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.
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.