What Is Supply Chain Management?

If you’ve ever heard of supply chain management, you might be wondering exactly what it is and how it fits into other areas of business. To find out the answer, we recently sat down with Dr. Cynthia Kalina-Kaminsky. She’s the president of Process & Strategy Solutions, and she gave us some great insights into supply chains and how they impact the economy.

Here’s what she had to say about working in supply chain management.

What exactly is supply chain management?

Supply chain management is not a new concept. But it’s definitely a concept that has changed in recent years. At its core, it boils down to satisfying customer demands and finding the most efficient ways to get a product from the manufacturer to the consumer. For example, when you buy a phone, a supply chain is responsible for manufacturing that phone and for all of the steps involved in getting it delivered to you.

In recent years, supply chains have become more complex, and this has led to new challenges. “Companies used to think they had basically one supply chain,” Dr. Kalina-Kaminsky explains. “Now, because there is such an abundance of supply, we create supply chains to satisfy what customers value.”

What this means is that companies require more processes in order to serve their customers better. The good news? With increased demands come increased opportunities for employment and career development.

What types of jobs are involved in supply chain management?

Supply chain management includes everything from data analysis to transportation management. The key to finding a role that’s a good fit is knowing where your interests lie. You then have to develop skill sets to match them.

Dr. Kalina-Kaminsky recommends doing this by identifying what you’re passionate about. “What do you find yourself coming back to?” she asks. Whether that’s working with data, developing processes, or working closely with other people, supply chain management involves all sorts of career options that could work for you.

Is supply chain management a cross-functional industry?

Because a supply chain has so many moving pieces, working in supply chain management absolutely involves some degree of cross-functionality. Although there is some variation depending on the role you pick — for example, a data analyst will likely have a less cross-functional position than a transportation manager — most roles in the industry do rely on team-oriented processes to deliver results.

Is supply chain management a good field for recent grads?

“Globalization has opened up more competition, leading to increased supply chain requirements,” Dr. Kalina-Kaminsky explains. As a result, there are now increased demands that can’t be met by the existing older workforce. “Baby boomers are leaving the workforce and few are being trained to take their places. On top of that, many were or are in legacy jobs that need to be updated for today’s realities,” she emphasizes. Because of these gaps, there is an immediate need for fresh talent to enter the field, not only to fill existing positions but also to help create new ones.

Working in supply chain management is an exciting chance to learn about the processes that power a consumer-driven economy. It’s also a great opportunity to participate in a field that is rapidly changing and evolving to serve a new generation of consumers. If turning that opportunity into action sounds like an exciting prospect, then supply chain management might just be for you.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as Top 10 Things You Should Look for In a Company and find answers to common interview questions such as Are You Willing to Travel?

Top 5 Careers in Supply Chain Management

If you’re interested in supply chain management, then you know that it’s an exciting field with plenty of career opportunities. In fact, from manufacturing to data analysis, there are very few areas of business that supply chain management doesn’t touch upon. With so many roles and career paths, finding a position that matches your interests and experience might seem a bit overwhelming. But with a little bit of research and a clear understanding of the field, it’s possible to find a role that will be a great fit for you.

Here are the top five careers in supply chain management.

1. Manufacturing

Since supply chains begin with the process of manufacturing and end with getting the product into the hands of the consumer, manufacturing jobs are among the most important in the field. One of the most popular roles within manufacturing is a production manager, a position that oversees the manufacture of products in a plant. Among other duties, production managers are responsible for coordinating production schedules, determining how long the manufacturing process of a product will take and keeping track of the inventory of finished products. In addition to more senior roles like this one, manufacturing also has great entry-level opportunities such as that of a materials analyst who keeps track of inventory or a materials scheduler who coordinating materials with productions schedules.

2. Data analysis

Data management is another key component in supply chains and being able to analyze and understand this data helps supply chains work efficiently. “If you like playing with data, you could be a data analyst, data acquisition engineer, data manager, data administrator or statistician,” explains Dr. Cynthia Kalina-Kaminsky, the president of Process & Strategy Solutions and an expert on supply chains. In fact, according to Dr. Kalina-Kaminsky, data analysis and management is one of the most popular career options within supply chain management since all of the processes involved in serving consumers have to be data-driven to be effective.

3. Procurement

Another supply chain career path with a lot of opportunities is procurement. Focusing primarily on identifying and purchasing the raw materials needed to create products, procurement is a key part of what keeps supply chains going. Among the entry-level opportunities in procurement are positions like procurement analyst and procurement officer, roles that focus on one specific aspect of purchasing. At the more senior level, there are purchasing managers who oversee the purchasing decisions for an entire organization.

4. Transportation

Getting products into the hands of consumers is the main goal of a supply chain. And meeting that goal would not be possible without transportation. As a result, there are many exciting career opportunities related to transportation including entry-level roles like a transportation analyst or logistics analyst and more senior roles like being a transportation manager. Although there is certainly some variation in the responsibilities of these positions, they all have one primary focus: getting products from the factory to the consumer.

5. Customer service

Last but not least is customer service. Always a crucial part of any interaction between a business and a consumer, customer service positions ensure that customers are satisfied with the products they receive. Like with other supply chain fields, there are many career opportunities within customer service including entry-level roles like being an account specialist at a logistics firm, working to coordinate product shipments and resolve customer issues. At the more senior level, customer service career opportunities include being a customer service manager and overseeing the satisfaction of a company’s entire client base.

Supply chains are an integral part the American economy and new supply chains and processes are being created every day. As a result, there are a lot of job opportunities available in each of the five major fields (and beyond). Not sure how to determine which opportunity is right for you? “Pick an area of supply chain that interests you and read up on it,” Dr. Kalina-Kaminsky advises. And once you’ve done that, consider taking on an internship to get a hands-on feel for what supply chain management really looks like.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as 7 Phone Interview Tips That Will Land You a Second Interview and find answers to common interview questions such as Why Do You Want to Work Here?

How to Start a Supply Chain Management Career

If you’re interested in logistics and operations, chances are you’ve come across the concept of a supply chain. What is a supply chain? It’s a series of processes that takes a product from the manufacturing plant to the consumer. This can apply to anything from clothing to electronics. In order for supply chains to function properly, they require management and operational support. To find out more about supply chain management and how to start a supply chain management career, we sat down with Dr. Cynthia Kalina-Kaminsky, the president of Process & Strategy Solutions.

Here’s what you need to know to start a career in supply chain management.

Pick an area of supply chain management that interests you.

Because supply chains involve so many moving pieces, being able to focus in on one specific element of the supply chain is key to finding a position that will be a good fit for you. “Pick an area of supply chain that interests you and begin to read up on it,” Dr. Kalina-Kaminsky suggests. This will give a feel for that particular area, while also helping you to determine whether it’s something that you want to pursue.

Do your research.

Once you’ve narrowed down your focus, do some research on your chosen area. “Read blogs, take classes and engage in discussions in person as well as online,” Dr. Kalina-Kaminsky says. Getting a full picture of the work involved while also building your communication skills will go a long way towards making you a competitive candidate in the field.

Find your niche.

Although knowing the ins and outs of the field you want to enter is a crucial part of starting a career in supply chain management, it’s also important to figure out your niche and work on carving out a position for yourself. “Dig to figure out what is valued,” Dr. Kalina-Kaminsky explains. “Figure out how you can fill a niche, and go for it.” By determining what gaps you can fill, you’ll be more likely to show potential employers that you’ve thought carefully about your chosen career and that you’re looking to add value to an organization.

Demonstrate your value.

Once you’ve figured out your niche, the next step is to demonstrate your value. This is one of the keys to getting hired in any industry but it’s especially important in an industry like supply chain which relies heavily on strategy. What’s the best way to demonstrate value? By showing that you have what it takes to get the job done. “Managers often hope to find those who can a) communicate with other professionals effectively, b) make decisions using data analysis, and c) understand the ‘big’ picture,” Dr. Kalina-Kaminsky explains. In fact, by being able to show that you have a clear understanding of the processes required to keep the supply chain functioning and suggesting ways that those processes can be tweaked to improve operations, you’ll be able to convince potential hiring managers that you can face challenges head-on and be a valuable asset to an organization.

Supply chain management is an exciting field with plenty of opportunities for recent grads who are interested in logistics and operations. And because of its broad scope, there are many areas that could fit your interests. In order to figure out if a supply chain management career is right for you, it’s important to find an area that interests you and to find a way to stand out from the crowd. By doing your research and demonstrating your value, you’ll be sure to impress potential employers and find a role that fits you.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How Do I Get a Job in Another City or State? and find answers to common interview questions such as Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake.

Top 5 Supply Chain Internships

If you’re interested in logistics and operations, chances are you already know about supply chains and the crucial role they play in the consumer economy. And if you’re trying to decide whether a supply chain career is right for you, you might be wondering the best way to research different positions. The easiest and most effective way to do that is through an internship.

Here are the top five supply chain internships.

Supply chain operations internship

As a supply chain operations intern, you’ll be working closely with one or more supply chain managers to ensure that operations run smoothly in one or more areas of the supply chain. Depending on your interests and the company you’re interning with, you could be focusing on any number of areas including purchasing, inventory and distribution. Because of its broad scope, this internship offers a wonderful opportunity to gain exposure to several elements of a supply chain and is a great first step towards a career in supply chain management.

Logistics internship

Similar to an operations internship, a logistics internship focuses on several key elements of supply chain management from purchasing to distribution and transportation management. As a logistics intern, you’ll be assisting management in ensuring that processes are streamlined and efficient, and that all parts of the supply chain (from manufacturing to customer service) are working in sync.

Business analyst internship

While logistics and operations internships focus on streamlining general processes, a business analyst internship is a chance to do a deep dive into a few specific elements of the field. During this internship, you’ll be analyzing data related to company operations and making recommendations for how those processes can be proved. Key tasks include performing analyses of business systems, performing QA testing and reporting on the findings. This is a great internship for a business or computer science major.

Industrial engineering internship

An industrial engineering internship focuses less on the broad strokes of supply chain management and more on the specifics of one particular aspect. During this internship, you’ll be learning about the planning and coordination required to run one aspect of the supply chain such as distribution. You’ll also be ensuring that the processes in place meet strict engineering standards. This is as especially great internship for someone looking to expand their technical skills or for someone majoring in engineering.

Manufacturing internship

As a manufacturing intern, you’ll be getting hands-on exposure to the production side of a supply chain, particularly when it comes to the manufacturing process. Like an industrial engineering internship, this type of internship is especially great for someone interested in developing their technical skills and being involved with the production cycle.

Although supply chains have been a critical part of the consumer economy for a long time, they have gained increased importance in recent years as the processes involved in getting a product from the manufacturing plant to the consumer have changed. With those changes have come new and increased opportunities for careers in the field. If you’re interested in learning more about a supply chain career, consider taking on an internship to get a hands-on feel for what supply chain management really looks like.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as 3 Common Internship Mistakes and How to Avoid Them and find answers to common interview questions such as Tell Me About Yourself.