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Supply chain - areas of work

Supply chain: area of work

A career in supply chain means involvement in the delivery of a consumer product from start to finish.

The supply chain is the process that oversees the whole life cycle of a consumer product, from the sourcing of raw materials to delivery to the point of sale. An efficient supply chain is essential in order to meet consumers’ needs, and it’s also an area where innovation can improve a company’s profitability.

A graduate career working in the supply chain for consumer goods will be fast-paced and challenging because of the high volume and speed of production. It will also provide opportunities to research and implement ways of reducing the environmental impact of the way products are sourced, manufactured and implemented, in order to meet corporate responsibility and sustainability goals, while ensuring that changes to processes make commercial sense.

What is it like doing a graduate job in a consumer products supply chain?

Graduate schemes usually provide a number of placements over a one or two-year period that introduce you to different aspects of the supply chain. Alternatively, you may be able to secure an entry level role, for example providing administrative support to a buyer.

Graduate roles in the supply chain in a fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company range from purchasing raw materials to customer service and distribution. As a fresh graduate in a purchasing role, you might find yourself responsible for analysing markets and assessing suppliers, preparing and carrying out negotiations with them, and liaising with the finance department and production plants. You would also need to manage data about your transactions for colleagues to use in project management and for price forecasting. As you progress, you could take on responsibility for sourcing materials for products, packaging, or media and marketing, or purchasing manufacturing services. This type of work is sometimes referred to as supply management or strategic purchasing.

You may also find supply chain roles within the manufacturing part of a consumer goods company’s work. These could involve helping factories become more efficient and adapt to changing customer and consumer needs, or overseeing quality and costs. An engineering role within this part of the supply chain could involve designing and building more efficient production lines.

The supply chain ends with distribution and customer service. Typical roles include responsibility for warehousing, overseeing transport arrangements, managing shelf availability and ensuring products are delivered on time. The work of this part of the supply chain may also be referred to as supply network operations.

There may also be graduate roles available in supply chain planning, liaising with all the functions of the business to determine potential sales for a product and ensure factories are able to meet those sales on time.

As a supply chain graduate trainee in a consumer goods company, you should expect to tackle a broad range of responsibilities. Examples of projects you might undertake include working with a major retailer to improve supply chain distribution, helping to co-ordinate a brand launch and managing part of the work of a distribution centre.

What skills, aptitudes and qualifications are needed for graduate supply chain roles in the consumer goods sector?

You’ll need to be a team player. You’ll also need strong communication skills and the ability to work internationally. If you work in purchasing you could find yourself sourcing raw materials from anywhere in the world, and if you take on a position in customer service and logistics you are also likely to work with contacts from overseas and from a diverse range of cultures. A second language, or a willingness to learn one, may be an advantage.

Recruiters may state a degree preference for supply chain roles. Logistics, engineering and IT degrees are likely to be favoured, and operations management, finance, business administration and supply chain qualifications should also give you an edge. Candidates who don’t have a science or engineering background may still be eligible to apply, but they will need to be able to demonstrate sound commercial awareness, an analytical approach and good problem solving skills. Some recruiters require a minimum 2.1.

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