http://www.investopedia.com/terms/i/inventory.aspManufacturing and processing industries depend heavily on a carefully managed supply chains to ensure they have the inputs they need to create the right amount of product at the right time. While this may sound fairly straightforward, there is a lot more to it than making and taking orders. We’ll look at some of the professional jobs that make up the supply chain management.

Who Is Hiring?

Before we jump into the jobs, it is worth considering who is hiring. The answer is just about every sector. Effective supply chain management is a competitive advantage for companies all over the world and has notably been leveraged by Toyota and Walmart to great success. Supply chain management is considered a vital organizational competency for health care companies, energy companies, retail, food production and so on.

The Jobs

There are a range of jobs and a multitude of job titles in supply chain management, but they tend to fall into four broad categories: procurement, production, inventory and distribution. In smaller organizations, a single person may oversee all four. In a large organization, there will be many layers of management overseeing and coordinating within any one of the areas.

Procurement

Procurement is where the purchasing of inputs is handled. Procurement managers are referred to as purchasing officers, contract managers, purchasing agents and so on. Procurement is responsible for ensuring that raw materials are where they need to be for production or processing in industrial environments. In retail and service sectors, the purchasing manager is responsible for stocking and distributing supplies for the various outlets.

Purchasing managers work with production managers and transport managers to coordinate the flow of inputs and supplies. If inputs are coming from abroad, the purchasing manager will work with customs brokers to ensure inbound shipments are cleared and delivered. Purchasing managers are also the point person to negotiate contracts with the suppliers, so they need to have people skills as well as the analytical approach to the production cycle.

Production

Production managers are responsible for translating the demand of the end user into production runs. The production manager also goes by plant manager, operations manager and many other titles. The production manager works with the procurement manager to ensure that the inputs are on hand to fill the orders coming in from the inventory manager.

The production manager needs to understand each phase of production, and the phases are often unique to the particular product being made. Production is where the value is added to the raw materials, so it is important that this stage work as efficiently and dependably as possible. Every part of the supply chain is critical, but problems at the production stage can rapidly erase profit margins for value-added products.

Inventory and Distribution

As inputs are turned into finished product, there often needs to be a storage period prior to distribution to the end user. Inventory and distribution management naturally overlap in most supply chains. Distribution managers respond to the demand pull from the customer facing agents (sales) and pull from inventory to do it. Inventory managers pass those market signals back to the production phase and seek to keep just enough inventory on hand to keep up with distribution.

One of the big drivers of the growth in supply chain management is the need to keep operations lean. Companies no longer want the carrying costs that come with having a large warehouse filled with product lines. Instead, companies want their purchasing and production to match their end sales as closely as possible. This helps control costs and inform pricing decisions as the time from input purchase to output sale is dramatically shortened. On top of moving finished goods, a lot of the analytical and quality control work falls to inventory and distribution managers.

The Gaps

Of course their are a lot of jobs in supply management not covered in this overview. For example, freight and transportation management is its own sub-sector with coordinators, contract managers, quality control managers, analysts and auditors. Even the customer facing sales side of a business ties back into supply chain management with overlapping roles like merchandising manager and demand planner.

The Bottom Line

The multiplication of job titles shows how much growth there has been in supply chain management, both in the number of positions open and the range of responsibilities assigned to those positions. These roles are critical in a competitive environment that requires production to match the market demand. Of course, even though we now have a dozen ways to refer to supply chain management jobs, a lot of positions do still get advertised under that multi-purpose title of “business analyst.”

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