Functional Areas of the Supply Chain
As touched on earlier, supply chains differ in many ways – from company to company and industry to industry. There’s no such thing as a “one supply chain model fits all” because some functional areas which exist in one company’s supply chain and can be absent in another.
To keep it simple for career path explanation purposes, let’s review the core functions that “commonly” (but not always) exist within a supply chain organization. If you are unfamiliar with some of these terms I recommend conducting research in Google, YouTube, the APICS Dictionary, and other online sources to learn more. You can search for these terms on job boards as well, such as Indeed.com, CareerBuilder, and even LinkedIn, to better understand the typical roles, responsibilities, and job qualifications.
- Plan – Supply Planning, Forecasting / Demand Planning, Production Planning, Capacity Planning, Inventory Management, Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP), Integrated Business Planning (IBP)
- Make – Production (of materials or goods), Maintenance, Engineering, Quality, Planning & Scheduling, Purchasing, Warehousing with “supporting functions” that typically include Finance, HR, Health & Safety, and/or Continuous Improvement.
- Buy/Source – Strategic Sourcing, Procurement, Commodities Management (Direct Spend), Category Management (Indirect Spend)
- Deliver – Logistics, Transportation, Warehousing, Import/Export and Reverse Logistics (e.g. returns management)
It’s important to consider company size and ownership when choosing a career path as these can vary quite a bit and impact your career satisfaction and trajectory levels. Companies can vary greatly by size, sector, and scope.
- Size: start-up, small, mid-size, large
- Sector: public, private (including family-owed), non-profit, private equity-owned, venture capital-backed
- Scope: domestic, regional, and/or international; multi-product/divisional or focused
In large corporations, you will typically start working within a segment or functional area of the supply chain with access to a lot of resources and more career paths to choose from. In smaller companies, you may wear multiple hats with broader exposure to the supply chain but with access to fewer resources and likely fewer career advancement opportunities. The job market in this field is thriving so don’t hesitate to get into it now!
Supply Chain Support Functions
Don’t neglect the possibility of working in a business function that supports supply chain management such as supply chain finance or continuous improvement. I like to think of these as “hybrid” roles as while you may not report up through the supply chain department, you are providing critical support services to the department. Career paths within this area include the following focus areas, including my own specialty, supply chain recruitment:
- Sales & Marketing (within a Service Provider)
- Finance & Accounting
- Health, Safety & Environmental (HSE)
- Operational Excellence / Continuous Improvement (Lean / Six Sigma)
- Human Resources
- Supply Chain Recruitment / Staffing
- Quality Assurance
- Information Technology
Where to Get Started
Unsure where to get started? Check out our Supply Chain Careers Podcast.
Another great resource for a better understanding of the myriad supply chain management career paths is through free resources like YouTube. Here you can run some searches on terms such as “careers in supply chain” to identify sources of video content. If you’re fairly new to supply chain management, be sure to check out the YouTube channel for Arizona State University’s School of Business.
APICS offers the most popular and respected supply chain certifications so be sure to consider their training & certification offerings as many employers prefer candidates that have APICS certifications such as APICS CSCP, CPIM, and CLTD. Be sure to check out ASCM’s new resources for transitioning into a supply chain management career.
Another great avenue for expanding your supply chain knowledge base is Feedspot’s “Top 75 Supply Chain Blogs” by setting up a feedly.com account. Using this free tool allows you to track all blog posts that you want to review in one place on your desktop, tablet, and mobile phone. I have been using Feedly for years to keep a strong pulse on trends and breaking news within the field of supply chain management. Highly recommend it for ALL supply chain professionals!
Of course check out the SCM Talent Group’s Content Hub, as this is a place where we release fresh new content around all things supply chain, including supply chain career development, leadership tactics, and even what it’s like to work a day in the life of supply chain positions!
I hope this gives you a good overview of the various paths inside supply chain management careers. I wish you the best of luck with launching and accelerating your career within supply chain management. Remember, a lot more of these jobs can be done remotely, so don’t hesitate to seek virtual positions or demand hybrid arrangements in your comp packages.
To your success!