A supply chain planner career path can be an exciting and rewarding experience. A supply chain planner is responsible for the coordination and management of the flow of materials and information from supplier to manufacturer to retailer, ensuring that products and resources are delivered on time and in the correct quantities.
A successful career as a supply chain planner requires a great deal of planning, organization, and communication skills. It also helps to have a strong background in mathematics and science. If you are interested in pursuing a career as a supply chain planner, here is some advice on how to get started.
Table of Contents
1. What Is a Supply Chain Planner?
A supply chain planner is an individual who uses his or her knowledge of mathematics and science to manage the flow of materials throughout the manufacturing process. A successful supply chain planner will be well versed in using tools like Gantt charts, PERT (program evaluation and review technique), probability distribution curves, lead times, critical paths, time-phased allocations, and supply/demand trends.
Since supply chains are often global in nature, it is important for a supply chain planner to be knowledgeable about global trade laws and the impact they may have on production timelines. It is also critical to understand how geopolitical events can influence both shipping costs and product availability. For example, the escalating tensions in the South China Sea have many experts concerned that in-demand, low-cost goods may become more expensive when they are shipped from Asia.
A supply chain planner is responsible for coordinating the flow of resources, information, and materials that are necessary to produce a product. Supply chain planners often work in product development or production management, helping to ensure that companies have the right supplies at the right time in order to keep their production lines running smoothly and efficiently.
2. What Does a Supply Chain Planner Do?
The responsibilities of a supply chain planner will vary depending on the industry, but there are some common duties that many planners will have. Included among these are:
Scheduling production Briefly, this involves working with managers to establish goals for key performance indicators (KPIs) and create an appropriate timeline for meeting them. The timeline will take into account the amount of time each step in the production process will take, including both internal processes (like research and development) and external factors (like shipping times).
Forecasting Briefly, this is closely related to scheduling. It involves using past data to determine how consumers are likely to react to future events. For example, assume that your company creates widgets. You can use data on how consumers reacted in the past when prices went up to help you forecast future consumer behavior (e.g., demand for widgets might go down).
Scheduling transportation Many times, the planner will work with managers to determine what mode of transport is best (e.g., ship, truck, train), how much it will cost (both directly and indirectly,/ opportunity costs), and what the most efficient schedule is.
Assessing global trade regulations Many companies rely on globally sourced materials or products to keep their production lines running smoothly. A successful supply chain planner must understand his or her company’s supply chain and any restrictions or tariffs that may be imposed on goods being imported/export to/from other countries.
Maintaining accurate inventories This requires a detailed understanding of how different long materials take to flow through the production process, as well as an estimate of future demand for those items.
3. What Skills Are Required for This Job?
There are many skills that a successful supply chain planner must-have. Here are just a few:
Attention to detail One misread number or one incorrect assumption can cost manufacturing companies millions of dollars in unnecessary expenses, missed deadlines, and lost revenue. A good supply chain planner is always aware of the current and expected demand for his or her company’s products and is able to identify any potential bottlenecks in the production process.
Communication Planners must regularly interact with a number of different people, from senior managers to employees responsible for executing some aspect of the plan. The supply chain planner should be able to deliver clear presentations that provide just the right amount of detail to inform those who need to know while being able to listen and respond thoughtfully.
Mathematical skills The ability to perform calculations quickly and accurately is a valuable skill for a supply chain planner. The planning process will often involve complex mathematical computations, so a good grasp of algebra and basic statistics is particularly useful.
Research skills It is important for supply chain planners to be able to find the information they need when they need it. A good supply chain planner will regularly use secondary research in order to gain background knowledge on various aspects of his or her company’s business, as well as primary research in order to get up-to-the-minute information on changing market conditions.
4. What Education/Training Do I Need to Become a Supply Chain Planner?
There are a couple of ways one can get started in this career. Many community colleges offer a certificate or degree program in either supply chain management or logistics, and some companies will hire entry-level employees for this position if they have the right blend of education and experience.
– Bachelor’sBachelor’s degree There are many four-year colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s degrees in supply chain management, logistics management, or business administration with a concentration in supply chain management/logistics. Additionally, some four-year colleges offer specialized certificates, or associate degrees focused on the field of supply chain management and logistics.
– Internships Many national companies look for candidates with previous experience in the supply chain, logistics, or other related fields when they are hiring entry-level employees. Having completed at least an internship in any of these areas can be a great way to get your foot in the door of many large companies.
5. What Are the Long-Term Career Prospects for Supply Chain Planners?
The demand for supply chain planners is growing rapidly. There is a large and growing need for companies to be able to identify new ways to reduce time, cost, and risk in the supply chain.
There are many different areas of specialization within the field of supply chain planning, such as:
Demand/supply planning This involves predicting future demand for a company’s products in order to ensure that the necessary materials are available when they are needed by manufacturing.
Inventory management This involves managing inventory levels efficiently, which can involve predicting how much inventory will be required based on past sales trends or simply monitoring current inventory levels in real-time.
Warehouse management Good warehouse management involves deciding which materials should be stored at a given warehouse, as well as how those materials should be organized.
Transportation management This area of specialization involves estimating the most efficient routes for shipping goods from one location to another.
6. What Are Some Typical Entry-Level Jobs that Supply Chain Planners Might Hold?
Typical entry-level jobs for supply chain planners include:
– Transportation/logistics coordinator This job is typically available with manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors. It involves managing the logistics of inventory movement, as well as coordinating deliveries with suppliers and customers.
– Inventory control analyst This is typically an entry-level job that is available with manufacturing companies. This job is focused on ensuring that inventory levels are kept as low as possible while still meeting the needs of customers and avoiding stockouts (running out completely).
– Materials planner This job is typically available with companies that need to produce a product with a complex supply chain. A materials planner would be responsible for coordinating the various materials that are needed to create a product.
– Pricing analyst This job is typically available with large retail companies and involves using pricing strategies to maximize sales. This position would work closely with marketing professionals in order to price products competitively while also meeting sales goals.
7. What Types of Companies Might Hire Supply Chain Planners?
The industries that typically hire supply chain planners include:
– Manufacturing Many manufacturing companies need employees to plan and manage the logistics of their production process.
– Wholesale/Distribution Companies in this industry would benefit tremendously from effective planning and management of their own inventory, as well as the inventory at all the warehouses where they store their goods.
– Retail Again, effective inventory management can maximize profits for a retail company. Additionally, retail companies might also hire planners to help determine pricing strategies and product placement in stores.
– Government/nonprofit Supply chain planning is becoming more important for government organizations at all levels (local, state, national), as well as for non-governmental organizations.
8. How Can Supply Chain Planners Enhance Their Resumes?
In order to be a successful candidate for a job as a supply chain planner, you should first have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant area of studies, such as logistics or business administration. You will also need extensive experience with planning and data analysis software, such as:
– Microsoft Excel This software enables you to create detailed spreadsheets that can be used for data analysis.
– Any Oracle or SAP application These two applications are the industry standard in supply chain planning and management, and exposure to either one will make you a very attractive candidate for any job in this field. (Please note: any specific knowledge of either Oracle or SAP is not necessary and can be learned easily on the job.)
– Other relevant software There are many other types of software that supply chain planners might use in their jobs. As long as you have experience with a certain type of industry-standard software, such as one of those listed above, it will be a big plus on your resume.
9. Are there Specific Certifications that Supply Chain Planners Should Obtain?
The following certs might be beneficial for supply chain planners:
Supply Chain Management Professional Certification (SCMP) This certification is awarded by the Institute of Certified Supply Chain Professionals and requires passing an exam.
- Six Sigma Green Belt Six Sigma is a data-driven approach that is used in many industries to drive process improvement. This certification demonstrates knowledge and understanding of Six Sigma tools and concepts, which could be beneficial for a supply chain planner.
- Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) This certification demonstrates expertise in inventory management in production environments and was created by APICS (the Association for Operations Management). Again, this certification might be beneficial if you are applying for a job with a manufacturing company.
- Certified Logistics, Transportation & Distribution Certification (CLTD) This certification is awarded by the Institute of Supply Chain Management and demonstrates knowledge of logistics, transportation, warehousing, inventory management, purchasing practices, and materials management.
- Other relevant industry certifications There are many other industry-related certifications a supply chain planner might obtain. The more you have, the better.
10. What Type of Salary Can a Supply Chain Planner Expect?
In 2014, the average national annual salary for an entry-level supply chain planner was $52,787. However, salaries vary greatly by location. For instance, supply chain planners in San Francisco earned an average annual salary of $86,401 in 2014, whereas planners in Baltimore earned an average annual salary of $55,371.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median national annual salary for a supply chain planner as $65,000. The bottom 10% makes less than $39,650, while the top 10% earns over $101,180.
- – Entry level: $39,650 – $65,000
- – Experienced: $67,550 – $101,180
- – Late career: $83,750 – over
11. Does a Supply Chain Planner Have to be an Expert in Excel?
No. However, having experience with any industry-standard software is a plus on your resume and could be helpful in landing your dream job. Having experience with any one of the software types listed above is very beneficial; having experience with more than one type will make you an extremely competitive candidate. Entry-level supply chain planners should be enthusiastic, intelligent, and capable students who are eager to learn new software like Oracle or SAP.
12. Best Colleges to Study Supply Chain Planning
The United States is the best country to study supply chain planning. Nearly all colleges and universities offer graduate programs in this field, so finding one should not be difficult.
Here are some of the top-ranked schools that offer graduate degrees in the Supply Chain:
- New York University (Stern)
- Northwestern University
- Brigham Young University
- Arizona State University
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- Ohio State University
- University of Tennessee
- Pennsylvania State University – University Park
- Harvard University (Sloan)
13. Online Courses to Study Supply Chain Planning
You do not need to go back to school to learn the skills you need; there are plenty of free online courses that teach supply chain planning. Here are some of our favorite industry-related courses:
Supply Chain Analytics Specialization by Coursera
This specialization has six courses. The courses focus on topics such as forecasting, production and inventory management, data analysis, and customer relationship management. Topics include Lean Six Sigma, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Reverse Logistics, and Data Analysis.
Supply Chain Principles by Coursera
In this course, students learn about the major functions and principles of a supply chain and gain an understanding of how they can be improved using specific tools. Topics include Inventory Management, Supplier Relationships, and Operations.
Supply Chain Dynamics by Edx
This course focuses on the dynamics of managing a supply chain in the face of changing market conditions. Topics include Analytics, Lean Six Sigma, and Supply Chain Technology. These courses are a great starting point for beginners looking for a jumpstart in the industry.
Supply chain planners are in high demand due to the ever-growing complexities of global trade. If you’re you’re looking for a career that offers stability and plenty of opportunities for growth; supply chain planning may be the perfect fit for you. This article has outlined some essential steps for breaking into this field, so if you’re ready to start your journey towards becoming a supply chain planner, get started today!