Green Jobs: what does a Supply Chain Manager do?

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8 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
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Being a Supply Chain Manager in the food industry is a challenging but fulfilling role, which gives you a lot of responsibility. It is your job to ensure enough produce is available for customers to buy, that all products get to where they need to be on time, and that business keeps moving.

The food industry has relied hugely on supply chain workers recently, as the ongoing impact of the Coronavirus pandemic as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brought major disruptions to the logistics network such as shortages and inflation. The UK’s exit from the European Union has also made a Supply Chain Manager’s job essential to the food industry, as businesses have had to tackle supply chain management issues as a result of port delays, reduced imports, and labour shortages.

Working as a Supply Chain Manager is also an excellent way to help the food industry reduce its environmental impact, and many companies are figuring out better ways to tackle climate change through their supply chain operations. Some ways management teams are doing this is by simplifying the supply chain process, ensuring produce is ethically sourced, finding more sustainable transportation options, and keeping an eye on the potential risk of environmental factors such as rising sea levels, and droughts which can hugely disturb the flow of the supply chain.

Andy Diakou is the Founder of online artisan food supplier, The Fine Harvest. He says: “Supply chain management will be crucial in helping businesses identify and understand where they can make greener choices within their supply chain, which covers everything from procurement, product lifecycles, logistics and order management to name a few.

“As supply chains are frequently a source of unnecessary waste, whether that’s material, fuel or excess inventory, having a solid understanding of where a business can improve its operations will be vital in making greener choices moving forward.

What are the responsibilities?

  • Supervising and planning all logistic processes such as the delivery of food and drinks
  • Working with other teams including buyers and suppliers to ensure the right products are sourced and that everything is delivered on time
  • Overseeing the company’s stock system
  • Regularly working with data and computer software systems to manage the movement of goods
  • Managing the supply chain in UK and sometimes in European, or global markets (depending on where your company sources its food from)
  • Overseeing the reduction of waste in the supply chain
  • Ensuring the supply chain runs as smoothly as possible
  • Managing a team of staff working in the supply chain branch of the company
  • Developing new or maintaining strong relationships with suppliers
  • Keeping up to date with trends and new innovative technologies appearing in the sector, and figuring out ways to implement them
  • Finding ways make the supply chain more environmentally friendly

According to Diakou, to get into this role you must be ready to work well with other people. “Understanding the difficulties that all parties in the supply chain face will enable you to implement the right solutions that will benefit all”, he says. “It must be seen as a collaborative approach as all areas in the supply chain rely on each other and cannot work to the best effect independently.

“Knowing what those challenges are will put you in a good position to make the right changes your company and it’s partners will benefit from.”

Who might your employers be?

In the food industry the most common companies you’ll work for include retail and wholesalers, and occasionally restaurants and other foodservice outlets. In the UK these can include major supermarkets like Aldi, Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, M&S or the Co-op, who all offer roles in their supply chain departments.

What qualifications do you need?

To reach this level at least two years of supply chain experience in the food sector are needed. You can apply for a supply chain graduate scheme with any degree but it is common for successful applicants to have studied for an undergraduate degree or HND in related subjects.

Some good undergraduate courses on offer across the UK include:

HND courses are also available. It’s worth keeping in mind that some have different pre-requisites to join the course, while others may require an additional one year ‘top up’ course for them to be recognised as the same level qualification as an undergraduate degree. Some relevant HNDs include:

Postgraduate courses related to this area also include:

Some courses offer a placement year either in the UK or abroad, which will give you the chance to gain essential working skills and introduce you to what a job in this area within the food industry could be like.  

What is the salary like?

With it being a job that requires a lot of responsibility, this role can earn you a large salary with experience. You’ll likely enter the supply chain sector as a graduate trainee, which can see you earning around £29,000 on average. With more experience, you can become a Supply Chain Executive, Supply Chain Analyst or Supply Chain Planner, which can all earn you somewhere in the rage of £31,000 to £35,000. Becoming a Supply Chain Manager can see you getting around £50,000, though this varies depending on the company and the location of the job. With more experience, your salary could even increase to as much as £100,000.

Where will you be working?

This is a role that is both very hands-on but also requires a lot of administration work, meaning you’ll likely spend time in warehouses, visiting suppliers as well as an office. As Supply Chain Managers are required around the country, you should be able to find this role in various locations across the UK.

Your typical working days are 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, but it is likely you’ll sometimes need to work at weekends, bank holidays, and evenings, depending on the level of work that needs to be done.

What is career progression like?

You will probably start out in this field in a graduate trainee or entry-level role and work your way up with time and experience. A Supply Chain Manager is a top level role, meaning you can progress to different areas in senior management once you receive this job title, or even become a part of a company’s board of directors.

A role in the supply chain field can change all the time, so it’s vital that you keep an eye on developments in the profession. Taking professional qualifications is a good way to keep your knowledge of the sector up to date. You can study for these at professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS). For CIPS, you’ll need to become a member which requires you to already have an undergraduate or postgraduate degree accredited by them, or to have obtained the CIPS procurement and supply qualifications. The Association of Certified Procurement and Operations Professional (ACPOP) also offers certifications in International Procurement and Business Operations.

Diakou says, “I can only see the importance of having a supply chain manager becoming greater and greater over the coming years, as governments and consumers put pressure on businesses to adapt in order to meet our climate needs.

“Large corporations, especially in the food and drinks sector are already understanding the importance of having their supply chain managed as best as possible, therefore I feel that career prospects for this type of role will be very bright.”

Is there demand for this role?

As the global food sector continues to face a growing number of challenges the demand has never been greater for Supply Chain Managers who keep business running and ensure we can access food and drink supplies. As the food industry looks to reduce its environmental impact, companies will also be looking for Supply Chain Managers to implement greener and more ecological ways of getting produce from farm to fork.

“There’s never been a better time for people to pursue work in this field, particularly in the food and drinks industry”, says Diakou. “Consumer demands towards more climate friendly production methods of the foods they eat have been increasing for some time and show no signs of slowing down.

“Ultimately shoppers speak with their wallets and the onus is on food manufacturers and producers to ensure they are doing everything in their power to limit the impact their products have on the environment. Having a specialist supply chain manager within their team will be key in achieving those goals.”

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