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Is A Career Switch to Supply Chain Closer Than You Think?

Supply Chain.

Two words that seem to be coming up more and more.

Often people’s first assumption is that moving into a career in supply chain would be a huge move away from what they know.

When I first started working as a recruiter in supply chain I had no idea what about the highly impactful and dynamic roles I’d be helping with – so what actually do roles in supply chain look like and could you be a natural fit without knowing it?

Well, I guess to find that out, you need to know a bit more about its history to really know and understand how much the supply chain has evolved into a fundamental function in an organisation in a short period of time – maybe that could tempt you to consider a role in supply chain.

In the past…

Supply chain was focused on getting the product made in time to fill orders and getting products to where they needed to be.

In essence, supply chain was made up of production lines, trucks, warehouses, pallets, pick/packing, and packing slips.

It was a reactive process that provided supply in response to known customer demand.

The performance of the supply chain was not based as closely on to changes in demand, historical data, promotional activity let alone providing input and feedback to the business as a whole.

Fast–forward to today, supply chain is a sophisticated and strategic function with evolving technological advancements and new systems.

So, what sorts of roles do supply chain professionals actually do day – to – day?

Well, it’s far from being isolated out at the landing dock or factory, supply chain professionals are working more cross-functionally with the whole business

The role is more proactive than reactive.

If you’re someone that’s always looking ahead, planning, budgeting and optimising a job in supply chain could be what’s been missing from your career!

Where’s it headed?

The more connected the global market becomes, the greater the emphasis on fast, consistent product and service availability.

This close tie between supply chain and commercial performance provides the customer with the right circumstances to have a competitive advantage.

For example, for a retail role, they make sure the shelves are always stocked with the right level of products when a consumer is looking to buy it.

For a supplier, they will have a super accurate forecast to ensure a happy customer and minimal waste.

So, what does this mean for you?

Supply chain is not made up of just people who’ve worked their way up from an operational/customer service background.

It has evolved a lot and it’s going to grow a heck of a lot more.

Right now, supply chain has progressed into a combination of increased opportunity, expanded talent, and improved technology.

Supply chain professionals can now have more of an impact on all aspects of the business. 

The field is broad enough to be a great fit for people with a variety of technical and soft skills. 

Have you got a background in sales, marketing or a commercial customer-facing role?

Believe it or not but someone in sales and marketing can successfully cross over and make the transition into a career in supply chain.

If you’ve got a commercial background and you’re analytical, a career in supply chain could be the next string to your bow.

During my time recruiting across supply chain, there has been an increase of candidates who started off in sales/commercial roles, for example, a National Account Exec or National Account Manager have moved into a customer supply chain and then into a Head of Customer Collaboration role.

Why?

When you’re in sales you have a strong understanding of the frustrations of the customer / retailer are in terms of fulfilment and availability of product and have the benefit of seeing the customer experience from the other side of the fence.

Supply chain roles are constantly addressing that.

If we look at customer demand planning, it is no longer just about forecasting figures – it is also about the customer.

Over the last few years, supply chain teams have had more direct contact with customers.

Supply chain might ask,

"What do you need? Tell us about your constraints and we will tell you about ours so we can best fulfil your demand.

Due to these conversations happening, supply chain is able to work collaboratively with customers as well as establishing a forecast from historical data with no external input.

Supply chain is able to join together multiple perspectives to create a more accurate and realistic forecast.

This enables a responsive flow of products to the consumer and a steady stream of data back to the company. 

Speaking of data, if you’ve got a background in technology and IT…

Data analytics are also evolving the approach to supply chain management.

Supply chain still looks at key KPIs, but can now go one step further and study trends layered with algorithms as well as forecast and data accuracy.

So, if algorithms and analysing trends is your thing, you could also get involved with supply chain.

Data engineers, data architects, business analysts, MIS reporting executives, statisticians, machine learning engineers, and big data engineers… I’m probably talking to you.

If you’ve got a background in finance, supply chain could also tickle your fancy…

If you look closely, you see examples of people from consultancy. finance/economics backgrounds moving into supply chain roles.

Why?

The roles are strategic, often project-based and have strong ownership around problem-solving … which can be really in line with what people from such background are into.

The opportunity for the supply chain (and the professionals who work in supply chain) to grow and increase its influence is significant and underway.

Supply chain has evolved from an internally facing, forgotten about accounting type function to a one that includes newer roles more commercial and data analytics based roles.

In a nutshell, as impressive as this evolutionary journey has been, it is not over.

As a result of these changes, the field of supply chain is becoming more appealing and drawing on a highly capable pool of talent coming from more varied backgrounds.

The opportunities for supply chain to positively impact the business and contribute to customer satisfaction are limitless. 

It always evolving and getting slicker – so my question to you is:

Do you want to be apart of the process?

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Jayna Kalyan

Associate Director - Supply Chain & Procurement

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