Supply chain management can be a satisfying career path for those who enjoy planning, organizing, and problem-solving. A 2020 survey by the Association for Supply Chain Management reveals that 88% of supply chain professionals have a positive outlook of their career. Furthermore, a majority of respondents would recommend this career to their peers.
If you are interested in working in the supply chain industry, you may choose to enroll in a master's degree that focuses on supply chain management. Before deciding to pursue this type of degree, you’ll want to learn about available career opportunities.
To get more information, we sat down with Annabelle Feng, John and Donna Krenicki Chair and Professor of Management at Krannert School of Management at Purdue University. She spoke about what the future holds for professionals with an MBA with a specialization in Global Supply Chain Management.
What Is Supply Chain Management?
Feng explains that supply chain management is the oversight of material flow, cash flow and information flow within an organization and across other companies.
Supply chain managers are responsible for coordinating the logistics of all aspects of the supply chain—from the sourcing of raw materials to the distribution of the finished products. As part of their supply chain management definition, Investopedia outlines five key parts of the supply chain:
- The plan or strategy
- The source
- Delivery and logistics
- The return system
While one of the main focuses of supply chain management is improving the cost-effectiveness of a company’s supply chain, this is not all that supply chain professionals do. “Supply chain managers also go across functional silos to understand how marketing strategies may affect logistics, manufacturing, and procurement,” says Feng. “This might include looking at how the company’s financial situation may affect supplier contracts, or how exchange rate fluctuations may affect incoming material flow.”
Why Is Global Supply Chain Management Important?
Global supply chain management incorporates the logistics of sourcing, manufacturing, transporting, and distributing products outside of a company’s base country.
Feng feels that two aspects of global supply chain management are particularly important for operations and supply chain management students to understand. Firstly, global supply chains can have a profound effect on strategic decision-making, demanding interdisciplinary knowledge. “For example, international companies need to ask themselves if they should move toward global sourcing for existing products,” says Feng. “How should you organize the logistics? If a 15% tariff is added or if a country’s border is closed, what will the implications be for your suppliers, employees, and customers?”
The second essential aspect of global supply chain management, according to Feng, is acknowledging that different regions will have different ways of operating. For example, manufacturers of auto parts in China may describe their quality standards in different measurements than U.S. automakers. This can create a challenge for brands looking for suppliers overseas.
Who Is a Good Fit for Global Supply Chain Management?
How do you know if studying global supply chain management is right for you? Feng explains that many of Krannert’s MBA students who choose to specialize in supply chain management share a few commonalities.
“Many of our students are either looking to strengthen their business knowledge to move up the ladder in an organization for a specific career area path, or are looking to broaden their business knowledge for a role change,” she says. She also notes that because there are so many career opportunities within the supply chain industry, it is common for students to take supply chain courses even if they are specializing in a different field.
What Skills Are Taught in the Global Supply Chain Management Specialization?
Krannert’s MBA program with a specialization in Global Supply Chain Management teaches three key levels of capabilities:
- Basic concepts, tools and business models
- Analyzing complex business situations and formulating strategies
- Managing teams
Feng mentions that most classes in the Global Supply Chain Management specialization include team projects or assignments that allow students to interact with and learn from one another. Since supply chain professionals frequently have to coordinate with both internal and external teams, it can be valuable for students to have the experience of managing different work styles, schedules and viewpoints.
“How you apply supply chain management theory is much trickier than just knowing the theory,” Feng says. “We are not just teaching what’s in the textbook—we emphasize when it works and when it doesn’t, and when it doesn’t, how to make it work. It’s all about determining what will derive business value.”
What Does the Future Hold for Supply Chain Management?
The pandemic highlighted some of the shortcomings of supply chains, with shortages for some products like toilet paper and hand sanitizer. As the economy recovers from the pandemic, many parts of the world are seeing significant shipping delays as the global supply chain struggles to keep up with increased demand.
Feng says that ongoing shortages and delays emphasize the need for supply chain professionals to be prepared for disruptions. “Supply chain risk management has always been a central topic in our curriculum,” she says. “Whether or not companies have contingencies in place can be the differentiator between those who survive and those who exit the market.”
Supply chain management can be a challenging career, but ultimately, the future looks bright for those who are able to be adaptable and strategic. “I think it’s our job to train our students to think more openly and broadly, so they know how to make a difference in events like the pandemic,” Feng says.
What Is the Job Outlook for Supply Chain Managers?
According to supply chain and distribution company Kenco Group, hundreds of thousands of supply chain jobs go unfilled each year due to a lack of qualified candidates. This presents a big opportunity for students who pursue a supply chain management degree.
O*NET OnLine predicts that jobs for supply chain managers will grow by 5%–10% from 2020–2030. This is consistent with the average expected growth rate for all occupations.
“All in all,” Feng says, “demand for supply chain talent is rising. This is especially true for new talents who have an understanding of current technologies and emerging business models.”
Some common job titles for those with an MBA with a focus in supply chain management include:
- Supply chain manager
- Purchasing manager
- Inventory planning specialist
- Production planner
- Operations manager
- Supply chain leader
- Project manager
- Lean manager
Feng also notes that her students have gone on to land supply chain management jobs in diverse industries. “We have graduates in electronics companies, energy companies, equipment manufacturing companies, telecommunication companies, retail companies and consulting companies.”
Prepare for a Supply Chain Management Career
“As our economy becomes more global, supply chains become more complex, and companies need talent to manage them efficiently,” Feng says. Earning an MBA with a concentration in Global Supply Chain Management can be a great way to get you ready for a career in the logistics and supply chain management space.
“Each individual faculty we have here at Krannert are leading scholars in their special areas of supply chain research. And we bring that knowledge into our curriculum design,” Feng says.
If you’re ready to start creating strategic initiatives for global businesses, reach out today to learn more about the Purdue Online MBA with a specialization in Global Supply Chain Management.