Supply chain management professionals need to understand the nuts and bolts of their company’s operations and vendor relationships. They often get involved in day-to-day decisions affecting operations and procurement. And that means that supply chain professionals increasingly belong in executive positions and the C-suite.
As more and more companies recognize the central role that supply chain management plays in their business success, there are few limits on how high the career path for supply chain managers can extend. Supply chain management professionals have more possibilities for advancement within the ranks of corporations than ever before.
Why supply chain executives are essential to businesses
Supply chains are the lifeblood of every business that manufactures or distributes products. Professionals managing logistics and supply chains perform critical functions, overseeing the smooth flow of goods that gets a company’s product to the right buyer, in the right place, at the right time.
That is why supply chain management professionals must be involved in - if not drive -executive decision-making and planning. Business planning that doesn’t incorporate the wisdom of the supply chain is missing key information and that can slow growth. Some corporations have recognized this by creating the position of chief supply chain officer (CSCO) and elevating supply chain management to the top level of corporate management.
The complexity of global supply chains has led to a hunt for talented supply chain executives, including chief supply chain officers. And the growing importance of e-commerce has made expert supply chain management a must-have for business success.
Supply chain executives step up into the C-suite
In the past, corporate leaders have not always seen supply chain management as an executive-level function. Supply chain managers were viewed solely as people who crunched numbers and supervised operations. The role was considered more technical than visionary. Supply chain professionals have themselves been slow to recognize the central role of supply chain management. A 2018 survey by Accenture found that even supply chain executives downplayed their own importance to their organizations. More interpreted their role as a support function (68%) or a cost-efficiency driver (60%) than growth enabler (53%) or competitive differentiator (48%). A disconnect between the supply chain manager and the executives who make far-ranging decisions about expansion and market position can hobble growth, according to the same Accenture report.
However, there is evidence that corporate leadership has gained a deserved appreciation for the value that experienced supply chain executives can bring to their organizations. The potential of supply chain management to drive market differentiation and growth is increasingly recognized in the C-suite.
One sign of this trend is the addition of the chief supply chain officer to the C-suite at many corporations. In fact, supply chain management expertise adds so much value in the corporate world today that supply chain executives are solidly carving out a career path that includes becoming CEO. In addition, where CFOs may have been expected to stand in for leaders with real supply chain management experience in the past, now management increasingly sees the CFO and CSCO roles as separate and complimentary.
As companies come to understand the importance of their supply chains to drive growth and set them apart from the competition, the role of supply chain executive will continue to expand and gain status. Recruiting firms increasingly recognize the need for C-suite level executives to have fluency in supply chain management.
This all adds up to a world of opportunity for supply chain professionals who have the qualifications for executive and C-suite positions. According to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), less than a third of supply chain managers have a master’s degree or higher level of education. An advanced supply chain management degree, like the Executive MBA for Global Supply Chain from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business, is exactly the kind of credential that can set apart and position you for a successful career as a supply chain executive.
Executive careers and salaries for supply chain managers
There are several approaches to the career path for supply chain professionals. The C-suite title of chief supply chain officer is just one potential job for supply chain executives. Other positions in supply chain leadership roles include senior supply chain manager, senior supply chain analyst, supply chain director, and senior supply chain planner.
Supply chain management positions on Glassdoor at the executive level shows that these positions offer high salary potential and a wide range of opportunities.
- Executive supply chain positions have a salary range as high as $236,200 per year. Job titles include Global Chief Supply Chain Officer; SVP, Integrated Manufacturing & Supply Chain; and Chief Procurement Officer. CSCOs perform a range of duties that can vary depending on the needs of the organization. Responsibilities can include identifying targets for acquisition to improve the supply chain, creating and refining supply chain procedures, improving manufacturing processes, or applying lean management principles to supply chain operations.
- Senior supply chain managers are in high demand, with more than 3,400 job listings on Glassdoor. Job titles include Senior Purchasing and Operations Supply Chain Manager; Logistics Manager; and Director, Business Operations. Supply chain managers are in charge of procurement, operations, logistics and supply chain.
- Supply chain director jobs were also in demand including 3,175 listings for these positions on Glassdoor.. Job titles in this category include Senior Director, Supply Chain; Director, Supply Chain Engineering; and Director – Supply chain management. A supply chain director analyzes the supply chain and uses that information to contribute to planning and operations. They measure the results of supply chain management decision-making to ensure that the logistics and supply chain are functioning efficiently.
- Supply chain planner roles have a top salary of $228,600 and job titles include Senior Buyer/Planner; Senior Planner, Materials; and Senior Planner, International Supply Chain. Supply chain planners design supply chains, with the goal of creating the most efficient and cost-effective logistics and supply chain, while also mitigating the risk of operational disruption to raw materials and manufactured product. These supply chain executives must be comfortable using data to drive their management decisions.
As production and distribution of goods becomes more global, supply chain executives will be in even greater demand. If you’re ready to expand your options for advancement and earning, a supply chain management degree at the executive level is a great option.
Steps to becoming a supply chain manager at the executive level
Supply chain executives are expected to produce measurable results for their organizations. They oversee all aspects of the supply chain, sometimes managing a complex network of suppliers, distributors, freight carriers, and fulfillment warehouses domestically and globally. Following a career path at the executive level requires a broad set of capabilities. The job of supply chain executives can encompass everything from strategic planning, to data analysis, to personnel management, as well as procurement and overseeing logistics and supply chain operations.
One of the most important characteristics of top-level supply chain executives is leadership. As a leader, you’ll need to be more than a good manager. You’ll also need to be a great communicator with the ability to bring your team together behind plans. Your actions as a leader will need to demonstrate your trustworthiness. Leadership qualities are among the most important differentiating factors that can put supply chain executives en route to the C-suite.
The role of CSCO has been called the “most transformative” in the C-suite. Recognition of the importance of supply chain management at the top level of the company represents a fundamental shift in corporate business models. The modern supply chain is much more dynamic than in the past. Rather than manufacturing and distributing a stable set of products over a long period of time, many supply chain executives today have to manage quickly-changing product line-ups. The ability to pivot on a dime to meet market demand is one of the hallmarks of excellent supply chain management in the age of e-commerce and global supply networks.
You’ll also need to be able to communicate and coordinate effectively across cultures. It’s rare to find a supply chain that doesn’t span the globe, so your ability to work with people in other time zones and with very different backgrounds is essential. While knowledge of other cultures and languages is helpful, the only requirement is being open to learn and ready to adapt your supply chain management strategies to the realities of the local communities that the supply chain touches.
In addition, procurement can mean not only acquiring products but also procuring the labor needed to meet demand during peak times. Managing logistics and supply chains with a fluctuating workforce--which requires attracting competent staff on a seasonal or temporary basis--is one of the biggest challenges facing supply chain managers today. They have to balance the fiscal constraints of their supply chain and the need to hire and retain staff. Your ability to lead and inspire your team will be key to your success in supply chain management at the executive level.
Supply chain executives, like all supply chain management professionals, have to wear many hats and bring a wide set of skills to the table. These demands are what make the job of overseeing supply chain management exciting and stimulating.
The connection between an advanced supply chain management degree and an executive career path
Some supply chain executives started in entry-level positions on the warehouse floor and worked their way up. Others came in at a management level, based on their education and leadership training. Most supply chain managers (67% according O*NET) have at least a bachelor’s degree, but to ascend the corporate ladder may require more than a BA. In 2013, The Wall Street Journal dubbed supply chain management the “hot new MBA.” Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that, in 2017, median weekly earnings for people with master’s degrees in all fields were almost 20% higher, on average, than for those with only a bachelor’s degree.
Employers value the capabilities learned in an advanced supply chain management degree program. The more you have demonstrated training in the skills that companies want in supply chain management leaders, the more likely your career path will lead to the top of the organization.
Take your career in supply chain management to the next level at the Haslam College of Business
If you aspire to supply chain management leadership and the C-suite, an advanced supply chain management degree is an important asset. The Haslam College of Business can give you the qualifications you need to advance your career in supply chain management.
The program is designed for working professionals averaging between 15 and 20 years of experience, so your cohort of students will be an excellent resource for valuable insights both in and out of the classroom. As a hub of supply chain management training, Haslam boasts an alumni network with ties to world-class companies like Mondelez, Dell, Caterpillar, Kenco, Johnson & Johnson, Boeing, Kraft, IBM, and P&G. For more information, visit the EMBA for GSC program.