Careers advice

What should a supply chain manager know? The skills you need

Do you have what it takes?

As a supply chain manager in New Zealand, you’ll be responsible for ensuring the smooth transfer of services and goods between different locations. This is an important role that allows businesses to flourish and makes sure that Kiwis can always get their hands on the products and services they require in the age of online shopping.

In addition to being rewarding, supply chain management roles can be lucrative, giving you plenty of reasons to get out of bed in the morning and go to work. But what do you need to know, and what soft skills do you need to land a role as a supply chain manager? Let’s take a look.

Supply chain management skills you need to have

1. Balancing inventory and market demand

As cliched as it may be, a big part of being a good supply chain management is about balancing the opposing forces of supply and demand, and ensuring you’ve got the correct amount of inventory on hand. A good supply chain manager will have their finger on the pulse of the latest market trends, and be able to adjust their inventory accordingly.

This type of knowledge doesn’t simply develop overnight, and will vary drastically depending on what industry you’re in. Getting it right will involve a mixture of thorough, and continuous research, as well as excellent data analysis skills, which will allow you to make decisions with confidence.

In the modern world of supply chain management, enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a key skill to develop, and something you’ll need to know about. ERP refers to the management of business processes, often in real time, through technology. In addition to leveraging this to improve your planning, you’ll also need to be able to bridge the gap between this digital framework and the day-to0-day physical processes taking place in your business.

A good supply chain manager will have their finger on the pulse of the latest market trends, and be able to adjust their inventory accordingly.

2. Solid legal and compliance understanding

As a supply chain manager, you’ll be dealing with many different organisations, shipping all sorts of goods and services. This will involve understanding all your contractual obligations, both to the company, and its customers,

If you’re shipping overseas, you’ll also need to be aware of the laws regarding the shipment of specific goods to other territories. At all times, the emphasis is on remaining compliant, wherever the goods and services you’re transporting will end up.

3. A commitment to customer service

As a supply chain manager, there are two prongs to good customer service, although in reality they are one and the same.

Firstly, you need to keep your B2B clients happy. This is where good inventory management is key, as a surefire way to lose custom is by not having the stock required to supply their customers. Prompt communication and problem solving will also endear you to your business clients, so that they feel you’re really working together to help fulfill their business objectives.

Secondly, you need to understand what the ultimate customer expects from you. We live in a world of instant gratification, and modern shoppers have high standards when it comes to ordering products for delivery. Therefore, understanding the latest trends in consumer habits, and streamlining your service to provide best-in-class results, will do your bottom line the world of good.

You need to be able to work with your clients to deliver on their business objectives.

4. Project management know-how

We’ve talked a lot about the hard skills needed for supply chain management, but more broad brush, soft skills also have a crucial part to play. Perhaps chief among these is project management.

While you won’t be physically involved with every step in the process of delivering a project or service from source to customer, you’ll need to have clear oversight of what is happening at any given stage. This will involve:

  • Scheduling capabilities that ensure everything runs on time.
  • Budgeting so that you have just the right amount of resources, with no wastage.
  • Regular communication with all the relevant stakeholders.
  • Attention to detail and the ability to retain information.
  • Leadership skills that allow you to communicate and delegate tasks to the right people.

5. Flexibility and adaptability

Another crucial soft skill supply chain managers need is flexibility. As one link in a chain connecting businesses to their customers, there’s plenty of scope for even the best-laid plans to go astray from time-to-time. As such, you’ll need to be able to think on your feet, and react well to sudden changes in how things will move forward.

Of course, a good first step here is to be ready for surprises . Contingency planning will allow you to put into action a playbook of potential solutions that you can enact or adapt to as unexpected circumstances will inevitably crop up.