Graduate careers in logistics and supply chain: what do they really involve?
The logistics and supply chain sector employs around two million people in the UK (or one in twelve of the working population)*. Without it, most businesses and daily activities would come to a standstill.
Chrissie Gray, graduate talent manager at DHL, explains its significance: ‘Everybody has a touch point with the logistics industry on a daily basis. If you think about what you’re wearing today and what you had for breakfast, logistics has ensured that those particular products or services got to you on time, in the right condition and at 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 you’re only concerned with one aspect. You need to know what impact any changes in the supply chain might have on goods getting from A to B. It 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 more efficient to supply items ‘just in time’ (JIT), as storing them for a short time requires less space.
4. Production: creating the product as efficiently as possible to meet demand on time and without leftovers. This may involve managing staff and/or equipment.
5. Storage: storing the finished product until it can be distributed – again, it’s more efficient to hold stock for a short time.
6. Distribution: transporting products to customers and clients 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 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 customer who buys 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 specialise in supplying a particular type of good, such as food ingredients or pharmaceuticals, while others supply a broad range of different goods to a broad range of clients. DHL is an example. ‘Our business development teams are always looking at new areas to go into. For example, we have recently moved into the airline catering sector, handling domestic catering and in-flight services for airlines,’ says Chrissie.
- 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 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. ‘Job opportunities in logistics are numerous and varied,’ says Chrissie. ‘At DHL, for instance, you could be a manager in a warehouse, work in business development or work in HR. You could also sell products and services to customers, or manage projects that look at improving the way we do things.’
What are the graduate routes into logistics and supply chain careers?
The most obvious route into logistics and supply chain is through graduate schemes in this sector, which are offered by a number of third-party logistics companies and retailers. These schemes are sometimes rotational to give you experience of different areas of the business. Check employers’ graduate careers web pages for entry requirements. A 2.1 is often needed (but not always) 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.
Consider doing a logistics and supply chain industrial placement year – you can apply in your second year of uni. 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 available with some employers and are also a good way to get some industry-related experience and work out if you want to work in the sector when you graduate.
*according to the Office for National Statistics (2013)