Supply chain analyst career path has emerged as one of the most popular supply chain career options in last decade or so. The importance of supply chain management in overall business management has increased significantly. Combine this with the increasing complexity of supply chains and you can explain why various organizations are looking more and more for specialists who can leverage data to help improve supply chain performance.
Despite its popularity, the amount of resources and guidance available to students interested in supply chain analyst career path is very limited. There is an ever increasing lack of clarity on the roles of analysts and the lack of standard nomenclature doesn’t help either. I always read graduate students and freshers asking questions like “what does a
supply chain analyst do?”, “how do I break into a supply chain analyst role?”, “what do my potential employers look for in an ideal candidate?”, “what does an ideal supply chain analyst resume look like”, on various forums. But nowhere do they get comprehensive guidance on pursuing a career as a supply chain analyst.
Companies in most sectors including automobile, CPG, retail, e-commerce, consulting etc. look to hire graduates for entry level supply chain analyst jobs. However, it is important for graduates to understand what skills are required for an analyst position and how they can build those skills while in college so that they can land a job in an analyst role straight out of college. So, I have created a comprehensive guide for supply chain students who are interested in pursuing a career as an analyst.
In this guide, I will cover, various topics related to the supply chain analyst career path:
What does a supply chain analyst do?
The question that gets most commonly asked is: “what does a supply chain analyst do?”. So, here is the answer: A supply chain analyst is responsible for analyzing the flow of goods through the supply chain in order to identify gaps and issues in current operations and processes. The analysts further use analytical techniques to identify ways to improve the supply chain performance. Sounds like a textbook answer? Let’s get into further details.
Analysts play a critical role at every stage of supply chain management, be it: raw material sourcing, production planning, inventory management, demand planning, distribution planning or even network design. The role of a supply chain analyst includes gathering data, analyzing data, communicating with supervisors, peers or subordinates and finally enabling decision making. This should make it a little clearer.
Let’s take one specific example. A supply chain analyst working in demand planning function is responsible for creating and maintaining forecast models for the customer demand, incorporating business intelligence and forecast information gathered from different functions like sales, marketing etc.
Entry Level Supply Chain Analyst Jobs
As mentioned earlier, supply chain analysts play a role at different stages of a supply chain. Analysts are involved in managing sourcing, production, inventory, network and almost every supply chain activity. There is a lack of standardization (as you normally see in the consulting industry) as far as the analyst positions in various companies are concerned. However, I have listed out the popular entry level job roles for supply chain analysts:
Sourcing Analyst –
A sourcing analyst is responsible for collecting and analyzing data in order to evaluate the efficiency of company’s sourcing spends, evaluate various vendors, forecast outlook of supply markets, formulate optimal sourcing strategies and so on. A sourcing analyst is also responsible for maintaining relationships with company’s suppliers as well buyers (both external and internal).
Materials Analyst/Planner –
A materials analyst is responsible for managing availability of raw materials and components needed for production of finished goods. He/she coordinates the entire process with sourcing, production and transportation teams to ensure that the materials can be delivered for the production process in an efficient manner.
Production Analyst –
A production analyst is responsible for preparing production plans and schedules. The analyst uses forecasting and scheduling tools to generate plans & schedules at different levels. In many organizations, you will find different roles for a production planner (more tactical in nature) and a production scheduler (operational in nature).
Inventory Analyst –
An inventory analyst analyzes data to determine optimal inventory targets for various products and locations. The analyst further tracks the actual inventory and customer service goals achieved. Broadly speaking, an inventory analyst is responsible for keeping inventory levels low while meeting customer service goals.
Demand Planning Analyst –
A demand planning analyst is responsible for creating and maintaining forecast models for the customer demand, incorporating business intelligence and forecast information gathered from different functions like sales, marketing etc. In the process, the analyst coordinates with production, sales, marketing and other supply chain teams.
Deployment Analyst –
A deployment analyst is responsible for ensuring the availability of products at different locations based on their requirements. The analyst works closely with production, warehousing and transportation teams to ensure optimal deployment of finished goods so that customer service goals are achieved at minimal cost.
Transportation Analyst –
A transportation analyst is responsible for evaluating, selecting and managing carriers for both inbound and outbound goods. The analyst not only manages relationships with carriers but also with customers, both internal and external. The analyst helps drive initiatives to reduce transportation costs.
Supply Chain Modeling Analyst –
A supply chain modeling analyst is responsible for building mathematical models of a supply chain and further leverage advanced analytical techniques like optimization and simulation to improve supply chain performance. Supply chain modeling analysts play a critical role in areas like supply chain design. You will like to read this article on 5 reasons why supply chain modeling is a great career option.
There can be many more supply chain analyst positions based on the nature of business and company, organization structure and so on. However, these are some of the most popular supply chain analyst positions in the industry.
Generally, a supply chain analyst works in multiple roles within the supply chain before moving to positions of greater responsibility. For example, an analyst might work in demand planning, production and inventory roles before progressing to senior positions. As you gain experience and demonstrate your capabilities to the organization, you will progress to a senior analyst, a supply chain manager and maybe even a supply chain leadership position. The exact career progression will depend on your capabilities as well as your organization.
Supply Chain Analyst Skills
Now that you have clarity on the role of an analyst within a supply chain organization, it’s really important to understand the skills required for the job. Even though there are many skills required for success in analyst positions, however I have listed 5 most specific and important skills here:
Ability to Analyze Data –
Supply chain analysts use good amount of data as part of their daily job. Now it can be either production data, demand data or transportation rate data but the most important thing is the ability to analyze the data and enable decision making.
Problem Solving Skills –
Analysts spend a lot of their time in identifying problems in current processes. Once the problems are identified, the analysts need to design effective and practical solutions to those problems. This makes problem solving skills a critical skill for a supply chain analyst position.
Most of the supply chain analysts coordinate with multiple teams within and outside supply chain organization. As a result, excellent communication skills are critical to success in this position.
Negotiation Skills –
Negotiation skills are very important for supply chain analysts in general and sourcing and transportation analysts on particular. Supply chain analysts in teams like sourcing, customer service and transportation work closely with external partners and they often need to negotiate on rates, terms and conditions, delivery dates etc.
Strong Knowledge of Tools/Software –
Analysts need to have a good working knowledge of common applications like Excel and Access as they spend a lot of time working on these applications. In addition, analysts need to have working knowledge of software like SAP, Supply Chain Guru etc. depending on their job responsibilities.
Apart from these skills, the supply chain analysts also need to have a strong understanding of supply chain management including functions like sourcing, production, distribution etc. Companies generally look for a combination of these skills and supply chain knowledge for hiring in analyst positions.
Analytical Capabilities Leveraged by Analysts
I have already discussed how ability to analyze data is among the most important skills required for a successful supply chain analyst career path. However, in order to analyze data, analysts leverage various analytical capabilities. SAS had published a report on various levels of supply chain analytics and here are the 8 different analytical capabilities:
Standard Reports –
The most basic analytical capability is to prepare standard reports on a regular basis and these reports are consumed by various stakeholders in the supply chain. An example will be a weekly case-fill report.
Ad Hoc Reports –
Apart from regular reports, the analysts also prepare ad hoc reports which help supply chain stakeholders to dig a little deeper into a problem.
Query Drilldown –
Supply chain management analysts also write custom queries to help further drilldown to discover the source of the problem.
Analysts also work on generating alerts to identify when a problem occurs and enable proactive steps to contain the damage. For example, analysts raise an alert when the customer service falls way short of the target in a particular week.
Statistical Analysis –
Analysts also use techniques like regression analysis and cluster analysis to design solutions to various supply chain problems.
Supply Chain Analysts use various forecasting tools and techniques to predict future demand, future prices of raw materials, transportation rates etc.
Predictive Modeling –
Analysts use predictive modeling techniques to facilitate contingency planning for the supply chain and thus minimize supply chain risks.
Optimization analysts use various tools like Excel and Supply Chain Guru to help find the best way to accomplish supply chain goals.
While standard reporting is considered to be the most basic analytical capability, optimization is considered the most advanced one. Based on the nature of role of a supply chain analyst, he/she leverages one
or more of these capabilities. For example, a supply chain modeling analyst will use predictive modeling and optimization more frequently than analysts involved in managing operations.
Supply Chain Analyst Salary Details
An important component of supply chain analyst career path is the salary details. In fact no career guide can be said to be complete unless it covers salary part for the concerned job roles. As per salary.com, the median annual supply chain analyst salary in United States is $71,609, as of May 31, 2016, with a range usually between $61,921-$85,116. However, the salary can vary depending on a number of factors like:
- Years of experience,
- Specific role – For example, supply chain modeling analysts earn 20-30% more than analysts in other roles
- You can check websites like Indeed.com and Salary.com for more details on the salary part.
Tips for Building a Perfect Supply Chain Analyst Resume
Job hunting is not easy and most students struggle with this part. Now that you have idea about different aspects of a supply chain analyst career path, I will share some tips which will help you build a perfect supply chain analyst resume.
The biggest challenge that most supply chain students face is related to their lack of experience. It’s not easy to go straight from your education to working as a supply chain analyst. However, there are ways to gain experience and make your way into a professional supply chain analyst job over time. Following are some tips that will help you overcome your lack of experience in the field:
- Get an internship in a similar role. If you find it difficult to get an internship, try and get involved in some projects in your college.
- Develop a working knowledge of tools like Excel, Access, SAP or Supply Chain Guru. Having experience in advanced tools like SAP or Supply Chain Guru will be a big boost for your resume
- Explore certification programs like CPIM to gain further credibility
Apart from lack of experience, you also need to get other aspects of your profile right. “Maintain a good GPA” is the first basic tips that anyone will give you. You need to develop and highlight relevant skills like analytical skills and communication skills.
If you follow the tips that I have shared, you will not just have a perfect supply chain analyst resume but you will be able to stand out as a candidate for supply chain analyst jobs. I am not an expert on job search or interviews but you can get some tips in the two articles listed below:
So, if you love playing with numbers and if complex problems excite you, supply chain analyst career path is the right option for you. So, are you ready to launch your career as a supply chain analyst? If yes, focus on building the right skill sets and getting right experience to stand out as a candidate.
Wishing you all the best for your career!
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