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Distribution and logistics: area of work

In a career in distribution and logistics with a consumer goods company, you could liaise with customers such as supermarkets and oversee warehousing and transport.

The delivery of consumer products from factories to retail outlets is a complex, global, 24-hour business in which time is of the essence and technology is critical. In a graduate career in distribution, you’ll become expert in the later stages of the consumer goods supply chain, when goods are transported from wherever they have been manufactured or sourced to the consumer.

The supply chain is the series of processes whereby raw materials are transformed into everyday items available for sale, and begins with procurement and purchasing. Logistics is the term used to describe the management of the movement of consumer goods through the supply chain to the consumer.

This is an area where concerns about sustainability have increasingly come to the fore over recent years, as companies seek to reduce their environmental impact. ‘Reverse logistics’ involves managing waste that results from the production and transportation of consumer goods by recycling or re-using it.

What is it like doing a graduate job in distribution and logistics in a consumer goods company?

Graduate roles in logistics in FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) companies may involve working closely with customers, such as supermarket groups and other retailers, to understand what they need and to solve challenges such as ensuring shelf space is available for perishable goods within a suitable time after delivery. If your focus is distribution, you might find yourself responsible for warehousing and transport. The overall goal is to make sure goods arrive when customers want them, while keeping costs down by ensuring distribution is as efficient as possible. You will also manage the process so as to minimise environmental impact.

On a graduate scheme in this area you would be likely to spend two years on a series of placements in different parts of the country, in which you would get to grips with the skills needed to manage both the people and systems involved. In your first graduate role after completing the graduate programme, you could find yourself helping to run a centre for receiving perishable goods from abroad, sending goods on to supermarket distribution centres. Typical responsibilities would include stock control, managing the warehousing workforce and providing support services to major customers to make sure they get what they need. The work can involve night shifts.You could also find yourself working for or with a 3PL (third-party logistics) provider – an organisation to which logistics functions can be outsourced.

What skills, aptitudes and qualifications are needed for graduate logistics and distribution roles in the FMCG sector?

You’ll need strong problem-solving and communication skills, and degrees in logistics, engineering or information technology may be preferred. You’ll need to be comfortable working with technology and information systems as well as managing and leading teams of workers and dealing with customers. The work can be stressful, so you’ll need to be capable of remaining calm under pressure. Ideally, you should be the kind of person who gets a buzz out of working to tight deadlines.

Good organisational, analytical and forward planning skills are vital. This is a good career option for those who don’t want to be chained to a desk and favour a hands-on approach, and who want to be able to see the impact of their work.

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