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While attending a school to become certified as an supply chain manager is a great way to develop that understanding, on-the-job experience is exponentially more valuable. The old saying that "you must learn to crawl before you can walk" holds true when it comes to working your way up the supply chain industry ladder... or really any other career for that matter.
In order to start learning the ropes and getting a feel for the daily operations involved in running any business, it might be beneficial for you to seek a lower position first. Sure, you could decide that this is the career path for you and immediately start hitting the books. All of that knowledge that you will undoubtedly gain in the process of studying the trade is great and will serve you immensely in the long run. But until you are able to understand how all of that knowledge is applied in real life situations, it may be harder to break into a management role.
Take your time to understand the industry, starting at the bottom and gaining working knowledge via hands-on interaction. This is the difference between a seasoned supply chain manager (SCM) and someone fresh out of school.
Since the turn of the 21st-century, technology has become integrated into every aspect of daily life. The shipping, receiving, and distribution sectors are not exempt from this push to technological advancements and integrations.
Successful supply chain managers must be able to utilize and understand the results of several different metrics measuring software applications to react to things like cost to serve changes or dead stock eating up precious warehouse space. Although the speed at which technology is advancing logistics can put older SCM's in a precarious predicament, the younger generation that was raised in a digital world can help navigate the new waters until they are inevitably at the helm themselves.
The ever-changing nature of the supply chain means that you cannot become rigid and "set in your ways." Instead, SCM's must remain flexible to be capable of adapting to anything that comes along. Being able to understand and implement new strategies quickly can mean the difference between running a successful supply chain and falling victim to the changing tides of the industry.
Being as skilled at adaptation not only helps in daily life but it is oftentimes a tell-tale sign of an indispensable SCM.
Most of the time, a good situation won't just fall into your lap. You have to be able to pull the diamond from the coal and the best way to do that in the logistics field is with strong negotiation skills.
Having a bit of a silver tongue is necessary when dealing with third-party components of your supply chain to keep the production of goods profitable and to ensure that shipping doesn't nickel and dime that profit down to dangerous margins.
That doesn't mean writing checks with your mouth that your business can't cash, but you should always be ready and willing to talk yourself into the best position possible and always be on the lookout for a better deal in any given scenario.
When dealing with salespeople or in-house staff, it is important to have well-developed interpersonal skills to ensure that no one feels trod on which in turn will get you the best results from all involved. The ability to quickly and easily build positive rapports with those you will need to interact with frequently will serve you endlessly in the logistics industry.
How someone interacts with their coworkers has always been influential to workplace efficiency. It's critical to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, as you build your team and ensure everyone has a seat at the table. Being a SCM provides a unique opportunity to build healthy relationships with every employee, client, or vendor equally.
Possibly the newest and most urgently needed skill that an SCM requires is the ability to think about the larger picture by being keenly aware of things like sustainability, environmental impact, carbon emissions, and topics such as reverse logistics.
These concerns exist at every stage of a supply chain, from the production of goods to the way they are transported and right down to the packing materials used to protect the product in the last mile. The actions of one person or company won't solve every problem facing the climate, but once enough green-minded people can implement eco-friendly methods, we can rest easy knowing we are helping the environment and the people most affected by unnecessary pollution.
Hopefully this article has shed a light on the skills you need in a supply chain manager role. Knowing the landscape is only part of the climb to success as a supply chain manager. Now, you have to take all those skills and apply them in the most logical way to a number of projects you are likely to be tasked with.