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5 skills supply chain professionals need

As with any job, there are various skills supply chain professionals need to succeed in their chosen field. Here are the five each leader must possess.

COVID-19 put a spotlight on supply chain professionals and the important role they serve.

Those considering a role in supply chain management would do well to consider the skills they will need to enter the field or move up into positions of greater leadership.

Here are five skills every supply chain professional will need.

1. Good communication skills

Good communication skills are important in many lines of work. Supply chain professionals must communicate well because they work with multiple departments at their own company and with suppliers to get a product made and shipped to a customer. They need to keep communication lines open and running smoothly.

"You have to be able to talk to people of different professions, different responsibilities, different organizational areas, [and] different operational areas," said David Blanchard, author of Supply Chain Management Best Practices. "You have to be able to communicate … quickly, efficiently, effectively, and you need the respect from people that understand, this person knows what they're talking about."

2. A strong sense of ethics

Like any business leader, a supply chain professional must possess a strong sense of right and wrong and demonstrate that moral compass to colleagues and business partners. They must treat each supply chain partner fairly.

Supply Chain Management Best PracticesSupply Chain Management
Best Practices

"Take the mentality that we're all in this together so that you're not beating down your suppliers for the very last nickel on the price that you can get," Blanchard said. "You want to keep them in business."

3. Commitment to quality

Customers will quickly stop buying from a company that is producing subpar products. A supply chain professional must hold their company to the highest possible standards to ensure success.

"You [must demonstrate that you] recognize the difference between shoddy and high-quality and that you are committed to [the latter]," Blanchard said. "Companies will tend to live or die by their reputations and companies that make bad products don't tend to stick around for very long."

4. Time management

Getting tasks done in a timely manner is an important skill for any worker, and that's no exception for a supply chain professional. Anyone who works on a supply chain has many demands on their day, and they must be skilled at juggling all those demands.

"You've got to be really organized." Blanchard said. "[You must be] somebody who's well able to get everything done in a day that needs to be done and not [have] wasted that time."

Be well aware of what the latest and greatest in supply chain technology is right now.
David BlanchardAuthor, 'Supply Chain Management Best Practices'

5. Tech knowledge

Technology has a huge effect on the supply chain. Supply chain professionals must stay on top of the latest developments and be able to speak knowledgeably about how those developments could help the company.

"Not every supply chain person needs to be a technical wizard," Blanchard said.

The important thing is to appreciate and understand what technology can do to support supply chain improvements and business goals, especially as it relates to emerging supply chain technology, he said. 

"Be well aware of what the latest and greatest in supply chain technology is right now," Blanchard said. "That's a skill that companies are definitely looking for."

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