Since the COVID-19 pandemic, building a resilient yet efficient supply chain has become a priority for companies worldwide. Accordingly, as today’s world grows increasingly globalized, professionals who can help companies streamline their logistical operations will become more valuable.
As the supply chain grows more complicated, it’s becoming common for professionals to specialize within this wide-ranging field. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in logistics, then you’d be well-advised to pursue an advanced degree. Doing so will set you up for success throughout your career.
Let’s explore the supply chain sect, which many in the business space choose to specialize in when they obtain a Master of Business Administration (MBA). An advanced business degree in supply chain management prepares you with foundational knowledge to pursue several careers, such as chief executive officer, general and operations manager, purchasing manager/buyer, inventory manager, sales manager and more.
Streamlining the Supply Chain
For the most part, managing a supply chain is all about streamlining your operations to make them more efficient and profitable. The ultimate goal of supply chain management is to deliver products qualitatively while simultaneously lowering the associated costs, according to Flexlogistics.
The Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply recommends three main ways to streamline your supply chain:
- Automate your data flows: With so many teams working together to move products, data must be shared promptly. Automating your data flow is the best way to ensure this happens.
- Eliminate duplicate data: When duplicate data entry processes are eliminated, labor hours and time are saved, creating a system that is easier to maintain.
- Think ahead: Streamlining supply chains helps businesses look beyond tactical order fulfillment and better understand future customer needs.
Digital Solutions for Real-Time Visibility
Visibility — which Netsuite describes as a company’s ability to track goods and services as they move through each stage of the supply chain — is particularly critical in today’s business environment.
With effective visibility, logistics professionals can track and monitor goods at every stage of the supply chain. This allows them to make sure that everything is operating smoothly. If there is an issue, it will be clear exactly where the operation went awry. Visibility also allows for real-time insights, which gives decision-makers more time to respond to a problem.
To achieve real-time insights, supply chain professionals must keep tabs on the entire supply chain network. This network includes sub-suppliers, suppliers, manufacturers, logistics partners, wholesale distributors, retailers and end-users. With so many moving pieces, real-time visibility is incredibly valuable but also difficult to achieve.
Professionals who can guarantee real-time supply chain insights to their company will find themselves indispensable.
Lean Principles for Optimal Efficiency
Perhaps the most important aspect of modern supply chain management is cost management — a topic so crucial that Supply Chain Brain listed it as the number one supply chain trend of 2023.
Even a small supply chain can encompass dozens of steps, operators and touchpoints. For example, imagine the steps involved when mailing a simple letter. You must buy a pen, paper, envelope and a stamp. You must also make sure you have correctly input the recipient’s address. Finally, you must visit the post office or a mailbox.
Now, imagine how complicated the logistics process can get for large corporations. A relatively small company can process and send thousands of orders to multiple destinations using trucks, trains, ships and planes. On top of that, companies must also monitor the raw materials or products coming in from suppliers.
Every step along the supply chain requires a cost. If the business isn’t careful, these costs can quickly spiral upward. This is why companies place such an emphasis on maintaining a lean supply chain. Supply Chain Brain highlighted five main ways that logistics professionals can keep costs down:
- Add a surcharge for incremental fuel costs
- Shop for and select cheaper sources of transportation
- Focus on improving driver performance
- Incorporate home/last-mile delivery
- Prioritize eco-friendly deliveries
Since fuel is usually the biggest cost in a supply chain, most tips for improving costs revolve around regulating fuel costs.
Demand Forecasting and Inventory Management
There’s no doubt that supply chain management is a nuanced topic that requires on-the-job critical thinking. However, to succeed in the industry, you must also be current on modern operational strategies. This is why so many logistics professionals will choose to obtain an MBA either before entering the industry or when looking to accelerate their careers.
Some programs — such as St. Cloud State University’s online MBA with a concentration in Supply Chain Management — specialize in data processing software, distribution networks and inventory management tools. Students can complete this program entirely online in as few as 10 months.
It also offers specific courses such as the following:
- Supply Chain Foundations, Strategy, and Sourcing: Discover the core business processes and human resources to manage the flow of materials from suppliers to end users.
- Supply Chain Analytics and Performance Management: Learn standard and advanced analytical techniques to provide actionable business intelligence.
Graduates of an advanced business program focusing on supply chain management will have a strong handle on logistics efficiency, omnichannel relationships and the effective and efficient delivery of goods and services.