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Logistics and supply chain roles

Graduate careers in logistics and supply chain: what do they really involve?

Logistics and supply chain is about getting products and services to the right place at the right time. Explore the graduate career opportunities in this sector.

Logistics and supply chain makes sure all the products you use in a day get to you – at the right time, in the right condition and for the right price.

The logistics and supply chain sector employs a large number of people in the UK. Without it, most businesses and daily activities would come to a standstill.

Logistics and supply chain makes sure all the products you use in a day – including those you consume, wear or communicate with – get to you at the right time, in the right condition and for the right price.

What does logistics and supply chain involve? The six stages...

Because logistics and supply chain is a multidisciplinary graduate career, those working in it need to understand the whole process even if they’re only concerned with one aspect. It’s important to know what impact any changes in the supply chain might have on goods getting from A to B.

The supply chain can be split into six stages:

1. Sourcing: finding the required resources (eg raw materials) and making sure they’re the right quality and available at the right time; getting quotes from suppliers and negotiating to keep costs as low as possible.

2. Transportation: using the most efficient means to transport items from the supplier to the site where they’re needed.

3. Storage: keeping items so that they’re accessible when needed. It’s usually more cost-effective to supply items ‘just in time’ (JIT), rather than storing them for a long time.

4. Production: creating the product as efficiently as possible to meet demand on time and without much waste. This may involve managing staff and/or equipment.

5. Storage: storing the finished product until it can be distributed – again, it usually benefits the organisation to store stock for a short time.

6. Distribution: transporting products to clients and customer in the most efficient manner.

What’s the difference between logistics and supply chain?

‘Logistics’ and ‘supply chain’ are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is a difference. Logistics refers to the processes involved in the handling of goods, such as transporting materials, storing them or distributing products.

Supply chain refers to the ‘bigger picture’, under which logistics falls. It is the whole network of the different parties involved in getting goods from supplier to consumer. For example, the supply chain network for a loaf of bread would include everyone from the farmer growing the wheat, to the supermarket selling the loaf.

What graduate jobs are there in logistics and supply chain?

Types of graduate employer in logistics and supply chain include:

  • Logistics companies that supply or distribute for their clients (clients include supermarkets, hospitals, aeroplanes and prisons, for example). These companies are sometimes called ‘third-party logistics’ (3PL) companies, as they do not have direct contact with the end user (consumer). Some third-party logistics companies – such as DHL – specialise in supplying a particular type of good, while others supply a broad range of different goods to a broad range of clients.
  • Companies in the supply chain that sell directly to consumers; these are predominantly retailers, such as clothes stores and supermarkets. For online sales they may distribute the goods themselves or contract a delivery company (see the point above).
  • Logistics consultancies, which advise clients on making their business more efficient.

Roles and areas of work include supply chain management (this is a broad term that encompasses planning when and where you can source materials, and assessing how the entire network can be made more efficient), warehouse operations, health and safety, and engineering. Many third-party logistics companies also employ graduates in finance, IT and business roles.

What are the graduate routes into logistics and supply chain careers?

The most obvious route into logistics and supply chain is through a graduate scheme; these are offered by a number of third-party logistics companies and retailers. Graduate schemes are often rotational, providing you experience of different areas of the business. Check employers’ graduate careers web pages for entry requirements. A 2.1 is often (but not always) needed and, while some schemes are open to graduates with degrees in any subject, others want a degree related to their industry, such as business, management, logistics or supply chain management.

You might consider doing a logistics and supply chain industrial placement year; you can apply in your second year of university. Completing a year in industry is one of the best ways to gain skills and knowledge that can increase your chances of getting a logistics and supply chain job when you graduate. Discover more good reasons to do a placement and application tips here. Shorter logistics and supply chain internships are also available with some employers and will provide you with industry-related experience. This should help you to work out if you want to work in the sector when you graduate.

What will you earn in a graduate job?

The starting salary for graduate positions in logistics and supply chain is generally between £26,500 and £28,000.

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