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7 Skills You Need To Master To Become A Successful Supply Chain Leader


Supply-chain is a multi-disciplinary business field that deals with several departments at one time. Their activities are not limited to production, warehouse, and distribution but also include customer safety and satisfaction, legal affairs, and budget allocation. All in all, successful supply chain management demands a skilled manager to run their affairs smoothly.

If you are looking forward to a sustainable future in logistics management, you should excel in the following set of soft and hard skills.

1. The Three Cs of Business.

Though supply-chain is a technical business field, it requires coordinating with people all the time. Being a logistic manager, you will be dealing with several people every day, having a different mindset and approach. If you want to lead a successful business, you have to excel in the following skill set of three Cs of the business world:

  • Communication: A successful communication involves sharing ideas and values clearly with the receiving party. It may be in an oral form such as meetings and presentations or written form, for example, emails, letters, or memos.
  • Coordination: Your coordination skills in supply-chain management involve synchronizing different sub-departments to achieve the same end goal.
  • Collaboration: As a supply-chain manager, you should know how to convince the suppliers or distributors to collaborate and maintain a sustainable relationship with your company.

As companies have now understood the need for soft skills, many business degrees have made it a mandatory part of their curriculum. You will also find some online MBA in Supply Chain Management Programs that have similar capstone projects. The end goal is to achieve a successful career in the supply chain sector with pronounced soft skills.

2. The art of negotiation.

Dealing with vendors and distributors is a major part of supply chain management. Excelling in negotiation is vital to becoming a successful logistic and distribution manager.

There are several scenarios where the art of negotiation is required—for example, brokering a deal with suppliers, legal agreements, and procurement of services. If you are on high-level management, you need to make decisions for mergers and acquisitions.

Make sure that you have a win-win mindset for the best negotiation. A decision that will benefit both parties will lead to long-term, successful business relations.

3. Inventory and Budget Management.

The goal of inventory management is to optimize warehouse space by preventing excess inventory from piling up and falling behind on shipments. Too much stock directly translates into higher costs, while too little means losing customers. Similarly, keeping track of consumable items requires good inventory management skills. These items can go to waste if kept in the warehouse for too long.

Budget management is just as crucial as inventory management. You should know which items on your list have high demand, what machines yield the highest efficiency, and how much workforce is required. A correct analysis of these factors can help you allocate the right budget for each activity.

4. Flexibility to Contingencies.

The dynamic culture of the supply-chain industry requires a high amount of flexibility in its approach. Whether it’s a local contingency or a global change, logistic managers are always ready to adapt to the new environment.

The common challenge for you as a supply chain leader is recovering from the disruption as soon as possible with minimum damage. In short, you will need to be skilled in the following areas:

  • Capacity Flexibility: The ability to swiftly adjust production based on the change in demand
  • Delivery Flexibility: Making changes to the delivery amounts, methods, or dates in line with the contingencies

All-in-all, you will need to play a key role in optimizing the effectiveness of flexible logistic management – including planning, reducing risks, and maximizing the output.

5. Technical Skills.

A supply chain manager must be adept in technical areas, including machine learning, data analysis, and artificial intelligence. Additionally, there are several subjects you should be good at, such as linear programming, probability, and statistics. Data analysis is another area where you should be proficient. The knowledge of cloud computing systems and enterprise software like ERP, WMS, and TMS is vital for your sustainable career in supply-chain management.

6. Networking Skills.

The large size of the supply chain management field demands immense networking skills. Since no one manager can be in charge of everything, building trust with colleagues (subordinates and employees) is essential.

As a supply-chain manager, you must have many suppliers and vendors. Also, you need to be in the loop to keep yourself updated. As part of a B2B field, your networking skills would benefit you in the long run, for example, knowing market trends, getting leads, and quoting the best prices.

7. Problem Solving Skills.

To become a successful supply chain manager, you must have the ability to tackle problems quickly and make sound decisions. Given that not all the issues are foreseeable in advance, you will be required to identify problems in real-time, then swiftly formulate and execute the solutions.

Effective problem-solving in supply-chain management requires a good knowledge of business operations and tools. It also mandates strong decision-making – the ability to analyze a situation and make the best out of the worst.

Final Thoughts.

Supply-chain management is an advanced business field that requires a large set of skills. While one may learn technical skills in school, communication, negotiation, and problem-solving skills develop from experience over time. However, once you get proficient in the skills mentioned above, you can win your goal of becoming a successful supply-chain management leader.