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Director of Supply Chain Operations Career Guide

Becoming a director of supply chain operations can be a rewarding career for individuals who are interested in planning, logistics, manufacturing and distribution across a wide range of industries.

This career guide provides a look into the director of supply chain operations position, including typical education and training requirements.

No two jobs are alike in this diverse field, but it is reasonable to expect competition for most positions. Prospective students are encouraged to conduct independent research regarding job growth rates and potential salary ranges, which can vary according to location, education and experience.

What is Supply Chain Operations?

Supply chain operations consist of all the steps required to bring a product to market. The director of supply chain operations is often required to manage wide-ranging aspects of the manufacturing process, such as procurement, delivery and warehousing of materials, inventory control and distribution of finished goods. These professionals also forecast demand, analyze inventory and troubleshoot issues that can affect supplies. The director of supply chain operations applies practices to respond to business challenges and advance organizational goals.

Why Supply Chain Operations Matter

Everything we wear, eat and use each day comes through a vast, interconnected web, or supply chain. Directors of supply chain operations ensure it functions efficiently and is cost-effective. The global nature of today’s business environment, along with the increasing use of lean manufacturing principles, means this field is growing in complexity and level of responsibility.

The director of supply chain operations often provides strategic direction and daily tactical support for an organization’s supply chain functions. Typical job duties include creating supply plans, monitoring sales forecasts to identify any effect on the supply chain, implementing waste reducing strategies and developing supply chain management procedures. These professionals may also be required to develop vendor relationships, negotiate with suppliers to minimize raw material and transportation costs, and develop processes to track performance.

Where Can I Find Jobs in Supply Chain Operations?

Jobs in supply chain operations exist in nearly every industry across the globe – including Fortune 500 companies. The qualifications required to break into this field often transfer across industries. Here are several sectors that employ directors of supply chain operations:

  • Manufacturing: These companies include, but are not limited to, food and beverage makers, chemical manufacturers, electronics firms, pharmaceutical companies and building materials manufacturers.
  • Distribution: Wholesalers and distributors are an important link on the supply chain, and require skilled professionals to serve their customers’ needs.
  • Information Technology: IT is another field where directors of supply chain operations may find career opportunities dealing with software developers, suppliers and other parties.
  • Healthcare: Healthcare is among the nation’s largest and fastest-growing industries, with extensive supply chain operations that require qualified professionals.
  • Retail: From grocery chains to department stores, retailers rely on supply chain experts to ensure their shelves are stocked with the goods their customers want when they want it.
  • Logistics: Many organizations use the services of third-party logistics firms to support their customer service, freight and supply chain operations.

Director of Supply Chain Operations Education Requirements

The qualifications required to enter and advance in this field will vary according to the specific industry and employer. Directors of supply chain operations come from a variety of educational backgrounds.

  • Associate’s Degree: It may be possible to secure an entry-level supply chain position with an associate’s, or two-year, degree. Employers often call for a strong background in finance, accounting and business administration, and typically require knowledge of distribution operating systems.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: Supply chain management positions generally require at least a four-year bachelor’s degree. Certain positions might require a degree in finance, business administration or a related field, while others require a technical background in information technology, engineering or a related field. Advancing your career in supply chain operations may require additional work experience or an advanced degree.
  • Master’s Degree: Qualifications for advanced supply chain positions, such as director of supply chain operations, may include a master’s degree in supply chain management, or a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA). These advanced degrees typically take an additional one to two years beyond the bachelor’s level.

In addition to the appropriate educational background, employers hiring for the director of supply chain operations position also consider candidates’ interpersonal and business skills, personal attributes and industry knowledge.

Potential Salary for Director of Supply Chain Operations Positions

The director of supply chain operations position may be included in the job classification of general and operations managers as defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Nationwide, job opportunities for those top executives are projected to rise by 7% from 2014-24.

As of May 2016, general and operations managers had median annual earnings of $99,310, the BLS reports.

Because salary potential is based on factors including location, education and experience, prospective students should conduct independent research to determine actual earning potential.

Director of Supply Chain Operations Training, Qualifications and Advancement

To achieve success as a director of supply chain operations, it’s important to have a solid grasp on the following areas of business:

  • Knowledge of raw materials, distribution of goods and manufacturing processes
  • An understanding of business and management principles, leadership strategies and strategic planning
  • Familiarity with the principles of transportation
  • Strong math skills
  • Knowledge of economic and accounting principles, forecasting, and analyzing data and financial information
  • The ability to manage people, build teams and communicate effectively

Director of supply chain operations positions will require industry-specific knowledge, whether you’re competing for a position with a food and beverage manufacturer or a healthcare organization. In addition, prospective employers will typically seek out individuals with the following personal attributes and business-related abilities:

  • Strategic leadership skills
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Strong analytic and problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work in a fast-paced environment
  • Attention to detail

Advancement in this diverse professional field requires work experience and educational qualifications. Some employers offer tuition assistance or reimbursement programs to enable working professionals to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Is a Director of Supply Chain Operations Career Right For You?

If you enjoy planning, analyzing and organizing multiple tasks, and have an interest in manufacturing and logistics, a director of supply chain operations career may be an excellent fit.

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