Business Transformation

10 Key Skills Needed to Become an Effective Supply Chain Leader

You must have acquired a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, a great step toward becoming a supply chain manager and you are wondering what supply chain management courses and skills you need to become an expert.

Advanced certifications are necessary but not enough to make you an effective supply chain leader. It would be best if you had leadership and other soft skills, such as communication and people management.

This article discusses the most important skills you need as a Supply Chain leader looking to analyze problems and implement solutions in your enterprise.

What do Supply Chain Managers do?

Supply chain leaders or supply chain managers, SCM, oversee the flow of products from their point of origin to their point of use. They ensure that products flow smoothly and efficiently through the supply chain and are delivered on time and in the right quantities. The role of a supply chain leader varies depending on the organization’s size.

If you work in a smaller company, you may be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the supply chain. In larger companies, however, you may have more specialized roles focusing on specific aspects of the process. You might be responsible for production scheduling or transportation management if you work in manufacturing or logistics.

Here are some of the key aspects of this job:

  1. Strategy Development
    Supply chain leaders develop strategies to help their companies achieve their goals, including sourcing raw materials and packaging. They also develop plans to improve processes within the organization and ensure that suppliers can meet production demands.
  2. Customer Satisfaction
    They ensure that customers receive quality products or services on time. You may also be expected to monitor customer satisfaction levels throughout their operations. They must identify potential problems before they become major issues that could lead to lost sales or damaged reputations.
  3. Manage Inventory
    In retail companies, supply chain leaders may be responsible for managing inventory levels and pricing strategies. They may also be responsible for choosing suppliers who can deliver goods at the best prices to reduce costs without sacrificing customer satisfaction. A large part of a supply chain leader’s job is to minimize costs while maximizing efficiency within the entire supply chain process. This means keeping an eye on logistics costs, including fuel usage, labor, and equipment maintenance expenses. It also involves managing inventory levels to ensure enough product is available for customers but not so much that it becomes obsolete before being sold.
  4. Transportation
    Transportation is a key component of the supply chain since it’s needed to move products from one place to another. The supply chain manager will typically manage transportation operations within their company or organization. This aspect of the supply chain is called logistics. The role includes everything from ensuring that there are enough trucks available for all shipments to ensuring enough room in the warehouse for incoming goods. You must be familiar with U.S. Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and related regulations.

Top 10 Supply Chain Management Courses and Skills Needed to Become an Effective Supply Chain Leader

Whether you’re an aspiring supply chain manager or already in the field, these ten skills will set you apart and keep you at the top of your game.

  1. Information Technology
    In a fast-paced world where information technology seems to rule, a supply chain manager not only needs to get acquainted with these new technologies. For instance, you can leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) learning to collect customer data from social media and websites to understand your market and how to serve them better.

    Supply chain leaders must oversee the implementation of new technologies in their organization, such as ERP systems or supply chain software applications. They also ensure that everyone in the supply chain uses these technologies to deliver better results for the company.

    An excellent example would be a supply chain leader working with a team to automate their warehouse operations. He may rely on new technologies such as RFID tags, barcode scanners, and other devices. Big companies use automated guided vehicles (AGVs) to move packages within the warehouse. You may not have in-depth knowledge of IT, but don’t be a novice.

  2. Project Management
    Project management is a knowledge-based process that helps an organization achieve its goals. It implies applying knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements. The project management goals are to ensure that the project is completed on time, within budget, and meets customer expectations.

    Supply Chain

    Many projects happen simultaneously in the supply chain industry, from production to delivery. As the leader, you manage these projects from start to finish so they can be delivered successfully and within the defined time frame.

    Your organizational skills must be polished too. You will juggle multiple tasks while keeping track of everything that’s going on in your department or company at large. You must be able to identify problems, evaluate potential solutions, and implement them effectively with minimal disruption to your organization’s workflow.

    Managing human resources is another essential skill for any supply chain manager or director. Effective leadership requires being able to motivate others while maintaining their confidence in your leadership abilities and decisions.

  3. Communication Skills
    As a supply chain leader, you will interact with various stakeholders, such as customers, suppliers, investors, and employees. You must be able to bargain for shipping rates and transportation arrangements with contracted providers. You must maintain consistent communication throughout the procurement lifecycle with suppliers, vendors, and shipping contacts.

    Communication is part of every supply chain leader’s job description because it’s necessary for coordination between teams and departments within an organization and outside vendors and contractors who provide services such as manufacturing or transportation.

    Good communication skills also entail good listening. It can be challenging for some people who have been leaders for years — especially if they’ve always gotten their way by talking over others. But real listening requires you to stop talking and listen while your subordinates or partners speak before responding.

  4. Logistics
    Logistics is the lifeblood of a supply chain company. It involves knowing how goods move through their production processes and how long they take to get from one place to another.

    Even if your company makes the best products, if they don’t package, store, and deliver on time, your customers will complain, and one bad review is no good for your company’s image. A background in logistics is, therefore, essential for any successful supply chain manager.

    Logistics is just as crucial to your company’s success as sales and marketing. If you’re unfamiliar with logistics and how it works, you won’t be able to make good decisions about where you will ship your products or how much inventory you need on hand at any given time.

    Understanding the flow of goods in a supply chain helps managers make better decisions about where to locate warehouses or distribution centers so that shipping costs are minimized; this saves money for both customers and companies alike when shipping. You can enroll for supply chain management courses like a Diploma in Logistics and Supply Management at SIPMM to gain the skills and competence in logistics and supply chain management.

  5. Business Ethics
    Your primary responsibility as a supply chain leader is to ensure that your company’s products reach the customer. But many people are involved in that process, and you’ll often interact with them. You need to understand how your decisions will affect not only the company but individual departments. You must know that your decisions will impact people’s lives outside of work and inside it.

    Ethics demands that you give customers value for their money, ensuring the products your company sells are rightly sourced and manufactured according to high standards of quality and safety. It also means you should treat your business partners fairly; do not cheat them out of business. There are many ways to define ethical behavior in business.

  6. Time Management
    Time management is a vital skill for everyone, not only those in business. But as a supply chain leader, you need it more than most people. Time management is about prioritizing tasks and managing personal and professional obligations effectively.

    Time management

    You should be able to juggle multiple projects at once while still meeting deadlines and satisfying customers. To be effective, you must learn to prioritize tasks and delegate responsibilities to avoid overloading your time. The following steps can help you become an effective supply chain leader:

    1) Set goals and priorities.
    2) Prioritize your work based on your goals in step one, then create a schedule that reflects those priorities.
    3) Break up large projects into smaller ones, then delegate them to others or break them down into manageable steps you can complete yourself. For example, if you want to improve customer service by reducing the time it takes for customers to receive their orders, break this goal down into several parts:

    A) Understanding current performance metrics.
    B) Identifying areas that need improvements.
    C) Developing solutions.
    D) Implementing solutions.
    E) Measuring results.
    F) Making Adjustment as needed.
    G) Repeating the process until there are no further opportunities for improvement.

  7. Cost Accounting
    Being a supply chain leader demands understanding how to calculate the cost of making a product or providing a service, including all the costs of material, labor, overhead, and transportation.

    Cost accounting skills help supply chain leaders understand how much money they spend on their operations and how much they make from their products or services. Understanding the numbers allows you to work, produce and deliver while making profits.

    Suppose you spend more money acquiring raw materials from a particular region. In that case, you’ll consider sourcing them from other parts where they are abundant, or transportation fares are cheaper.

    Beyond knowing how much you spend; you should know how much money you have available at any given time and what to do with it. You also need to understand how much capital the company requires for future growth opportunities.

  8. Understanding of Market Dynamics
    Market forces influence demand and supply. You may not be a part of the force, but you must understand how those changes affect your business. For instance, how changes in interest rates or tax policy impact your business — directly and indirectly through customer demand shifts — and how these factors influence competitors’ businesses.

    A good supply chain leader must understand global trade policies and how economic factors affect their business model. Supply chain leaders must also anticipate changes in consumer buying habits that may affect their business model or disrupt existing relationships with suppliers or customers.

    Predicting future trends, such as changes in technology and demographics, is also essential for the effective supply chain management.

  9. Legal Knowledge
    Knowledge of legal issues is essential because you must ensure that your organization complies with all applicable laws and regulations. This includes knowing when it is necessary to obtain regulatory approvals before starting a new project or making changes to existing processes.

    Implementing a government regulation like the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) in the European Union (EU) means you must scrutinize every raw material and ensure non is toxic. If you default, you will face a lawsuit.

    Supply Chain Compliance system

    You will negotiate contracts with suppliers and customers on behalf of your organization. These contracts can include sales and supply agreements, terms and conditions, or warranties associated with product purchases. You must know what they mean and how they can affect your business.

    For example, if new regulations require companies to report specific data in a certain way, then the supply chain should know about it to ensure it is done correctly. To maintain your company’s credibility, you must adhere to the law and practice business ethics.

  10. Flexibility
    Supply chains are complex networks with multiple parts that interact with each other in unpredictable ways. You need to understand how each step in the process affects the entire system to make improvements when necessary.

    New products are introduced into the market, and demand shifts from one type of product to another. To be ahead of the competition, being flexible is a big plus. You must be able to spot opportunities and take advantage of them to ensure that the company stays competitive.

    Flexibility means you must be willing to change your goals or objectives based on new developments within the company or within the industry where it operates.

No one is born a leader, so if you want to rise through the ranks, you must make the best of your workforce and communication skills. Remain flexible, responsive, and accountable in all you do, and you’ll set yourself apart as a leader worth following. This article has outlined different skills and supply chain management courses you need to become an effective leader.


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Nikos Koutsianas, Founder of Symbeeosis/ Founder of Apivita.

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Alexandra Dimitropoulou

Alexandra Dimitropoulou

VP and News Editor
Alexandra Dimitropoulou is a VP and News Editor at CEOWORLD magazine, working to build and strengthen the brand’s popular, consumer-friendly content. In addition to running the company’s website, CEOWORLD magazine, which aims to help CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, and other C-level executives get smarter about how they earn, save and spend their money, she also sits on the Board of Directors of the Global Business Policy Institute. She can be reached on email alexandra-dimitropoulou@ceoworld.biz. You can follow her on Twitter at @ceoworld.