What are the Hottest Skill Niches in Supply Chain and Procurement?

January 3, 2017

Procurement and Supply Chain Management are heating up as career choices. The baby boomer generation is beginning to retire, and the field continues to morph into a strategic powerhouse within business – becoming more in-demand than ever before.

But the field is also complex, with a variety of subdisciplines and subject matter areas. As it develops, these niches proliferate. And like any burgeoning field, certain skillsets within Supply Chain Management are in higher demand than others. If you’re just starting out, or even moving to mid-career, it can be hard to find solid info about the most attractive niches in the field. So let a recruitment firm with 15 years of experience recruiting in Supply Chain and Procurement show you the way.

Without further ado, here are the areas within Supply Chain Management that companies are fighting tooth and nail to hire:

Indirect Procurement / Strategic Sourcing:

More companies are adopting a shared services model for Procurement, especially in sectors like Financial Services and Insurance. That means that they’re beefing up their Procurement functions to act as strategic partners for their whole business, with an ethos of continuous improvement. This is letting businesses conduct their “indirect” buying (everything not involved with production) using more efficient and innovative methods.

Procurement is becoming more strategic to the point that normal “transactional” Procurement might soon be a thing of the past, and we’re seeing blistering levels of demand for people who are highly-skilled within Strategic Procurement. Relevant skills include negotiation, contract management, supplier management, vendor management, and outsourcing. Companies are most interested in Strategic Procurement professionals who have bought Information Technology, and other high-demand categories include Marketing, Human Resources, Commercial Print, and Travel.

If you have significant experience buying these things strategically at a healthy scale, you can almost punch your own ticket going forward – with healthy compensation. 

Demand and Supply Planning:

Industries such as CPG, Apparel, Food Production, and Pharmaceutical are seeing huge demand for Planners, especially at the junior end. These are the people who help the organization match Demand to Supply to ensure that the right amount of product gets manufactured. Demand Planners work with a variety of forecasting tools and data (historical sales data, seasonality, trends, other market intelligence) to try to predict Demand for a company’s products. Supply Planners use this plan to work to ensure that Supply matches Demand. When it works out, it’s a beautiful thing: the company avoids having extra inventory on hand, and they avoid a shortfall of product that leaves money on the table and customers unhappy.

These people are very prized within industries like Consumer Goods because they add considerably to a business’s competitiveness. More than marketing or sales, Demand and Supply Planners can boost the bottom line of an organization in industries without much product differentiation. While Demand Planning especially can be a thankless job off the bat (demand is, unsurprisingly, very hard to predict with accuracy), many Supply Chain executives agree that Planning is an amazing launch pad into a broader Supply Chain career.

Management Consulting / Continuous Improvement:

We write all the time about how more companies are using the contingent workforce to bolster their Supply Chain function, and that trend is still picking up steam. But one thing we’re also seeing is more and more management consulting companies hiring permanent staff to act as Supply Chain consultants for their clients. As Supply Chain’s stock continues to rise, companies have added it to the portfolio of solutions that they’re looking for from management consultants. They want to know how to be more lean, more agile, and adopt a continuous improvement mindset in their Supply Chains. Which means that lots of the top global management consulting companies are reaching out to people like Argentus to help them find professionals with on-the-ground Supply Chain experience.

eCommerce:

Online selling – also known as eCommerce – has long been touted as the future of retail. In the 21st-century, the ability for a company to sell goods online efficiently and painlessly has set retail’s leading lights apart from its dinosaurs. So is it surprising that a strong understanding of eCommerce is one of the most prized skillsets within Supply Chain today? eCommerce giants like Amazon are redefining the Supply Chain field, and top talent within eCommerce is so prized that companies are suing their competitors for poaching people away. It’s a difficult niche, but if you can build your eCommerce skills, you’re well-situated to have a strong Supply Chain career in an industry like Retail.

3rd Party Logistics:

Revenue for this sector was $14.4 billion in Canada and $161.2 billion in the U.S. in 2015. Like other areas within Supply Chain Management, 3rd Party Logistics is becoming more strategic. Companies in the sector are offering more sophisticated options for logistics outsourcing, and more companies are relying on 3rd Party Logistics providers to make the wheels of their businesses turn. It’s a great growth area for people who want to make a mark within Logistics.

Supply Chain Software:

The field is becoming more reliant on big data, and software companies are proliferating in all areas of business to help companies integrate their end-to-end Supply Chain data. These range from massive multinationals like SAP and JDA to smaller players like Kinaxis, to blockchain companies like Provenance There are huge opportunities for software developers, but also people who have solid Supply Chain experience and can help these companies build their products. There’s also a big market for Supply Chain software “super-users,” and massive demand for people who are skilled at implementing these software packages within companies.


Hopefully this post helps you get thinking about where you want to focus your career going forward. One other thing is worth mentioning, however, and that’s that people who rise to leadership positions in Supply Chain tend to have a broad exposure to various aspects of the business, with a variety of skills. So it might be worth it to become a generalist in the long run if that’s your ambition. 

4 Comments

  1. Gary Newbury

    Another great article Argentus.

    I loved the reference and comments under eCommerce and I would roll these up into “digitising the supply network” which means the business has to define it’s future business model and then draw up a vision for the fulfillment (supply chain) side of the future state, utitlising current and future disruptive technologies to gain a scaleable platform which can drive out both costs and delays from the customer lead time, be them individuals, businesses (or, in the case of retail, stores/outlets).

    Great article to start the year, a year I hope we have a chance to sit down and grab a coffee over the next couple of months

    Reply
  2. Jafar Hyder

    Thanks for a well articulated and informative article. One area that is gaining momentum and companies are looking to incorporate in the realm of supply chain is ‘Data Analytics’. I am reproducing below a blog I wrote few weeks back on the topic.

    DATA ANALYTICS AND ITS ROLE IN SUPPLY CHAIN
    New kid on the block ‘Data Analytics’ is another turning point in supply chain transformation from a ‘function’ to a ‘business’. Companies with sufficient foresight are using supply chain platform in formulating business strategies and future state of business. However, it is critical to point out right in the beginning that the new kind on the block ‘Data Analytics’ will succeed and exist only with the right blend of analytics and supply chain business knowledge. Professional certification coupled with a degree of proficiency in data sciences is the recipe for success in the evolving (future) state of supply chain management.
    With the advent of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, data is captured throughout the supply chain at a granular level. Organizations have tons of supply chain as well as business data accumulated over many years (usually 5 to 15 years). In todays business world where informed decision making and knowledge based decisions are essentially considered the best practices, turning this data into actionable information requires an in-depth understanding of the industry, efficient procurement and sourcing strategies built from experience, and knowledge of technology tools to provide uncommon insights to the management. One of the core benefits of utilizing analytics for supply chain management is effective risk management. Operational risk is better managed by performing analytics to monitor operational controls. For example, aging analysis on shelf life of inventory, anticipating customer needs through forward looking analytical modelling and ensuring stock is in place to address those needs, analyzing vendor data to identify sourcing synergies by consolidating vendors and locking-in volume discounts.   
    Supply chain contributes and add value from concept to the delivery of products and or services to the consumer and, as such, analytics driven supply chain organizations are more agile and responsive to customer’s needs. Analytics effectively support sourcing decision process through spend analysis, demand forecasting, market trends, commodity risk profiling, etc. On the material side, analytics help in optimum use of real time information on stock levels in the warehouse, accurate information on in-transit materials, and by the minute data on customer demand. This full picture view allows supply chain and operations to make informed decisions for an ever-changing and dynamic nature of the business today. 
    Data analytics is crucial to supply chain transformation. At the heart of any supply chain transformation project is the envisioned target operating model (“future state”), a current state assessment, and the identification of activities needed to move from current state to the future state (“gap analysis”). Appropriate application of analytics techniques help in unveiling operational inefficiencies and determination of gaps to be filled to achieve the desired future state. Implementation of Category Management practices and specialization is considered future state of supply chain management. Use of accumulated data and spend analysis is the back bone of effective and efficient implementation of Category Management framework in supply chain.
    There are several statistical as well as analytical tools those could help in supply chain analytics. Some of these include, but not limited to, Exploratory Data Analysis (EDA), Data Profiling, Trend Analysis, Statistical Outliers, Pareto Analysis, etc.
    Use of analytics in effective and efficient operation of supply chain business is a never ending story since the application and on-going evolution is rapid and rewarding. Supply chain professionals are encouraged to gain at least some basic knowledge and understanding of data sciences to make best use of this ‘New Kid on the Block’.

    Reply
  3. Joseph Yacura

    Data Analytics?

    Reply
  4. John Smith

    Hi, Thanks for the informative article. Supply chain is the most important in demand skill which is boosting up. I am sure this article would help everyone going in this field.

    Reply

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