To be a strong employee in logistics, transport and supply chain, you’ll need to not only know your own role inside out but understand how it interacts with the rest of the company and its processes. Knowing the difference between the terms is the first step towards this.
So, what do they mean? The supply chain includes every person and process involved in getting a product from A to B. Logistics comes under supply chain but is limited to the operations involved in the handling of goods. One area of logistics is transport. If you work in an area of logistics such as transport, then, you fit in as one part of the larger supply chain. Accordingly, jobs with ‘supply chain’ in the title are more likely to be carried out on a ‘macro’ level – such as through planning and analytical roles.
Regardless of your specific role, if your graduate position comes under the large umbrella of supply chain then it’s likely that you will work for one of the following types of employers:
- logistics companies that supply or distribute for their clients. These are sometimes called ‘third-party logistics’ (3PL) companies as they do not have direct contact with the end user
- companies in the supply chain that sell directly to consumers (predominantly retailers)
- logistics consultancies
- transport planning consultancies
- local authorities
- transport providers.
Supply chain graduate employers
- DHL offers six different supply chain programmes for graduates, including one in finance and a future leaders programme – aimed at developing management skills.
- Associated British Foods has a supply chain and operations graduate scheme.
- EDF Energy runs a supply chain graduate scheme.
Logistics graduate employers
- British Airways runs a logistics graduate programme.
- Morrisons offers a logistics graduate scheme, as well as a supply chain one.
- DCC runs a logistics graduate programme.
Transport graduate employers
- AECOM offers a transportation engineering and planning graduate scheme.
- Mott MacDonald has previously run a transport planning graduate scheme.
As the supply chain is so broad, there are many different roles you could undertake within it. Those who grow vegetables or work in a warehouse are part of the supply chain. If this leaves you unsure where to start when deciding on a graduate career, below we give a brief explanation of some of the most popular graduate supply chain and logistics roles.
- Supply chain analyst. The aim of this role is to analyse data and information about the operation of supply chains in order to improve processes and avoid potential difficulties. Responsibilities are likely to include tracking and reporting on performance.
- Warehouse manager. Tasked with organising the safe and efficient receipt, storage and despatch of goods in a warehouse, someone working in this role will manage people and products.
- Logistics/distribution manager. The key task in this position is to organise the safe and efficient storage and distribution of goods, and to ensure that orders are fulfilled (carried out) correctly. This is often similar to the role of warehouse manager but functions at a more macro level (eg analysis of bigger logistical problems).
- Supply chain administrator. This job typically involves ensuring the smooth running of supply chain processes by capturing and logging data, producing reports, building relationships with stakeholders and dealing with queries. The level of responsibility can vary – up to the kind of analysis and driving of change carried out by supply chain analysts.
- Freight forwarder. Working with companies, importers and exporters, the central aim of this role is to ensure goods are transported in a safe, efficient and cost-effective manner.
- Transport planner. Also referred to as ‘transportation planners’, the aim of this job is to improve and manage transport systems. This could involve setting up and running traffic models, analysing government policy to advise clients on whether schemes comply or creating maps using geographic information systems (GIS) software.
Of course, different companies will set different responsibilities for each role, so it’s important to read individual job descriptions carefully.
For supply chain and logistics roles, many positions and graduate schemes are open to applicants from all degree backgrounds. Some employers, however, will either require or prefer candidates to have a related degree. Qualifications related to business, management or engineering – along with those specific to supply chain or logistics management – are often regarded highly. In transport planning, some companies ask for candidates with a related degree, such as in engineering (for engineering companies), maths, geography or transport planning.
You can get into the different sectors under the umbrella of ‘supply chain’ with a 2.2, although this classification will leave you with fewer options than those with a 2.1 – particularly when it comes to graduate schemes.
To secure most graduate positions in supply chain, transport and logistics, and to progress your career effectively in these areas, you’re likely to need:
- Organisational and prioritisation skills
- Collaboration and communication (both verbal and written) skills
- IT proficiency
- Analytical thinking
- An aptitude for problem solving
- The ability to stay calm under pressure.
Although there are qualifications in logistics and supply chain, this is certainly a career area where practical experience goes a long way. Effective supply chain recruits are typically organised enough to manage themselves along with other people/processes and able to consider the ‘bigger picture’ of how different teams and processes fit together. These are both examples of aptitudes often developed and demonstrated best through on-the-job experience.
It will put you in a great position if you get work experience as close to the role or type of company you want to work for as possible. By securing a year in industry or internship with the likes of DHL or GSK, you’ll hone the skills needed and gain clear evidence for these on your CV.
Nonetheless, formal work experience opportunities aren’t your only option. As mentioned earlier, the supply chain is extremely broad. Whether you’re working in a warehouse or pulling up vegetables, talk to your colleagues and conduct research to get an in-depth understanding of how your little part fits into the entire supply chain.
The application process for graduate schemes with large logistics, transport and supply chain employers typically begins with an online application form. Firstly, make it clear here that you meet the essential criteria for the scheme. Include appropriate skills, too - these ones might give you a guide, but do focus on those listed on the job description. Give examples to back up each skill, rather than simply stating that you possess it.
If your application makes it past the first stage, it is likely that you will be required to attend an assessment centre. These generally last one or two days and involve a series of tests, group exercises and interviews.
For logistics, transport and supply chain graduate schemes, it’s important to perform well in group tasks. As a trainee transport manager, distribution manager or supply chain manager you could find yourself leading a warehousing workforce or helping to run a centre for receiving perishable goods. So it’s vital that you can build and maintain positive working relationships. Don’t undermine other candidates in group exercises; be sure to listen to and praise other people’s good ideas and build on them if you can. Work collaboratively – don’t boss others around.
Be sure to do your research. This doesn’t just mean memorising three facts from the company’s website. Brush up on the organisation’s business plan to show your commercial awareness and get clued up on industry trends to demonstrate a strategic understanding. You should also be aware of competitors.
It’s a good idea to use social media for research. Use LinkedIn to find out about the company you’re applying to and its competitors. Twitter feeds can also tell you about a company’s priorities and values, but you don’t have to stick to these: you could always do a search across all the channels you use frequently, to see if the employer has a profile.
Particularly if you’re applying to one of the leading graduate employers, it’s likely that you will be required to carry out a psychometric test – either after you submit your application form, alongside an interview or at an assessment centre. Read our article on what to expect from psychometric tests for more information and follow the links to free practice online tests to make sure you’re as prepared as possible.