business models, have to manage inventory, warehouse and distribution hubs to ensure that orders get to customers.
- Automotive: Top employers are car makers, assembly companies, and component manufacturers. Planes and cars have millions of parts which are sourced from different parts of the world. These industries have one of the most complex supply chains and require the best of supply chain professionals to manage them.
Other Industries include:
- Agribusiness, Industrials and Manufacturing: Top employers are companies which may sell consumer goods in the case of agribusiness and specialty goods in the case of Industrials who need to deliver their products to retailers and rely on well-organized supply chains.
- Information and Communication Technology: Top employers include original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and semiconductor companies who source and distribute their products globally.
- Aviation and Construction: the large-scale nature of building planes and key infrastructure require well-coordinated supply chain of components to manage cost and ensure that projects are delivered on schedule.
- Consulting: Management consultants provide to companies advisory services around improving efficiency and reducing cost. For manufacturing and distribution companies, these cannot be achieved without optimizing their supply chains, hence the opportunity for experts in supply chain as consultants.
You explore each of the industries to know more about career opportunities, profiles of leading employers, insights on what it is like to work in each industry and tips for entry. For an overview of industries, visit Industry Profiles.
Further degrees and specializations that can be pursued by Supply Chain Management degree holders are:
- Supply Chain Analytics and Strategic Supply Chain Management
- Supply Chain Management and Global Logistics
- Operations, Logistics and Supply Chain Management
- Operations, Project and Supply Chain Management
- Supply Chain and Purchasing Management
Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degrees with a focus on Supply Chain Management are also available.
Relevant certifications are Association for Supply Chain Management’s (APICS) Certified Supply Chain Professional Certification (CSCP), Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM), Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR-P) Endorsement, Certified Logistics, and Transportation and Distribution (CLTD). Certifications from Institute for Supply Management (ISM) include Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity (CPSD). Other relevant certifications include SCPro Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), SOLE Certified Professional Logistician (CPL), IPSCMI Certified in International Transportation and Logistics (CITL), and Project Management Professional (PMP).
You can also check out the certifications in the Data Science pathway of the Information Technology career cluster.
Relevant Professional Bodies are:
- Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT)
- Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS)
- Association for Supply Chain Management (APICS)
- Institute for Supply Management (ISM)
- Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) Africa
In addition to national branches of the above bodies in Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritius. Following are some national bodies:
- Morocco: Moroccan Association for Logistics (AMLOG).
- Nigeria: Chartered Institute of Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Chartered Institute of Supply Chain Management.
- South Africa: The Professional Body for Supply Chain Management (SAPICS).
A number of industry leaders have a background in supply chain management. This means you are in good company. Some of them include:
- Selvin Govender: A South African automotive executive who serves as the marketing director of Mercedes Benz cars in South Africa. He holds an MBA and a degree in Supply Chain Management, and also National Diplomas in Transportation Management and Mechanical Engineering.
- Tim Cook: Apple’s current CEO has an extensive background in supply chain management. Though with a degree in industrial engineering, Tim worked as a supply chain manager in IBM and Compaq and was the COO of Apple managing the company’s sales and supply chain operations.
- Dr Imen Nouira: A Tunisian academic with interest in Supply Chain Management and Information Systems. She is an associate professor of Supply Chain Management & Information Systems Academic Area at the Rennes School of Business with interests in the environmental impact of supply chains and carbon emissions.
Relevant industry skills which are expected by employers and transferable across jobs include:
- Communication & Persuasion: Supply chain management is a data and information information-driven field. A wrongly communicated instruction may result in Cargo bound for Abuja landing in Abidjan. Therefore, Supply Chain Professionals must have the skills to read and listen in details and be able to clearly share their thoughts orally and in writing. With the high number of negotiations going on in a supply chain, being persuasive in communication when negotiation is also key to a successful supply chain career.
- Analysis and Problem-Solving: Supply chains can be challenged by glitches and problems which can cause minor to major disruptions. When this happens, supply chain professionals must be able to track where the issues are and provide solutions to ensure that there is no threat to businesses or individuals dependent on the supply chain. This may sometimes require analyzing data and traces across the supply network to come up with optimal solutions such as changing to routes less susceptible to adverse weather conditions.
- Planning & Organization: Supply chains are structured operations that can benefit from the planning & organization skill of a supplied chain professional. This skill can help plan a company’s procurement process or prioritizing the order for which supplies should be processed.
- Networking & Teamwork: When a container gets stuck at the port or the insurance coverage of a truck expires while it is on the road, who do you call? Definitely, one, two or more people who may be within or more likely outside the organization you work with. This is why networking is an important skill for supply chain professionals. With the complexity and always-on mode of supply chains, teamwork is also essential for the coordination of supply chain operations and schedule shifts to avoid burnout.
- Continual Learning & Adaptation: Supply chains have become globalized, thus, exposing supply chain professionals to interacting with people from other cultures. Professionals working with logistic companies may be posted to work from regional and international supply chain hubs, hence, the need for continuously adapting to a changing environment. Supply chains have also become increasingly digitized with information systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software becoming the tool of the trade.
- Digital Proficiency (Data & Design): Technologies such as big data and machine learning has now made it possible for supply chain professionals to be able to make sense of the huge volume of data generated. This has been further enhanced by the internet of things (IoT) which makes tracking of goods within the supply chain easier. These technologies can be combined to make forecasts and build better models when planning supply chains.
You can select each of these skills to learn more about the skills, their application areas and how to develop them. For an overview of industry skills, visit Industry Skills.
Supply Chain Digital
Supply Chain World
Supply Chain Brief
Supply Chain Management Review
Let’s Talk Supply Chain
The Digital Supply Chain Podcast
The Logistics of Logistics
The Day After Tomorrow
Be Prepared to Stop (Documentary)
A degree in Supply Chain Management opens up immense career opportunities in the industry, which is not limited to those featured in this guide. You can explore the Career and Industry Intelligence Hub for other careers and industries that may be of interest to you.