If the answer is “Yes”—these are the marvels of what is known as supply chain management (SCM), an area that is growing in complexity and sophistication. Global companies such as General Electric, Cummings and Bendix as well as more nimble small and medium-sized companies are always adding new innovations. Supply chains are concerned with all of the activities associated with moving a product: the initial acquisition of raw and intermediate materials, the final goods, various production processes, distribution to warehouses and consumers, and returns, recycling and reuse.
Students who like structure, are analytical, and have good interpersonal skills may find a rewarding career in supply chain management and logistics. Even students who want a career in other areas of business may find knowledge of supply chain considerations essential for their jobs.
To meet the demand for college students interested in supply chain management, Saunders College of Business and Kate Gleason College of Engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology offer a minor in supply chain management—available to students across all nine RIT colleges. Saunders College also offers a one-semester cooperative education requirement to help interested students get a running start in the area by working within a supply chain/logistics area in a company.
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook indicates that the job category they identify as Logisticians has above-average pay ($72,780 median annual wages in 2012) and much faster-than-average growth in employment from 2012 to 2022. The Department of Labor indicates that the important qualities include skills in communication, critical-thinking, organization and problem solving.
Supply Chain Management is an interdisciplinary degree field combining principles of business, engineering, technology and liberal arts. As careers progress, employees can pursue more specialized tasks—such as in purchasing or transportation—or in more general tracks encompassing and integrating all aspects of supply chain management. Throughout the supply chain, extensive use is made of information technology. This includes managing the large volume of data, identifying all items in the supply chain, forecasting future supply and demand, and helping to optimize decisions throughout the chain.
Jobs in the supply chain area include: sales estimating, production scheduling, make vs. buy decision making, factory and warehouse locations, allocation of products, purchasing, warehousing, inventory management, information systems and transportation.
Many supply chains are global and require understanding of the laws and cultures of various countries. Labor work rules, import duties and transportation costs all matter. For example, transportation by ship, plane, train, or truck have different time/cost tradeoffs and these decisions have to be made in the context of where raw materials, intermediate materials, final products are sourced (or could be sourced), and where customers are located. As technology, products and the economic environment changes, the supply chain may need to be changed. In the past few decades, company supply chains have been greatly affected by the World Trade Organization reduction in tariff and importation barriers, the creation of the European Union, and the North American Free Trade Association. If the Trans-Pacific Partnership of the countries bordering the Pacific Ocean becomes a reality, supply chains will have substantial changes.
A great variety of job opportunities exist throughout the supply chain. Interviews with company managers elicited the following information oriented towards what new employees in supply chain management and logistics activities might do:
- Walgreens: Manager Supply Chain, Supply Chain Manager Optimization, Senior Category Manager, Demand Planner, Transportation Analyst, and Business Process Manager
- UPS: International Logistics Specialist, Director of Operations, Procurement Analyst Principle, Operations Systems Manager, and Senior Manager of Global Inventory Management
- FedEx: Global Service Analyst, Sourcing Specialist, Logistics Manager, Manager – Sustainability, Shipping Coordinator, and Reconciliation Specialist
- Zappos.com: Security Operations Center Analyst, Practice Operations Analyst, Senior Data Analyst, Senior Manager, Business Strategy + Operations, and Email Deliverability Manager
- Bendix: supplier relationship management assistant, operations management assistant (assembly lines, manufacturing), analyst using MS Excel and Visual Basic programming.
- Cummings: packaging engineering assistant, purchasing assistant, supplier quality assessor, sourcing specialist, logistics analyst, inventory management analyst
- General Electric: cost modeling analyst, MIS-database specialist