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Supply Chain Management

Supply Chain Management is most commonly found in the retail sector and can also be called logistics or distribution management. As a supply chain manager you would plan and organise the transfer of goods and materials from manufacturers and suppliers through to customers. Retailers now manage every stage of the supply process, starting with sourcing raw materials and ending with timely delivery to ensure products are available on the shelves at the highest quality, when consumers want them and at a good price. Often more people work in the global supply chain than any other business area.

As a supply chain manager you could manage distribution operations in a variety of organisations, for example a major retailer. Alternatively, you might work for a logistics contractor that specialises in shipping goods on behalf of other companies. You could be in charge of a production line that produces 500 million deodorants a year, to working with a portfolio of 12 European suppliers sourcing for markets across Europe, to rolling out a factory safety programme, to changing ice-cream production plans to match the changeable British & Irish summer.

The sub areas comprising a supply chain include:

  • Forecasting / Planning: predicting what will be required in terms of resources and materials in order to deliver the product or service to the customer in a timely manner.
  • Purchasing / Procurement: Identification of suppliers to provide the products and services that it needs to acquire in order to create and deliver its own service.
  • Logistics: the movement of goods or materials , inbound or outbound.
  • Operations: a general management type activity ensuring that a business uses its resources effectively to meet its customer commitments.
  • Inventory Management: the replenishment of physical stock, the levels of physical stock, and of course storage and issue of physical stock.
  • Transport: can involve the control of a company owned fleet of vehicles, collecting, moving, or delivering materials and goods, or managing transport services sourced from a 3rd party transport provider.
Warehousing: can involve the control of company warehouse space, or managing warehouse space sourced from 3rd party providers.
  • Distribution: involves the physical distribution of the company’s products to the sub-distributor or directly to the customer base. Typically this is a combined transport and warehousing operation.
  • Customer Service: checking that the customers expectations were achieved, and managing any actions necessary to meet your customer obligations and commitments.

Your responsibilities could include:

  • Planning delivery timetables
  • Monitoring stock levels using computer databases
  • Tracking the movement of goods through depots
  • Overseeing the ordering and packaging process ready for dispatch
  • Looking at ways to improve supply networks
  • Overseeing the arrival of shipments
  • Managing clerical, administrative and warehouse distribution staff
  • Monitoring performance and making sure targets are met
  • Dealing with staff recruitment and training.

You would work closely with purchasing officers, warehouse staff and transport clerks to make sure goods and materials arrive at the depot as scheduled, are in good order, stored correctly and dispatched to customers on time.

The area of supply chain management has enjoyed a meteoric rise in significance over the last twenty to thirty years as businesses have tried to establish advantage, and felt the pressure to keep up, in an increasingly homogeneous and competitive global business environment. The elements of supply change management have always existed in business. What changed was the willingness of businesses to recognise the inter-relationship of the various sub areas, and to coordinate and integrate these areas, both from a strategy / planning perspective and operationally.



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