Meticulous organisational skills and an ability to see the bigger picture are among the skills needed to embark on a career as a supply chain manager

Supply chain managers are responsible for the movement of goods, from manufacturers and suppliers to the customer. They oversee and manage every stage of the production flow, from purchasing the raw materials to the delivery of the final product.

You'll ensure the right amount of product is made at the right time, as well as coordinate the storage of the product. Organising the movement of goods from distribution centres to customers and stores involves forecasting trends and managing inventories.

Responsibilities

Your tasks will vary depending on which sector you work in, but typically include:

  • working with procurement managers and buyers to source the right products
  • negotiating contracts with suppliers and customers
  • controlling manufacturing and delivery processes
  • planning and implementing logistical strategy, ensuring targets are met
  • overseeing product storage, handling and distribution
  • using computer software to track goods from origin to delivery
  • working on forecasts and inventories, keeping an accurate record of the process and analysing performance
  • managing and motivating a team of supply chain staff
  • improving the overall supply chain performance and look for any possible innovations to the process
  • implementing new technologies and staying alert to new trends in the sector.

Salary

  • Starting salaries for supply chain managers are between £20,000 and £25,000. This will typically be at a lower level, perhaps as an assistant manager.
  • With increased responsibility and managerial duties, salaries can increase to between £25,000 and £45,000. Larger companies may pay more, and advancing will depend on experience.
  • Middle to senior managers can earn up to £60,000. Top executives and directors, at the most senior level, can earn more than £100,000 annually.

According to the , the average salary for all procurement and supply professionals is £46,422 - an increase of 5.1% from the 2016 survey (as compared to a national increase of 2.2%).

Working hours

You'll usually work Monday to Friday, within the hours of 8am to 6pm. However, many companies run 24-hour operations and this may include shift work, with evening and weekends hours on a rota basis.

What to expect

  • Supply chain managers play an important role that can be both hands-on and of an administrative nature. The working environment is usually office based but visits to warehouses, suppliers and customers may be necessary. Office wear is the most appropriate form of dress.
  • Visiting those who are in the supply chain will involve travel, sometimes overseas.
  • Supply chains are generally incredibly complex, so overseeing the process may be stressful at times.
  • The gender pay gap is wide at 33% overall, with male professionals earning significantly more than women, particularly at a senior level.

Qualifications

Supply chain jobs are open to all graduates, but it's common to hold a degree, HND or foundation degree in a relevant subject, such as:

  • supply chain management
  • business management
  • computing
  • information systems
  • transport, distribution or logistics.

There are postgraduate degrees available in transport planning, supply chain management and logistics. Qualifications through the or the might be necessary to advance your career.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • strong planning skills
  • a logical and systematic approach to work
  • good time management ability
  • the ability to solve problems and make decisions, as well as think laterally and offer solutions
  • excellent relationship management skills, with the ability to work collaboratively with internal and external teams
  • the ability to lead and motivate a team
  • some degree of IT literacy and the ability to handle electronic data
  • excellent communication skills, both written and oral.

Work experience

If you're studying for an undergraduate degree in supply chain management (or a similar subject), a one-year placement may be an option for you to explore. Many degree programmes offer this - a paid placement year in industry where you'll be supported by academic staff. You'll gain highly valuable business experience, which will be appealing to potential employers once you graduate.

, run by the Chartered Institute of Logistics (CILT UK), operates at the University of Huddersfield and Aston University. It offers supply chain management courses which are sponsored by more than 20 industry-leading companies. Students will be allocated a mentor to work under and have the chance to work in one of these organisations during a placement year. Furthermore, students are guaranteed a graduate job once they have completed their course.

There are also a number of internships that you can apply to independently. Many large logistics companies have schemes in place, as do organisations such as supermarkets like Sainsbury's. Any company that has a product to get to customers will have a supply chain.

Employers

Supply chain managers work across the employment sector, in areas such as manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and retail. Supply chains can be hugely complicated processes with multiple operators and contributors.

In 2014, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) stated that the sector was facing severe shortfalls and predicted that, by 2022, an extra 1.2million jobs will be required to meet demand.

Professional development

You can become a member (MILT) of with a combination of experience and qualifications. See the institute for further details on criteria. There is also the possibility to progress to chartered member and then onto chartered fellow.

CILT offers a range of qualifications from level 1 entry certificates to advanced Level 5 and 6 certificates and diplomas. You can see the available qualifications at .

Membership to also offers the chance to undertake qualifications in various supply operation levels. As a member, you can become chartered by working your way through the qualifications, or by taking an accredited degree.

Career prospects

With globalisation, businesses source materials, products and services from around the world. As a supply chain manager, you can enter the industry in a variety of career pathways. There are entry opportunities at age 16-18, as well as a wide range of graduate trainee roles. From here, you can progress across all sectors to senior management and to board level. The sector is characterised by career pathways that lead directly to senior management roles for those who have the right skills and determination.