Do you ever go down an aisle in a department store, see scores of products, and wonder how it all came into being? How it found a place on that particular aisle from the factory where it was produced? Well, it is the result of the invisible work of supply chain management that places the product you want to take home in that exact place.
Supply chain management is the process in place that makes a business efficient. As consumers, this process may not be visible to us, but it is a quintessential step in a business’s recipe for success.
In simple terms, supply chain management is the all-encompassing process of managing the flow of resources, data, logistics, and finances related to the manufacturing of a product or a service to its delivery to the consumers.
As the world-class logistics and supply chain master Martin Christopher says, “The real competition is between supply chains, not companies."
So, if you are someone who has the skills to work on the intricacies of supply chain management, we are here to provide you with the necessary insights into the job description, the responsibilities involved and what questions to prepare to crack the interview and get into supply chain management!
The Job Description and Responsibilities in Supply Chain Management roles
A professional in supply chain management has the mammoth task of managing every stage of the supply chain or the production flow of an organization, from the procurement of raw materials to the delivery of the final product; they also work closely with vendors and suppliers.
As a supply chain manager, you would need to ensure that the right quantity of goods is produced at the right time, along with coordinating the storage of the product after manufacturing.
- Create a company’s supply chain strategy
- Training and guiding employees
- Evaluating and reporting on SKUs
- Forecasting sales
- Maintaining inventory and records
- Analyzing data from shipping and deliveries
Qualifications to work in Supply Chain Management
The job roles in supply chain management are thriving because the supply chain is an integral part of almost every business. All graduates are eligible for job roles in supply chain management; however, it is helpful if you hold a degree in any of the related fields, such as:
- Supply chain management
- Business development
- Logistics management
- Information systems
If you do not have a background in these subjects, there are multiple certificate and diploma courses offered by eminent institutes related to supply chain management that will help you kick-start your career in this field.
Now, if you have bagged an interview with an established supply chain management company and want to give it your best shot, here are some supply chain management interview questions with answers that might help you land your dream job!
Supply Chain Management Interview Questions
We bring to you the top 20 questions asked in supply chain management interviews with sample answers that would help demonstrate your knowledge of the industry and the job role.
- What is the primary goal of supply chain management?
Supply chain management is driven towards improving efficiency, minimizing costs, and optimizing distribution and delivery channels. It aims to fulfill customer expectations by delivering the right goods at the right time and maximizing the company’s profits. All these purposes contribute to the primary goal of achieving efficiency in the organization.
- What comprises supply chain management?
Supply chain management includes supply planning, demand planning, product planning, sales and operations planning, and supply management.
Supply chain management is incomplete without its collaborative partners, such as suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, distributors, and customers. For a company to grow, it is important that supply chain managers communicate effectively with everyone involved in this process.
- What are the advantages of having good supply chain management?
A successful supply chain functions in accordance with its environment. For example, if there is a shortage of materials during a holiday season, the company must be prepared to adjust its production accordingly.
Good supply chain management would ensure that issues are resolved quickly, higher efficiency is achieved in production, there is increased output and profit levels, decreased cost effects, and a cooperative supply chain network. Overall, customer needs are met accurately.
- What are the benefits of having sustainable supply chain management?
Currently, the world is focused on adopting sustainable means to amend the harm it has caused to the climate. Supply chains, too, are changing to minimize their effect on the people and the planet.
A sustainable supply chain yields the benefits of reducing environmental impact, protecting the company against reputational damage as most consumers are environmentally conscious now, and improving the continuity of supply as it would help the company win more business with green credentials.
- How does supply chain management work?
Supply chain management is the integrated management of the movement of goods from the manufacturing stage to the final sale. It includes every process that turns raw materials into finished products. With an efficient supply chain, businesses can reduce costs and deliver products and services to customers quickly and efficiently. It prevents businesses from incurring expensive charges and prevents supply shortages.
- What is the difference between logistics and supply chain management?
Logistics and supply chain management are two different processes involved in a business. Logistics is a part of supply chain management; therefore, the latter forms the bigger picture.
- Logistics focuses on delivering products and services to consumers on time and at a competitive price.
- Supply chain management aims to identify processes that ensure a seamless and effective flow of goods, fulfilling customer needs and growing the business.
- How do you define SKU in the context of supply chains?
SKU stands for stock-keeping-unit. It is connected to inventory management in the supply chain. SKU refers to a specific item stored in a particular place in the inventory, and it optimizes order processing and purchasing.
- Are you updated on current supply chain management trends?
Interviewers prefer candidates who know the latest trends in the business. You can share any technological development that would aid in supply chains.
For example: “One trend that I recently came across is the increase in blockchain usages, which can increase supply chain visibility. It would help supply chains reduce administrative and paperwork procedures and improve fraud detection.”
- Which skills do you think are essential to be successful in supply chain management?
Supply chain management is a vast network of channel partners, and to be able to oversee the processes involved, it is necessary to have these skills:
- Exceptional relationship management skills and the ability to work collaboratively
- Powerful planning and strategy-making skills
- Exceptional written and verbal communication, with IT literacy
- Analytical and business management abilities
- What are the main issues that transportation faces during warehousing?
The processes of warehousing and transportation are a part of logistics. Some of the main issues that warehousing is riddled with are:
- tracking and communication issues making it difficult to schedule shipments
- shipment delays that may lead to extra costs
- warehouse safety, the lack of which can cause a loss of inventory
- Will supply chain management be automated in the future?
In the current scenario, it is implausible for supply chain management to become fully automated. However, with the rapid advancement of technology that the world is seeing today, it is a possibility that it might become fully automated in the future.
For many firms, the current focus is merely catching up to these advancements with new automatized technologies.
- What are the main supply chain challenges that businesses are currently facing?
The supply chain is evolving to meet new demands and tackle challenges. Some of the main changes that are currently creating challenges in the supply chain are:
- Multiple channels of marketing
- Increase in cost across the supply chain
- Consumer demands for quicker delivery and improved quality
- The changing nature of risk and cost management
- How would you improve a company’s supply chain management processes?
To answer this question, you must do extensive research about the company you are applying for and reply as per your findings.
For example: “After learning about your supply chain management processes, I would like to add green initiatives to the supply chain. Such an action would add to the company’s reputation and goodwill and also attract new business.”
- What would you do as a supply chain manager if your warehouse ran out of stock?
Here the employer would want to know what logical steps you would take if there were a stock decrease and how calmly you would handle the situation.
For example: “If we were to run out of stocks, my first step would be to identify the products or materials that we are lacking. Then, I would reach out to suppliers and see if we could get an emergency order of supplies.
Apart from that, I would cut down on ad spending for that product and take down its listings on e-commerce platforms.”
- What are the key elements in inventory planning and management?
Inventory planning and management are essential so that businesses always stay on top of stocks. For this, the best strategy would be to keep a balanced inventory and keep track of the movement of stocks. It is also important to review past orders and production to forecast sales in the upcoming months.
- What is the role of logistics in supply chain management?
Logistics is one of the most indispensable parts of supply chain management. Logistics is responsible for the flow of goods from manufacturing, and the journey of these goods until the end customer, along with the activities, reports and documents to track their movement. Logistics also handles shipping and storage. The end goal of logistics is to deliver products and services to consumers safely and promptly.
- Can you talk about any recent supply chain management book or article that you read and what you think of it?
Interviewers need to know if you are up-to-date and well-informed about the changes taking place in the industry. Here you can mention any article or book you recently read about supply chain and what you gained from it.
For example: “5G has entered the world stage, and it is set to alter the future of businesses. With 5G in the supply chain management, quality can be improved, and key areas of the supply chain altered, including transportation, distribution, and warehousing to become efficient.”
- What process do you follow to find the best suppliers for your products?
The employer seeks to know your method of finding and keeping great suppliers for the business.
For example: “Apart from reaching out to the pool of contacts that the company would have, I would also conduct online research to find the best suppliers within the given budget for the materials required. I would use my previous contacts in the supply chain and seek their help finding the best vendor possible.”
- Have you used any supply chain management software, and how have they been helpful?
Interviewers try to know if you have a solid knowledge of basic software used in the supply chain industry. You need to explain how you communicate with the suppliers, distributors, retailers, etc., using communication technologies.
For example: “At the previous company I worked in, we adapted to software that enabled 360-degree communication with all our channel partners. Using this software has increased the company’s efficiency and profits to 12%.”
- As a supply chain manager, how would you prepare for a holiday season?
Festivals and the holiday season are usually when companies see the largest influx of sales. It is extremely important for supply chain managers to be well-equipped for this period.
For example: “I will gauge the upcoming demand for the products by analyzing the sales of the previous holiday season and study the issues that we faced earlier and prepare for them. I will also diversify the carrier and delivery partners to be prepared for a surge in demand in different locations.”
Importance of having a supply chain management system in a business
In today’s dog-eat-dog world, it is important to be up-to-date with everything. Supply chain management helps forecast sales trends so businesses can manage inventories beneficially and ensure the smooth movement of goods from distribution centers to stores and, finally, the consumers.
The primary function of supply chain management is catering to increase a business’s efficiency and cost saving. However, the focus of supply chain management has shifted to putting the consumers at its center - how and when the consumers want their orders to be fulfilled. Because the more accurately a business can fulfill customer expectations, the more loyal customers it will acquire. Therefore, an efficient supply chain management system translates to a booming business.