Supply Chain Planner Job Description
Most businesses deal with some type of material or product. It’s the supply chain planner’s job to ensure every deliverable, from cellphones to aircraft engine parts, is delivered on time, in the right quantity, and in a manner cost-effective for the company. This mid-level position is ideal for the analytical type: the individual who’d rather solve a Rubik’s Cube on the weekend than do anything else. Supply chain planner is a full-time job that allows for remote work. However, some travel and warehouse time may be required in certain industries.
Supply Chain Planner Duties and Responsibilities
A supply chain planner must have the ability to look at the chain from upstream to downstream with both short- and long-term planning in mind. While each industry handles different products and materials, these job responsibilities are common across the board:
Supply chain planners look at current processes and determine methods for improvement with regard to cutting costs, controlling and replenishing inventory, and shipping products. They also troubleshoot breakdowns along the chain and respond fluidly to unexpected events.
A savvy supply chain planner understands that finding new efficiencies can mean going with a new vendor that doesn’t deliver on promises or choosing a cost-saving shipping path that ultimately delays delivery to the end customer. They know some changes along the supply chain come with risk, but they’re able to manage those risks effectively without losing sight of their job’s core purpose.
Supply chain planners realize that endpoint delivery requires human hands and judgment as well as some factors beyond anyone’s control. They plan logistics with product and driver safety in mind. Staying up to date on destination factors such as snow and ice, which could delay package shipments and jeopardize driver safety, is just one such concern. They also encourage safety practices among warehouse staff.
Supply chain planners use technological tools and internal data to generate reports that detail efficiencies as well as areas needing improvement. They typically report their findings to the supply chain manager.
Supply chain planners don’t work in a silo. They supervise others, though the number of employees on their team will depend on the industry and size of the company. This facet of the job is wide-ranging. It entails everything from supporting day-to-day operations to ensuring entry-level team members are abiding by customer service best practices and directives from the supply chain manager.
Supply Chain Planner Skills and Qualifications
The supply chain planning profession requires a mix of job-specific and universal skills. Most in the profession are expected to demonstrate the following abilities:
- Forecasting – supply chain planners must juggle current inventory needs, immediate customer demands, and probable future sales to maintain balance between fulfillment and replenishment needs
- Logistics – they must know the geographical path and transportation methods that guarantee customers receive their shipments when needed. The planner also manages overhead influences that could potentially increase costs
- Inventory management – they should show proficiency with inventory management software and company assets to promote a healthy supply chain with a steady flow of goods and materials
- Communication skills – supply chain planners should expect to communicate in writing and verbal conversation with a wide range of characters, from dock workers to high-level executives and business owners
- Self-motivation – the planner doesn’t wait for someone else to do what needs to be done. They’re proactive whether working independently or under supervision, and they bring out the same drive in others
Tools of the Trade
Common tools used by supply chain planners include the following:
- Microsoft Suite (Word, PowerPoint, and especially Excel)
- Industry-specific software systems (SAP ECC, JDA Demand and Fulfillment)
- Inventory management software (StockIQ, 3PL Warehouse Manager, Halo, iM3 Supply Chain Suite)
Supply Chain Planner Education and Training
Most companies require a bachelor’s degree in engineering, business, economics, operations management, or a related field. However, it’s not uncommon to see any type of bachelor’s degree accepted with relevant work experience. In fewer cases, a high school diploma will suffice, provided the individual has worked in a supply chain for a minimum number of years that will vary by company. In some cases, certifications are required. The Chicago-based American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS) is the industry leader in supply chain-specific training programs.
Supply Chain Planner Salary and Outlook
The salary and benefits packages supply chain planners receive vary depending on the size and health of the employer as well as the specialized nature of the industry they workin. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) refers to supply chain planners as logisticians and notes an average annual salary of $74,590, or $35.86 per hour.
The BLS expects job growth of 7 percent through 2026, which is even with average job growth across all sectors. Potential changes to watch for in the industry include the rise of automated supply chain delivery systems companies like Amazon that are considering ideas like drone delivery. This change will require even greater technological proficiency from supply chain planners in the years to come.
For anyone interested in taking a deeper dive into supply chain planning, here are some valuable resources:
American Production and Inventory Control Society – APICS offers a number of training programs for supply chain planners that will make them more marketable across industries. These include the CPIM, CSCP, and CLTD exams, as well as the SCOR Endorsement
Supply Chain and Logistics Management Made Easy: Methods and Applications for Planning, Operations, Integration, Control and Improvement, and Network Design – author Paul Myerson delves into every aspect of supply chain and logistics management. While the book’s 352 pages may be something of a deep dive for the aspiring or newbie supply chain planner, it’s required reading if a long-term career is the goal. Myerson uses his 30-plus years of experience with companies such as General Electric, Unilever, and Church and Dwight to offer more scope than readers are likely to get from another manual
Capterra’s List of Supply Chain Management Software – this resource gets planners up to speed on industry-specific software programs that will help them manage inventory, plan logistics, and integrate reporting with existing company systems
Lean Six Sigma for Supply Chain Management, Second Edition: The 10-Step Solution Process – author James William Martin applies his three decades of knowledge in the area of Lean Six Sigma to the supply chain management world. For planners hoping to move to the next level, these are the practices to get there. Martin tackles topics like demand management, root-cause analysis, and big data analytics
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