What is a supply chain manager?
A supply chain manager is in charge of overseeing the process by which materials, information, and finance flow from suppliers to consumers. The whole idea of production is that good products or services flow uninterrupted from the producer to customer. Supply chain managers are there to ensure this happens.
The supply chain manager role has an important and complex place in a company. Supplier relationships have been recognised as increasingly pivotal to the long-term success of the company. And, the job of a supply chain manager includes managing and optimising the whole process of production. As a supply chain manager your responsibilities will be varied – from purchasing the right raw materials to storage and production.
The traditional understanding of procurement, where an enterprise is concentrated on cheap suppliers, has been replaced with creating partnerships with suppliers. Today, supply chain managers need to ensure continuous quality improvement of products as well as cost reduction.
Though responsibilities and duties of Supply chain manager vary depending on the sector, your duties will include a combination of the following:
- Planning and implementing an overall supply chain strategy. You will be working with targets that need to be met.
- Controlling production and the delivery of goods or services
- Ensuring good quality-cost ratio
- Collaborating with sales, business and customer service teams
- Determining the key performance indicators for your supply chain
- Suggesting solutions to improve the procurement process
- Identifying potential issues in a timely manner and implement solutions
- Using computer software for tracking goods, forecasts, inventory logs…
- Motivating and encouraging your supply chain
- Working with the finance, sales and manufacturing team to determine the best suppliers and distributors
- Building and maintaining a good relationships with suppliers
- Meeting sustainability targets by taking into account environmental impacts of the entire production and delivery process
- Awareness and follow up on new technologies that would improve the overall supply chain process
Your salary will depend on numerous factors like location, experience, skills, education and qualifications and type of company. According to the 2021 CIPS/Hays Procurement Salary Guide, the average salary for all UK procurement and supply chain professionals is £47,435 . However, where you fall into the range will depend on job title and seniority level.
Tactical - Entry Level Roles
For roles such as: Procurement Analyst, Graduate Trainee/Buyer ,Contracts Administrator, Inventory Planner, Assistant Procurement/Contracts Officer, Assistant Buyer, Administrative Assistant, Purchasing Assistant etc.
For jobs such as Procurement Executive, Supply Chain Analyst, Procurement Specialist, Buyer, Supply Chain, Planner,Procurement/Purchasing Officer, Category Officer etc.
Including roles such as Procurement/Purchasing Manager, Sourcing Manager, Category Manager, Supply Chain Executive, Senior Buyer, Contracts Manager etc.
Roles such as Senior Category Manager, Strategic Procurement Manager, Supply Chain Manager, Operations Manager,Commercial Manager,Supplier Relationship Manager etc.
Advanced professional Level
Senior procurement roles including Chief Procurement Officer, Procurement Director,Procurement Consultant, Supply Chain Director, Operations Director, Commercial Director, Head of Procurement, Head of Operations
The Salary Guide also reveals that in spite of COVID and Brexit there was a 5% average procurement professional salary increase.
Alongside your salary, as a Supply Chain Manager, you can also look forward to bonuses. Depending on the company, many of the roles will include various perks and financial incentives. Some companies offer the use of company cars, gym memberships and much more, alongside the more traditional quarterly or annual bonuses. According to the Salary Guide Survey for 2021, those who received a financial bonus were awarded an average of 8.5% of their salary, with the percentage increasing with seniority.
Supply chain manager salaries and bonuses can indeed be lucrative. But you will need to work hours that might be higher than some other professions. The National Career Service estimates that Supply Chain managers work between 38 and 40 hours per week. Again, this largely depends on seniority and the company you work for.
What to Expect
Expect to be a part of a structured work environment, usually office-based, although you may be required to do some fieldwork (visiting warehouses, suppliers, customers). And, while job locations are available all over the UK, you will often be expected to travel both international and domestic travel.
The supply chain and procurement environment is fast-paced and complex. This means you must be a well organised and detail-oriented person. You will be continuously expected to bring in fresh ideas that allow the company to deliver its products at higher quantities or at a faster rate to the market.
The great news is, due to expanding markets in procurement, there are plenty of job opportunities. And, with the right qualifications and determination, the career opportunities are endless.
There are three ways to be qualify to work as a Supply Chain Manager
- A university course
- An apprenticeship
- Working your way up the company ladder towards this role
Let’s have a look at each of the 3 ways individually:
Trainee manager positions are open to graduates of most subjects, though you may find it useful to do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in subjects like:
- Business management
- Business management
- Information systems
- Transport management
- Supply chain management
Typical entry requirements you may find for universities:
– 1 or 2 A levels, or equivalent, for a foundation degree or higher national diploma
– 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
You can find out about industry sponsored degree courses in supply chain management from NOVUS, an industry-led, not-for-profit organisation governed by the Chartered Institute of Logistics (CILT). Additionally, CILT offers a range of comprehensive qualifications and training specifically designed for the supply chain sector. With levels ranging from 1 to 6.
Another way to get into procurement and supply chain management is through an apprenticeship. They are a great way for graduates to get the best of both worlds: work experience whilst studying in the procurement field.
Apprenticeships are also appealing to employers as they are partly funded by the UK government.
There are several apprenticeships that run at any given time. For more information check out the UK Gov Higher and Degree Apprenticeships website. You could for example join a supply chain practitioner advanced apprenticeship, which could lead onto a supply chain leadership or express delivery manager degree apprenticeship. Or participate in the transport and warehouse operations supervisor advanced apprenticeship.
You can also often find supply chain and procurement specific apprenticeships on the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education website. And, if you need a helping hand with finding the right placement, there are a lot of training providers out there that can give you advice on what would fit best with your level of education and experience.
-5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship
-4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship
Even those without a degree can enter the supply chain and procurement market. If you prefer to start work right away and climb the company ladder to a more senior position that is also possible. Be warned though, it may take you longer than with a degree, as you will need to start at a low entry level position. For example, you can start in a junior role like transport clerk and work your way up through promotions.
Ideally, you will still want to speed things up and get involved in training. Work-based training courses are a great way to improve your skills and get a higher position much quicker. And, depending on your employer, you could even get full funding. Companies love to nurture talent so if you are great at your job you can easily make your case to start a fully paid work-based course. Check out The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) or Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) for a range of courses that could help you move up in the company.
Being a Supply Chain Manager is not for everyone. There are some specific skills you will need to have to break into the field. Here are a few MUST HAVE skills you should aim to have or gather to be able to prosper in procurement:
must have skills:
- Business management skills, ability to manage others and work under pressure
- Leadership skills, ability to make decisions
- Teamwork skills, ability to work with employees and people outside your team
- Knowledge of transport methods, costs and benefits
- Knowledge of manufacturing production and processes
- Well organised, structured, thorough and pay attention to detail
- Customer service skills
- The ability to work well with others
- Analytical thinking skills
- To be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
- Innovative thinking
- Negotiation, influence and conflict resolution skills
Some of these you might already hold, which is a great starting position. Others you can gain on the job and in training.
A great way to improve your skills is by taking professional qualifications offered by some of the professional bodies already mentioned in this article: CIPS and CILT.
The ultimate recognition and a way to gain invaluable skills in supply chain management is by becoming a chartered member of CIPS or CILT becoming a Member (MCIPS) is not easy but it does put you in a great position to earn a very lucrative salary. In fact, according to the 2021 CIPS/Hays Procurement Salary Guide, the average salary 60% of companies want their candidates with MCIPS and your salary will be 24% higher with a MCIPS.
To get this coveted membership you will need a degree (accredited undergraduate or postgraduate) or the CIPS professional qualifications in procurement and supply. And, you will only get chartered if you are continuously working towards upskilling and retraining. You will ned to record your continuing professional development (CPD) as well as pass the Ethical Procurement and Supply eLearning and Test.
Similar to apprenticeships, a very popular way to gain skills and advance as a Supply Chain Manager is through work experience while you study.
You might be interested in a work placement that some degree courses offer, just to gain that bit of extra practical on the job experience. Work experience placements are a brilliant opportunity to gain knowledge, hands on skills and also to develop your network of contacts. These contacts will later on be critical in developing your career even further. The placements are usually a year long but some courses might offer shorter stints.
In addition to this, a summer internship could be another option to gain work experience. A lot of the large companies and shops offer internships. For example, Barclays Bank is known to offer some great summer placements for those aspiring to get into the supply chain field.
Nowadays it is almost impossible to imagine a business functioning without supply chain management. Once you have entered the world of procurement you can work your way up to supply manager position. In that light, the job market provides you with great opportunities for work in this sector. If you found yourself in this job description, the puzzle-like, problem-solving nature of this work can be an addictive challenge for the right mind. The career pathway is fully open and with some hard work and determination a person can climb the corporate ladder all the way up to senior management or even board level.
You could end up working with some of the biggest companies in the UK. Including the Gartner Supply Chain Top 25 - companies who have “The standard in supply chain excellence”. The top three on this coveted list and definitely the top employers for aspiring Supply Chain managers, are:
A leader two years in a row, Cisco is the worldwide leader in IT, networking and cybersecurity solutions.
A leader in consumer products, Colgate – Palmolive, has been innovating in supply chain management though customer segmentation.
Johnson & Johnson is the world’s largest and most broadly based healthcare company. It won the 2021 Gartner Power of the Profession Award for Customer/Patient Innovation for use of 3D printing to solve the COVID-19 ventilator crisis.
A great resource for those looking for a job in the UK is also the Chambers of Commerce. Their officers will guide you and show you how to get in touch with potential employers.
There are a lot of job sites out there specifically designed for procurement and supply chain management, so be sure to visit them for an updated view of current opportunities. Here are three to get you started:
The best way to fast track your career in procurement and to become a Supply Chain Manager is, of course, to get a degree. This will ensure you give yourself the best chance to get a better job, with a higher salary, quicker. There are a lot of opportunities out there but competition for jobs is fierce.
We mentioned a few training options that will give you a leg up once you start working, but the best career starts with a great graduate degree.
The good news is that courses can be completed full time, part time or online. You could be working and earning while studying. Here are a few Universities that are perfect for those looking to start or level up their Supply Chain Manager career:
This is a unique course that combines supply chain and logistics and the broader business strategy to drive great results. Delivered by industry experts at a world-leading business center in the heart of London, this is a great choice for anyone looking for a career as a Supply Chain Manager.