Many people are interested in pursuing Supply Chain Consulting as a possible career path. In fact, I get lots of Emails/LinkedIn messages asking various questions about Supply Chain Consulting every day. The most questions I receive from graduate students and young professionals is, “How do I go about building a career or shifting my career into Supply Chain consulting?”
So instead of answering these questions on an individual basis, I’ve decided to create a thorough guide on different types of careers in Supply chain consulting. I thought it was important to have experts in this industry guide you through what the jobs entail and offer their wisdom on how to succeed in the supply chain business. (Click on the links below to go directly to the experts.)
Supply Chain Consulting is an attractive career option…
why are so many professionals attracted to this type of consulting business? We will discuss several reasons in this guide, some of the reasons you will know, and some of the reasons may surprise you.
Consulting positions require that a consultant is always working on new projects. There will always be challenges, and work to do as a Supply Chain Consultant. This type of consultants works from a strategic level, and they tend to look and work towards the big picture on a goal. They aren’t managers for company’s day to day operations.
Consulting on this level has a steep learning curve for beginners, and requires a lot of client interaction, but Supply chain consulting also gives opportunities to work with leaders in the industry.
Its true supply chain consulting is a very rewarding career option. I’ve worked as a consultant for over seven years. All the reasons mentioned in this guide are good reasons to consider this career path. But, before making any moves, I feel it’s important that you understand the purpose of Supply Chain Consulting and what it takes to become successful in a consulting career.
Supply chain consulting is focused on three broad areas…
There are three broad areas that supply chain services are organized into, and every job can fit into one or more of these categories:
Supply Chain Strategy & Planning: This consultant often includes using advanced analytical tools like the Supply Chain Guru who helps to create the be strategies to improve supply chain performance. Consultants advise on Network design, Inventory Optimization, Total Cost Optimization, and Transportation planning just to name a few areas.
Supply Chain Process Consulting designs a roadmap for process improvement. These consultants analyze the supply chain processes and look for any weaknesses that can be improved. Consultants help to connect different processes within the organization, aligning them all to the main goals of the business.
Supply Chain Implementation Consulting: This category helps to implement the supply chain systems (ex. SAP, Warehouse Management software, Oracle, etc.) The consultant must have understood the systems they are implementing because they are the ones facilitating these systems into the larger supply chain organization.
Lisa Anderson is the President of LMA Consulting Group, Inc. Lisa is ranked 16 in SAP‘s Supply Chain Influencers and recognized as one of the top 1% of consultants worldwide.
“Supply chain consulting is always exciting. There are no two days that are ever the same! To engage with your clients and help them to keep their promises to their customers while achieving profits is amazing. Saying this, consulting should not be the first step into the area of Supply Chains for young professionals.
There are two different career paths when it comes to Supply Chain Consulting, one of the behind the scenes analysis and research, and one that has a direct impact on the clients. If you are interested in research and analysis, then a large consulting firm may be a good fit for you.
On the other hand, if you want to work directly with the clients and help to impact their performance positively, you need experience in the field first. No executive will respect the advice of a person who hasn’t had experience in the area that they are consulting on! The best bath would have the consultant spending time in research and analysis, and career progression in the actual supply chain to be a consultant.”
Some companies just specialize in supply chain consulting for just one of these categories, while some consulting companies offer services in all three of the categories. When you start your journey into Supply Chain consulting its best to decide where your interest lies, and the career path you are committing to in the Supply Plan Consulting industry.
Must have skills for supply chain consultants…
To become a successful supply chain consult you must obtain many different skills and they are divided into two categories.
- Supply Chain – the skills related to Supply Chain Management
- Consulting Skills – the general skills a person needs to be successful in any consulting job.
Supply Chain Skills
Since Supply Chain Consultation is a niche service, you must understand the components specific to supply chains. These skills are specific to which career path you have chosen. For example, if you wish to be a supply chain planning consultant, you would need to be very familiar with advanced analytic tools like Supply Chain Guru along with proven techniques to optimize the companies supply chain performance. However, if you are interested in the implementation side of supply chain consulting, you need to have an in-depth understanding of a different set of systems such as SAP and Oracle.
These are general skills that anyone in the consulting field needs like great interpersonal skills, presentation skills, you must be able to analyze a problem or approach, then have a structured way to solve the issues and determine great outcomes.
Both skill sets are equally important, and Jim Tompkins has some really good thoughts and advice on developing skill sets.
Jim TompkinsJim Tompkins is the CEO of Tompkins International and is an international authority on supply chain strategy and operations.
“There are two major pieces of advice that I can offer you when it comes to consulting and supply chain:
It’s best to have 3-5 years of experience before leaping joining a consulting firm. To excel in consulting, you need to be an expert in a technical and learn to consult at the same time. It’s a great idea to have 3-5 of training in the technical field you have chosen before you begin to learn the aspects of consulting.
The Supply Chain field is huge with many mega-processes within the overall process supply chain. The basic overview is: Plan- Buy- Make – Move- Store- Sell. So each of these processes has major impacts on the overall chain performance and helps to meet the plans overall expectations.
So, for example, it’s a good idea to choose one of the areas, let’s say transportation (move), but you also need to understand how transportation impacts other areas in the chain. Transportation has a direct impact on inventory and sales. This process of cause and effect goes on and on. The biggest challenge for a young professional in Supply Chain management is to understand how they can improve their process or area without harming one of the other areas.”
There are different types of businesses which offer supply chain consulting roles…
- Big Consulting Firms include well-known names like Deloitte, Accenture, etc. They generally consult to large corporations. They have both generalist consulting services and supply chain consulting services. They are always looking for smart, talented supply chain professionals.
- Boutique consulting firms are firms that often look for more experienced Supply Chain Professionals; professionals who have already had industry experience and have chosen a niche and clear pathway often are a great fit for these firms.
- Consulting divisions of product/service companies like Llamasoft, Chainalytics, etc. also have consultants that provide supply chain consulting to companies. These roles normally remain focused on their products and services. So, to land one of these consulting roles you need experience with their products.
- Internal Consulting Arms of Companies – Internal roles are on the internal supply chain of their company, including their companies’ entire global operations. This position is on an in-house team which has both positive, and negatives point just like any job. In house roles let you work on all the aspects of Supply chain management. So, if you enjoy working in the big picture, this might be a good match for you.
Bob ForshayBob Forshay is Principal at Mastermind Group, LLC. Apart from being a supply chain consultant, Bob is a renowned author and public speaker.
This job requires innovation. A supply chain consultant must focus on improvement and growth, all while doing business well. This is a powerful position where your priority is to serve your team best, helping to overcome complex and constantly changing variables. Employment has changed and to succeed in this economy and new job market you must be comfortable with ever-changing demands.
Breaking into supply chain consulting…
Now that you have a basic understanding of what supply chain consulting is and beginning to understand how it works let’s look at breaking into the supply chain consulting industry:
- Learn the technical and consulting skills needed for your niche.
- Become certified. Getting a supply chain certification enhances your credibility.
- Have a job search plan, if you are ready to become a consultant.
- Prepare a solid career plan, if you want to transition at a later stage, your plan should include goals along the way, and the way you will achieve this goal.
Rodney AppleRodney AppleRodney Apple is the Founder & Managing Partner of SCM Talent Group and is also an APICS Career Coach. He has been in the supply chain recruitment industry since 2001.
“It’s important that you develop a job search strategy in writing for optimal success, whether you have entered the workforce or still attending college. This should be your attack plan. This plan will help you land not just a supply chain consulting job, but the right supply chain consulting job for you. What’s great about job search strategies are that they are based on your business goals and your values.
Your job search strategy consists of a set of goals specifically made for your career. Along with these goals, you will create action steps. These are the tasks that you need to take to attain your goal.
Examples of action steps :
- Choosing a set amount of supply chain networking events
- Making / connecting with a certain amount of people in your industry online a month.
- Research on consulting firms
- List of companies you want to work for and rank them.
Once you found your firm, go to LinkedIn and connect with employees, leaders, etc. at the companies you are interested in joining. I recommend connecting with supply chain recruiters, HR professionals, employees (peer-level) doing the same type of job you wish to do. Send a personalized note, (short note) that explains why you want to work for their company, would be a good fit, and one attribute that will make you stand out from everyone else.
Also include your resume, optimizing your resume for your job you apply for this shows you have invested time into your job search. Make sure you emphasize the skills they are looking for in each resume.”
If you enjoy supply chain management and want to help, teams solve complex problems consulting may be a great career option for you! Even if you aren’t planning on becoming a consultant right away, it’s important to have a plan and already have the necessary skills when you do decide to transition.
Best of luck in your career endeavors.
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