Supply chain management is a fast-growing, technology-driven function within many global industries, including retail, healthcare, IT and construction. It refers to the regulation of the production and distribution network that exists between companies and suppliers, allowing them to source goods, manufacture products and market them to customers.
Supply chain finance is a subcategory of this field. And supply chain finance professionals help to simplify the process described above by finding financial solutions for buyers, suppliers and financial institutions. They analyze costs, timelines and technical functions, and work with bankers, board members, accountants, lawyers and manufacturers to keep money and goods moving around the globe.
With so many different and crucial responsibilities, supply chain finance professionals require a very broad set of skills. Keep reading to discover the 9 required skills that appear in almost every supply chain finance job posting.
1. Global Business Leadership
A significant percentage of supply chain operations have now gone global. This means that, in order to stand out as a supply chain manager, you will need to adapt your leadership skills to an international working environment. In addition to a knowledge of basic supply chain principles, it is essential that you understand the specific functions of global logistics, e.g., import and export flows, global labor requirements and sourcing.
2. Strategic Planning
Strategic planning is a necessary skill for any supply chain professional to have. A strong understanding of all the elements in a supply chain, which can include product development, marketing, operations, distribution networks and customer service, will enable you to deliver a quality service/product and solve any problems as they arise.
And if you are looking to specialize in supply chain finance, this skill is especially relevant. Scheduling shipments of goods, for example, requires strict organization, excellent time keeping and people management skills.
3. Project Management
As a supply chain manager, you will be responsible for planning and managing various projects, sometimes simultaneously. Project management skills, like the ability to manage risk, will help you ask the right questions and make informed decisions with regards to approving/turning down project proposals.
The most important project management skills you need to develop as a supply chain manager are negotiation, organization and risk analysis and management.
We’ve isolated negotiation specifically because it’s one of the most important skills for a supply chain leader to develop. Senior supply chain roles involve a lot of negotiation with people both inside and outside of your organization.
Here are a few examples of situations where you may be called on to negotiate as a supply chain manager:
- Procuring IT services
- Drawing up contracts for logistics services
- Brokering deals with product leaders
- Signing service agreements with customers
- In discussions with trade unions
- During a business merger/acquisition meeting
As a supply chain finance specialist, however, you will predominantly use your negotiation skills to ensure both the shipper and the buyer make a profit from a product shipment.
Supply chain and logistics roles are, by their very nature, subject to change. Changes in consumer demand, inventory levels, prices of goods, etc., will all affect your operations. So, the best supply chain leaders are flexible in their approach, because they know things don’t always stay the same or even go to plan.
Furthermore, by embracing change instead of resisting it, supply chain managers encourage innovation from their reports. One of the main functions of supply chain is product development, and being a flexible leader will give your designers all the license they need to get creating again!
The knack to effective communication in a global supply chain management role is knowing your audience. As a supply chain leader, you will interact with suppliers, senior management personnel and board members, who will all have different levels of familiarity with supply chain terminology. When working in an international logistics environment, proficiency with a second language may also come in handy.
If you specialize in supply chain finance, you may also have to prepare and present reports on financial transactions, revenue, expenses and budgeting to the board of your company.
Budgeting is an everyday responsibility for supply chain finance specialists. It is crucial for them to stay on budget when buying goods for manufacturing purposes. In order to come in at the right price, they need to understand balance sheets and forecasts.
Other budgeting skills supply chain finance specialists require include:
- Business admin
- Cash-flow forecasting
- Contract negotiation
- Financial planning and analysis
- Performance measurement
Forecasting is a way of making informed predictions about future trends based on historical data. Global supply chain and logistics firms create forecasts to predict future shipping costs, so they can plan budgets and allocate resources accordingly.
Supply chain management uses specialist technology, e.g. warehouse management and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and analytics software to support the decision-making process. And not only do you have to understand these systems as a user, you also have to have enough insight to be able to discuss your technology needs with providers. So, in order to be a successful supply chain leader, you will need to be a little bit tech savvy!
Are you considering a role in supply chain management or logistics?
Our BA (Hons) in Business Management (Supply Chain & Logistics) degree program will provide you with a comprehensive knowledge of business management and supply chain fundamentals as well as essential logistics and project management skills. On this course, students will learn about supply chain strategy, how international supply chains function, and how to create and manage sustainable supply chains.
Graduates will be well placed to accept roles in operations management, supply chain management, quality management and international trade.
For additional information, check out the course page on our website, or contact us to find out more.