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What consumer goods sectors are thriving in the midst of the chaos?

The pandemic has rocked the consumer goods sector and has been a wake-up call on agility and staying relevant to customers. Consumer behaviours are changing (potentially forever), channels of consumption are shifting, and the importance of a flexible supply chain has never been more evident. But what industries are thriving in the midst of the chaos?

As the consumer goods specialist at Vertical Advantage I have been speaking with Supply Chain professionals across the sector to understand not only the impact of COVID-19, but also what trends they are seeing coming out of it. 

Beauty & Cosmetics

Beauty is one of the sectors in the UK that has really felt the impact of lockdown. With the vast majority of retail stores closed nationwide, many of our clients saw an alarming drop in sales as shoppers were stuck at home and being more conscious of their spending. The luxury goods category has been impacted considerably as a result.

On the upside, there’s been an interesting positive trend in the day-to-day beauty categories including skincare products, cosmetics and nail polish. Is it because we’ve had more time on our hands (no pun intended)? Boredom? Or have we felt the urge to treat ourselves because of the money we’ve saved on commuting and crazily overpriced lunches?

Personal Hygiene

Let’s be honest, we’re all hand sanitiser crazy at the moment and armed to the teeth with hygiene and cleaning products at home. The demand for this sector has gone through the roof as hand soap, sanitiser, anti-bac wipes and sprays have become staples for many households.

The increased demand for hygiene products coupled with the fact that consumers are becoming more conscious of the environment, sustainability, ethical sourcing and chemical-free products, will inevitably shake up the industry and open up the door for some exciting brands.

Health & Fitness

I think we all played with the thought of using lockdown to “get in shape” or try new fitness regimes to keep active. The result of this shift in mindset has seen a positive impact on health and fitness products, with items like golf gear, footballs and nets, dumbbells and weights, and even protein bars sold out. Although most fitness items are unlikely to be repeat purchases, the overall interest in home exercising most definitely had an impact on sales.

Gifts

It seems that in the absence of being able to physically see friends and family, consumers turned to online gift brands to send their love from afar. Flowers, birthday presents and care packages have all seen an increase in demand compared to the same period last year.

Home & Garden

As we have spent the majority of our time at home, our homes and garden frequently come up in conversation. This in turn has led to more product recommendations, as people buy plants, baking equipment, and other products to liven up quarantine. If you say you didn’t bake banana bread during lockdown, you’re a liar…

“If you say you didn’t bake banana bread during lockdown, you’re a liar…”

What’s the one thing we can take away from all this?

Overall, the current climate has made one thing clear; eCommerce and digital presence is essential. Businesses that have invested in a strong eCommerce platform and presence across multiple consumption channels have been able to ensure some stability and maximise their revenue in these challenging times.

One thing I’m curious to see is how consumer goods brands will adapt their supply chains to ensure quality (and price) is maintained whilst they explore risk mitigation strategies to future-proof their success. To be continued.

 

Sagar is a Manager on our Supply Chain & Procurement team, specialising in the consumer goods sector. Contact him on sagar@vertical-advantage.com if you’d like to gain more insights on the current market, or to discuss your next career move.

Related article: The Covid-19 aftermath in the drinks industry

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Helping the FMCG community throughout COVID-19

‘Business as usual’ has been replaced by ‘adapt and support’ since the outbreak of COVID-19. We are in a rare situation that has affected every country, industry and individual to some extent, so one thing we have felt strongly about at Vertical Advantage is to help people where we can.

Here’s what we’ve done so far to adapt and why we’ve done it.

 

Proactively helping people who are out of work

Evidently a large chunk of the workforce has been made redundant or found themselves without a job for other reasons linked to the pandemic. Nearly two million people in the UK have applied for universal credit benefits since the beginning of lockdown – that’s six times the normal claimant rate(!).

Having a vast network of FMCG candidates and businesses during a crisis like this, we knew we had to utilise it to do our bit. Not for the sake of additional revenue or expecting something in return, but because it was simply the right thing to do.

Consequently, we have offered to add active job seekers within ecommerce & digital and sales & marketing to open source spreadsheets. These have been shared directly with relevant clients and on LinkedIn.

Click here to access the ecommerce & digital list.

…and here to access the sales & marketing list.

We have also offered candidates the chance to book in time directly into our calendars for them to ask questions, get advice on their job search, or just to have an informal chat about the current job market.

Helpful insights

New working conditions and a shook FMCG and consumer goods market has surfaced questions by candidates and businesses alike, which is why we have posted regular updates on our website and social channels to provide our expertise to share information and provide support.

We’ve taken the pulse on the sector by speaking with clients regularly and outlined what hiring and onboarding has looked like during the pandemic, but also shared articles like how to identify company culture via video call, how to stay engaged with your team and our best bits of advice for current job seekers.

In addition, many businesses in the consumer goods sector have shared interesting market insights with us, which we have proactively shared with our key clients. If you are interested in finding out what these are, please email me on david@vertical-advantage.com.

When we say live jobs, we mean LIVE jobs

Since the early stages of lockdown we have noticed a lot of frustration coming from candidates as they were applying to vacancies online that they came to realise didn’t exist or were in fact put on indefinite hold – something that provided false hope and was a huge time waster. This was and is a big issue and something we didn’t want to contribute to, so the first thing we did when the job market took a downturn was to audit thew jobs we advertised.

You will also see that jobs on our website are advertised differently:

1.  Some of our clients are pipelining for hires they want to make in the medium term. These ads include ‘Talent Pipeline’ in their titles for clarity.

2.  All other ads are for LIVE jobs that we are currently recruiting for.

What next?

Although the consumer space hasn’t been as hit badly as many others, we recognise that some businesses simply don’t have the budget to use a recruitment agency at the moment. And that’s ok.

We want to continue to help all clients in the industry where we can, whether this means helping you find talent for a particular vacancy, providing advice on the current market, or benchmarking your strategy against others.

Feel free to drop me an email on david@vertical-advantage.com or call me on 07792 544887 if there is anything you’d like to discuss. I’d be delighted to hear from you.

 

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The Food Industry Supply Chain Shake-up

If someone would have told me earlier this year that the supermarkets would soon be cleared of pasta, toilet paper, tinned food and eggs for weeks on end, I would have shaken my head in disbelief. The Ocado website? Crashed. Sainsbury’s delivery service? Only servicing elderly, vulnerable and NHS workers (quite rightly). It is evident that behind the scenes, Supply Chain teams in the food industry have had to adapt and overcome huge challenges.

Given that I recently celebrated my one year anniversary in Supply Chain recruitment, I thought I’d mark the occasion by sharing some insights from some of the candidates I have been networking with since lockdown became a fact – here goes.

Panic buying & unpredictable consumer trends
This deadly virus has caused huge strains and pressures on the food industry which we’ve all experienced, especially at the initial stages of lockdown where anxious “panic buying” occurred. First the dried pasta and rice stocks were depleted, quickly followed by toilet paper and eggs. The most recent supermarket shortage we have experienced is flour – it has been difficult to predict what product will be in high demand next. On the grocery delivery front, demand has soared to such a level that most businesses have been unable to fulfil customer needs.

Speaking with clients and candidates within the industry on a daily basis during this period has been incredibly insightful and it is clear that there are two main challenges to overcome across the board. Supply Chain teams are working extremely hard to continue to meet the high levels of demands, while also quickly adapting to unpredictable consumer trends.

Stockpiles

This panic buying has proven extremely problematic for Supply Chain teams and their stockpiles, especially for Demand and Supply Planners. Their main goal has been to ensure that stock reached the shelves for high-volume lines to meet the demands of the consumers, while forecasts were completely changed on short notice. One candidate I spoke with stated that “it’s as busy as the Christmas period, but we didn’t have the 11 months of planning and forecasts to help us – our only goal was to get those products to the shelves as quickly as possible”.

Between the 24th February and 21st March this year, Britons made nearly 80 million additional grocery shopping trips compared to the same period in 2019, spending an additional £2bn on food and drink. Consequently, we saw retailers having to impose purchase restrictions on high volume items to be able to control stock levels.

To a slight relief for the supply chain teams of some of our clients, they are now seeing sales slowing down and consumer stockpiling has decreased considerably, although demand for tins and packaged good remains fairly high.

“It’s as busy as the Christmas period, but we didn’t have the 11 months of planning and forecasts to help us – our only goal was to get those products to the shelves as quickly as possible”

So, what has this shown us?

As consumer spending within the retail food industry is slowly reducing back down to a steady and manageable rate, the last couple of months have certainly proved the extreme flexibility and dedication of the Supply Chain teams within this sector when faced with the biggest public health emergency in living memory.

COVID-19 has forced businesses to review their Supply Chain strategy to be able to fulfil short-term demand, and should we go through something similar in the future chances are they are much better equipped to quickly respond to sudden changes in demand.

I would love to hear what effect COVID-19 has had on the Supply Chain of your business. Do some – or all – of the points above resonate, or has your experience been different? Feel free to give me a call on 0207 438 1565 if you have 5 minutes to spare.

Rhys is a Consultant on our Supply Chain & Procurement team, specialising in the food sector. Contact him on rhys@vertical-advantage.com for further industry insights, or to discuss your next career move.

Related article: The Covid-19 aftermath in the drinks industry

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Is blockchain a positive disrupter to the Supply Chain sector?

Avoiding the use of technology in our day-to-day lives is nigh-on impossible nowadays. And the story isn’t much different when it comes to supply chain.

In fact, technology can massively help with the creation and distribution of goods throughout the supply chain process. As a result, many in-the-know insiders have pinpointed supply chain as one sector which could benefit from the use of blockchain.

If you’re out of the loop where blockchain’s concerned, it’s simple technology which underpins digital or cryptocurrency, allowing for digital info to be distributed and updated in real-time. And the name? That comes from the ‘blocks’ that are added to ‘chain’ of info to be verified and authenticated.

But how can this help the supply chain sector?

Well, for a start, blockchain could speed up, manage, and update otherwise time-consuming processes like the verification of ID, bank details and certifications. Put this into the context of uploading new suppliers: manual onboarding time could be slashed significantly. And given supply chain’s tendency to span international borders, getting the latest information processed in the quickest way possible is paramount to maintaining efficiency and accuracy.

(Related: See what exciting Supply Chain and Procurement opportunities we have at Vertical Advantage now)

In August 2019, IBM alongside partners like GlaxoSmithKline, Lenovo and Nokia to name but a few, announced a new blockchain network: Trust Your Supplier.

The aim?

To reduce the time taken for supplier onboarding as well as to mitigate against fraud or human error. Not only will this make the supply chain process more efficient, but it’ll also reduce labour costs and, as data intelligence improves, boost performance, ensure fewer losses, and identify new issues which can then be addressed and resolved. Beyond that, tracking costs could be streamlined, auditing functionality improved, and demand estimates honed and met with ease.

Nevertheless, as with all technology, downsides are inevitable. Firstly, the move to automated processes will lead to not insignificant job losses within the admin sector and specific roles may need reconsidering as a result. Secondly, workers will need to get to grips with the admittedly overwhelming-at-first blockchain system and processes. We’re not saying you need to have a Bill Gates-level knowledge of blockchain’s ins and outs but, still.

Finally, although blockchain has been around since 2009, it remains a relatively new and untested technology, which would require thorough vetting before being rolled out across the supply chain sector. Basically, it’s far from a quick fix.

Even so, the potential applications of blockchain within the supply chain sector are substantial and worth keeping on your radar in the coming years.

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4 Supply Chain Trends That No One’s Talking About… Yet!

As a result of the ongoing Brexit debacle, the Supply Chain industry in the UK is in flux.

European graduates, who typically dominate Supply Chain, are opting to stay on the continent, while export is overtaking import in importance…to name but two of the industry’s emerging trends.

As you can imagine, Supply Chain is going through a period of both uncertainties right now. Or, depending on your interpretation, a period of opportunity.

With that in mind, here are some emerging trends to keep an eye on in the coming months.

Demand planners are, appropriately, in demand
A lot of companies are upgrading their demand planning function, advancing from traditional S&OP (Sales and Operations Planning) to IBP (Integrated Business Planning). This is especially true for blue-chips, who have the resources to implement IBP and are likely to see the greatest returns.

In layman’s terms, they’re making the demand planning process collaborative, while simultaneously expanding its focus. Whereas monthly forecasting meetings once involved only marketing, sales, and operations teams, IBP now integrates the involvement of finance in the discussion.

But why? And what does this mean?

Basically, it guarantees greater accuracy, because you’re considering a wider range of data, ultimately creating a more agile, realistic and strategic monthly forecast.

Export is stealing focus from import
As the government continues to hash out a deal with the EU about Brexit—who knows how much longer they’ll be at it!—export is understandably becoming the logical focus.

Why?

The pound has weakened significantly since 2016, meaning exporting British goods is more cost effective.

Notably, this means that there’s more need for candidates with experience in exports, knowledge of taxes, levies and appropriate customs documentation.

Shipping professionals are moving to FMCG Head Office roles
Previously food FMCG business would only consider people with a food industry background. That has now changed and we see more fluidity between food and non-food FMCG professionals.

Logistics managers in FMCG head offices are realising people with shipping backgrounds have transferable skills and with the right training, they are able to tap into a wider talent pool that they hadn’t previously considered.

As recruiters, we’ve seen first-hand how Supply Chain line managers are open to applicants from more diverse backgrounds right now, like marketing and sales.

Dip in European Supply Chain candidates
Again, Brexit’s uncertainty is affecting Supply Chain, this time from a recruitment point of view.

While this industry is typically dominated by European graduates—in 2015, 69% of Vertical Advantage’s Supply Chain placements were European—the number of applicants from the EU is decreasing. In 2018, we saw an almost 10% decline.

This is likely because there is a vat of uncertainty surrounding their immigration status in this turbulent Brexit time. Will they be allowed to reside visa-free in the UK post-Brexit? Will they receive sponsorship from their employer? Nobody really knows.

On the upside, this provides a huge opportunity for UK candidates keen to move into Supply Chain.

These are interesting times, we have a capable and knowledgeable team here who would be happy to talk through these industry insights in further detail and to assist you with any upcoming recruitment needs.

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Your ultimate guide to CV writing

If you’re looking for a job, you’ll most definitely need a winning CV. Whether you’re writing your first ever CV, or you’re a seasoned professional; it can make or break your chances of securing that ideal job. Therefore, it’s important that you get it right.

A CV is essentially a document that outlines who you are, what relevant experience you have and what you can bring to your next role. It’s most definitely not an autobiography of your life and employers will often spend under 30 seconds skimming through it.

With this in mind, there’s a number of factors to consider when writing your CV. From framing the content in the right way, to including the correct information and tailoring it to the job you’re applying for. If you’re hoping to secure that exciting role then read on for our advice.

Stick to a clear CV structure
Firstly, ensure that you stick to a clear structure. There are plenty of kicking about online; so have a search and decide which is best for you. For example, if you’re straight out of education and have little experience, your focus is going to be more on your studies and skills.

Alternatively, if you’ve been working in your industry for some time, you’ll likely stick to a more traditional format; starting with your personal profile, before moving on to your experience and then your education.

Either way, the top of your CV should always include your name, contact number and email address. You don’t have to state your full address on your CV if you don’t want to, though do try to include the town you live in, especially if it’s close to where the company is based. Also, you may wish to include your professional title, if appropriate.

Perfect your personal profile
The first main section of your CV is your personal profile. Keep this short, no more than three sentences long and provide a brief summary of who you are and what you can bring to the role you’re applying for. Alongside this, if you have any career goals, be sure to include these.

Just remember that the reader wants to know why you’re the best person for the job. So, if you fail to impress them at the top of your CV, they’re unlikely to carry on reading.

Shout about your experience
Next up is your experience section: possibly the most important part! Here, you can highlight any relevant experience you have; whether that’s work experience, an internship or full/part-time employment.

You should state your experience in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent position first. For each section, be sure to include the job title, the dates in which you worked there (month and year is fine) and a short overview of any key skills and achievements. To make it easier for the reader to digest, it’s also best to use bullet points.

Alongside the above, when shouting about your achievements in each role, try using numbers to quantify them. For instance, rather than stating ‘I consistently hit target every month’, try ‘I consistent exceeded my target by 20% each month’. It helps to bring your example to life.

Touch on your education
The next part to focus on when writing your CV is the education section. Again, list your education out in reverse chronological order and include any relevant qualifications. If you’ve only just left education, this section will be your main focus and you can go into detail on any key modules studied at University or grades achieved in school/college.

As you progress throughout your career, employers tend to focus less on your education and more on your experience. So, if you have over 10 years’ experience in the industry, you probably don’t need to include details about school or college.

What else should you include?
Aside from the above, there are a few other sections that some people opt to include in their CV. For example, some wish to shout about their hobbies and interests. Again, if you’re just starting out in your career, this section can be useful to include. However, only do so if you actually have something interesting to say and better still: don’t lie!

At the end of your CV, you may also want to include a reference section. Note that you don’t need to actually include references on your CV; simply stating ‘References available upon request’ will suffice.

Tailor your CV to every role
Hopefully, you’ve got to grips with the basic structure of a CV. It’s definitely worth putting together a ‘skeleton’ document that you can work off of every time you apply to a job. However, it’s very important that you tailor your CV to every different role you apply for.

After all, a generic CV that isn’t relevant to the job won’t impress recruiters. They want to know what you can bring to the business and why you’re interested in the role. So be sure to set aside some time to do this.

Keep it concise
Finally, be sure to keep your CV concise. It’s recommended that you stick to two pages – any longer than this and it definitely won’t get read. Use a clear and easy to read font, such as Arial or Calibri in size 11 or 12. Alongside this, ensure that it’s in a format that’s easy to read. Graphics don’t tend to work well on CVs, especially if the company is using an Applicant Tracking System.

Ready to start writing your CV?
So there you have it; your ultimate guide to CV writing. Hopefully, the above information should be useful to you when you’re looking for work. Remember, stick to a clear format and include only the most relevant information. That way, your CV has a better chance of making it to the ‘yes’ pile; once you’re ready to go, why not register it online and see how you get on – good luck!

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What our clients say about us when we’re not in the room

We think we’re pretty great… but don’t just take our word for it!

Here’s what our happy clients say about us:

 

“The Vertical Advantage team have proven to be a value-adding talent acquisition partner for us. In a fast-moving, candidate-driven market, we need partners who act with pace and really understand their candidate network. Trust and transparency is crucial to the success of the partnership and we have faith that the Vertical Advantage team will deliver whenever we ask for their support.”
Talent Acquisition Manager at 

 

“I have worked with Vertical Advantage for a number of years and highly recommend them. They understand my needs and business constraints, tailoring their search accordingly. This is combined with the right level and style of communication to suit my needs, enabling an efficient, yet personable approach and (most importantly for me) the right result… a great Category team. They have a refreshing, clear and straightforward approach to the recruitment process.”
Head of Category at 

 

“Spot on and professional! I have been working with Vertical Advantage since 2015. Their coverage of the FMCG/Retail sector is excellent and the calibre of candidates recommended by the team has been extremely high. I like the no-nonsense approach, their ability to quickly understand our needs and the importance of fit when hiring for Land Securities. It is so comforting to know that one quick phone call gets the ball rolling!”
HR Manager – Retail and Learning & Development – 

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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!

(Related: See what exciting Supple Chain and Procurement opportunities we have at Vertical Advantage now)

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 are 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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Careers in supply chain continue to evolve!

Lately, I’ve written about how sexy supply chain careers (and people!) can be; how the empowerment afforded by agility, better forecasting, and improved control has led to the evolution of the standard supply chain career, but now I want to talk more specifically about the evolution of its people.

Hiring in FMCG has come a long way from relying only on supply chain professionals with relevant experience in a specific industry. Now talent can cross over from food to non-food, and from small to large business and back again. We can really drill down into this fluidity by examining the current career paths:

At entry level, the supply chain career options are more diverse than ever!

Quite often a supply chain professional – graduate or not will ‘fall’ into a role and will work their way up the corporate ladder.

However there is a trend where more and more graduates are choosing one of two ways to specifically to kick start their supply chain career:

  1. Pick a graduate scheme in an established company like Unilever or Kraft, or
  2. Join a start up, maybe something in craft beers, startup businesses with rapid growth or similar businesses to Innocent drinks.

It’s no longer just the established go-to organisations providing valuable opportunities for supply chain professionals. Smaller companies can now give graduates much wider exposure to the whole supply chain. End-to-end experience shapes their learning, and enables better development of their problem-solving skill sets.

On the other hand, blue chip structures make it easier to learn the specific functions of the business. Smaller businesses may not have the benefits packages and structure of a corporate but they often have a more informal culture, with perks that can make the work place more fun. This can be a very strong pull to attract tomorrow’s talent.

Supply chain is becoming more influential and commercial

In my last post I wrote about how over the last few years, supply chain teams have had more direct contact with customers. A relatively new function known as the ‘customer supply chain’ has evolved over the last 6-8 years in larger companies. It’s attracting a whole new breed of supply chain professionals that can be both commercial, technical, and makes for some great career progression for individuals on this path (such as going on into sales or marketing roles and vice versa). This gives them more fluidity and a holistic view of the organisation.

Usually problems with the supply chain means bad news for business, so the need for skilled and accurate forecasting of supply has become seriously commercial, and customer demand planning is one of the roles that has come out of that. Those forecasters have to do better than the Met Office! So the skill sets that come from more technical roles can really come out to play for this type of role.

Professionals who have, up to now, travelled a more technical route, such as IT, analytics or consultancy, can be seen moving into these roles.

Organisations value supply chain professionals more

Supply chain professionals are no longer left in the shadow of the warehouse or factory; they’re being asked to apply their skills and knowledge in other areas instead.

Secondments in departments like marketing or finance provide professionals with a valuable holistic view of the business, making work more interesting for them, and they can really benefit organisations too.

For example, one of our candidates in supply chain went to work in the accounts/finance department on a secondment. While there, she identified an inefficient process already met by a report from the operations department. Would she have known about that report if she hadn’t worked in operations? Probably not!
Thanks to this type of success, some of our clients maximise on the opportunity to encourage secondments from within when members of the workforce move into internal projects or go onto maternity leave. This is a great way for all professionals to get new exposure and skills within a business.

Putting this into perspective

Clients often tell us they want to hire the Supply Chain Director of tomorrow, but that person will have to have exposure to all areas and not just be a specialist in one. Rounded experience by the time they get to a senior level is crucial to success for the appointment, the candidate, and ultimately the business. If you’re aiming to be a Supply Chain Director one day, make sure you’re on the right path and give me a call to talk about your options.

Thanks for reading. This post was originally published by Jayna on LinkedIn.

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More Questions than Answers on Brexit’s Effect on Supply Chain Talent

Don’t worry – we’re not going to try to convince you to stay or leave Europe. Instead, I wanted to take a look at the impact the upcoming vote may have on the availability of supply chain talent – regardless of the nation’s decision.

I went back and looked through our supply chain placements for the last two years to see where our candidates came from. Here’s what I found:

  • 64% of placed candidates were from the EU
  • 29% were local (British) candidates
  • 7% were from the remaining international community

Since nearly two-thirds of all supply chain vacancies were filled with candidates from the European Union, over 70% when you include the rest of the world, any change affecting the international flow of talent into the UK deserves further investigation into the impact it will have on supply chain staffing and recruiting. Brexit is not the only challenge facing this vertical today; instead it is putting added emphasis on all other talent related trends such as, hiring plans and visa related regulatory requirements.

How could Brexit (stay or leave) effect the flow of future jobs?

The 2015 SCM World Future of Supply Chain Survey found that 40% of the UK based companies they surveyed planned to add to the headcount of their supply chain teams (including manufacturing, logistics, sourcing and planning jobs) in the next three years. Although those growth plans were not contingent on the results of the Brexit decision, they will be affected by its outcome.

A ‘leave’ vote will put immigration into the unknown, no dramatic changes are likely to happen in short term and in the long term it could be better for highly skilled employees from the UK which would be great to see. However, the system at the moment does tend to work well as it is (certainly from a Supply Chain Recruitment perspective) which raises the question:


What job trends do we expect to see in the short to medium term?

One outcome may be that highly skilled workers will be less attracted to come to the UK as changes may mean that they will be limited to work here for a few years (however long their visa’s last) before having to return to their home country.

Looking back to the past 5 years we have seen many global manufacturing businesses moved supply chain functions as per the business needs, for example planning, customer service/order processing functions have relocated from the UK to Europe and vice versa, will a ‘leave’ vote mean the relocation of more supply chain functions internationally and therefore displace the need for supply chain talent in the UK? Certainly another factor in my opinion.


What are the other factors to consider?

Salaries

Clearly, I’m no expert but everything I’ve read on the impact of a potential Brexit on talent is that no one knows exactly what will happen. For instance, effective April 2016, £35,000 became the minimum annual salary needed to qualify to apply for a permanent residence visa in the UK. Looking through the placements we’ve made in the last 2 years the majority of supply chain placements fall in the £25,000-£40,000 range, and would be affected by this increase in threshold. There have been concerns raised about talent shortages that would be associated with the new salary threshold as well as the changes to immigration that may be driven by Brexit.


If it is so hard to know exactly what will happen after the vote, why should we try to predict the impact of Brexit on something as specific as supply chain talent?

Education

Naturally there will be a delayed response on the impact of Brexit from both Supply Chain candidates and employers who are waiting to see what leaving the EU will actually mean for them. If we take Education for instance, many professionals in the UK ‘fall into’ working in supply chain roles after graduating in other, often unrelated – degrees compared to a high proportion of European candidates. You would expect there to be a period of uncertainty while the UK market up-skills its existing supply chain self-sufficiency if the EU is no longer a viable to source talent.

Quality of talent

As all supply chain professionals know, supply and demand are affected by many forces that ultimately determine price and quality. Talent management is no exception. Having several factors to account for in the availability of high caliber, qualified talent certainly doesn’t reduce the challenge or uncertainty for companies trying to recruit the best talent available on the market.

There is a lot of debate about the impact Brexit will have on employers and their prospective employees; while we’re not in placing ourselves in the ‘stay’ or ‘leave’ camp, we’re definitely asking for companies and candidates to give some extra thought to the impact these changes will have on supply chain recruitment in the years to come.

On a slightly lighter note, I came across this post on social media over the weekend and thought it was amusing analogy:

We have all been on a night out with that mate who when you are in a club says “it’s shit here” let’s go somewhere else. Then when you leave you realise he has no idea where to go and the place you left won’t let you back in. Without a decent follow up plan a leave vote could see the UK standing in a kebab shop arguing about who’s fault it is.

I can see the point and from our perspective, we’d certainly like to know where our next drink is coming before leaving the club!

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Can Supply Chain be Sexy?

Picture this:

At the end of a busy workday, a woman walks into a shop next to the train station to buy a cold drink before her commute home. She goes straight to the fridge to grab a Coca Cola the way she has many times in the past. But today – the shelf is empty. “You’ve got to be joking,” she thinks to herself. “When is there ever no Coke?”

Just then, the assistant comes walking up from the back room pushing a trolley stacked high with Coke. “I’m sorry “he says, handing her a Coke. “The delivery was late today.”

How often do any of us really stop and think about the complex, sophisticated set of operations that make up any one supply chain, let alone the thousands of supply chains we depend upon on a regular basis? Everything we need – from food and drinks to clothes and building materials – it all has to start somewhere and then move through a number of steps and locations to reach its final destination.

Supply chains are impressive and frequently taken for granted, but could they possibly be sexy?

When we look at the level of influence that the supply chain has on an organisation, it’s amazing that supply chain professionals are not among the most highly celebrated and recognised members of the corporate team. Supply chain professionals have control over corporate resources, both inbound and outbound, and responsibility for all the operations required to make a raw material into a shiny new product.

The rise of the Internet and the resulting wave of tech start-ups has caused us to re-examine the sex appeal of the traditional ‘geek’ profile. The wardrobe of a software engineer or a supply chain professional may not be featuring on a runway anytime soon, but we’ve come to regard tech intelligence with an awe that has elevated the ‘cool factor’ of people lucky enough to apply their skills successfully. With their ability to drive costs down, agility up, and forecasts closer to the predictable horizon, supply chain professionals deserve equal ‘cool’ regard.

Supply chains often originate in some of the most exotic parts of the world. As the result of globalisation, a company is just as likely to deal with a factory in the Far East or a sugar producer in the Caribbean, and while many of those locations have intrinsic sex appeal, so do the logistics that move goods from them to processors and consumers around the world.

Take almost any product in our environment – cosmetics, a designer handbag, or even a bag of Walker’s crisps – not only did the raw materials or packaging likely come from another part of the world, they may have traveled through multiple countries on their journey to becoming the object you now hold in your hand. Supply chain has gone through an evolution that led them from vertical integration to something that resembles a virtual operation.

There was a time when a food producer would only hire supply chain professionals that had experience in their industry, and the same would be true for a fashion or jewellery company. Now, however, it is increasingly common to see supply chain professionals working in industries that they have no previous experience in, for example someone with a food background can secure a role in a cosmetics business. This enables businesses to take best practice and value add from different supply chains, adding value and improving their own operation as well as being able to offer skills development and new experiences for each employee.

There is nothing simple about a successful modern supply chain, demand is unpredictable, lead times are long, and it would seem that everything – from soft cheeses to high end designed accessories – is ‘perishable’. Only supply chains, and the professionals that keep them running, make our standard of living possible.

Supply chain is at the heart of everything, it is cool, interesting and empowers the professionals in its ranks to make a real difference in business. In fact, supply chain professionals are often so focused on making success possible that they don’t stop to invest in their own brand or image.

As a result, supply chain is sometimes portrayed a bit boring or dry, a perception that could not be further from the truth. As we’ve discussed, supply chain is equal parts smart, exotic, influential, and diverse – making it undeniably (but unpretentiously) sexy.

This article was originally published by Jayna on LinkedIn.

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