Supply Chain

Supply Chain Analyst: A Regulatory Center of the Supply Chain

July 1, 2021

Looking to become a supply chain analyst or learn how to find one for your business? This deep dive tells you everything you need to know first.

Information is only good if you know how to use it.

The duty of the supply chain analyst is to take critical operational information and apply it accordingly to improve performance, bolster supply chain strength, and lower costs. Supply chains can be landmines for little problems. The supply chain analyst ensures proper flow of goods through each channel of the supply chain by gathering and analyzing data for each channel specifically, reducing any inefficiencies along the way, solving any problems, and establishing a profitable flow of the product to the end consumer. 

The supply chain analyst lives in a specific world. When compared to a supply chain specialist - whose responsibilities deal in more general terms than the supply chain analyst - you can see how the two are similar but distinct. The duties of the supply chain specialist view the supply chain from a wider lens, enacting broad actions from above and affecting change at larger scales. Think: ordering materials, overseeing billing, facilitating shipments, and managing the process from an organizational overview. In relation, the supply chain analyst takes specific data from any one part of the supply chain and deep dives for any way to maximize the margins in that space. The two can be a tag team for the ages if you find the right duo.

Now, compared to a supply chain strategist, this is more of a micro and macro relationship. The supply chain strategist implements strategy into the overarching process of the supply chain. The supply chain strategist sets into motion any fundamental change in the way things are done (working with finance teams to certify profitability, working with new vendors, operating under a new plan, moving teams of people, etc.) in order to improve the overall success of the supply chain. The supply chain analyst doesn’t affect broad strategy, unless it’s through reporting of findings in a specific arena of the chain.

The supply chain analyst roams the singular, specific areas of many supply chain channels - looking for ways to make it better through data analysis, and presenting recommendations based on that analysis. The supply chain specialist takes control of the flow of the supply chain by coordinating efforts between the channels of the supply chain while completing some administrative tasks. The supply chain strategist oversees the entire effort by enacting and implementing a top-down strategy to increase profitability of the supply chain. The supply chain job title is similar for these three, and while they definitely do rely on each other and interact often - the duties of each role are distinct and necessary to supply chain vitality.

What Does a Supply Chain Analyst Do?

Gather information, incite action, and interact with colleagues; that’s essentially what a supply chain analyst does, all with the goal of maintaining the streamlined flow of goods and materials through the supply chain. This role requires an eye for numerical details and the ability to spot trends, as well as determine the actions necessary to remedy any low-value situations and report on them.

The supply chain analyst roles and responsibilities can be grouped into three main functions: data analysis, formulating and presenting recommendations, and collaboration. Let’s take a deeper look at those:

Data Analysis

Unless your supply chain is picture perfect (which, let’s be honest, no one’s is), then there’s errors that need to be addressed. The supply chain analyst’s job is to address operational and transportational missteps as they occur on a day-to-day basis. But locating these errors isn’t always easy. That’s why data analysis is crucial to supply chain flexibility

The supply chain analyst’s role is to assess a variety of reports to quickly identify and reconcile any negative trends or productional hiccups in the supply chain. The source of this data are usually reports like production reconciliation and production schedules, inventory management, input and output data, various forecasts measured against current reality, and other metrics that are specific to channels of the supply chain.

Formulating and Presenting Recommendations

After the supply chain analyst has poured over the data and put out any immediate fires, the next major role of the position is to identify trends and formulate recommendations for procedural improvement, cost-cutting, and transforming value points in the supply chain. These findings are typically presented to company executives during regular meetings. So beyond needing an analytical eye, the supply chain analyst must also be confident and comfortable presenting information to C-suite executives.

Collaboration

Once new procedures or fixes are decided upon, based on the analyst’s recommendations - it’s time to put these plans into action. Engaging in extensive collaboration across multiple departments in order to coordinate a streamlined flow of materials, managing projects and implementing improvements is the big final step in the supply chain analysts’ role. However, this is rarely a linear process. All three of these functions listed here usually co-exist. The ability to focus on multiple moving targets is a priority for anyone considering becoming a supply chain analyst. 

Specific coordination efforts may include negotiation with vendors, addressing consumer concerns, communicating across internal teams on updated operational processes, and addressing consumer needs in order to boost sales.

These roles and requirements of the positions take a specific level of talent. So, what kind of skills are needed by a supply chain analyst?

Supply Chain Analyst Skills

As we’ve touched on already, the successful supply chain analyst contains a cross-functional set of skills. The person needs the ability to analyze data, both for specific improvements and broad strategy recommendations. The person also needs to be able to utilize that analytical mind by coordinating their findings across multiple points in the supply chain - so there is a people-person aspect to this role, no doubt. The person must be excellent at identifying trends - both good and bad. All in all, a high-quality supply chain analyst resume combines most, if not all, of the following skills:

Hard Skills

  • Experience or knowledge in supply chain management
  • Experience or knowledge in inventory management
  • Mathematical ability
  • Experience or knowledge in business improvement analysis 
  • Data analysis skills
  • Competency in data management and related softwares
  • Forecasting knowledge and ability
  • Experience or knowledge in project management

Soft Skills

  • Strong interpersonal and collaborative skills
  • Professional communication skills for intra organizational and external interactions
  • Apt negotiation skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to multitask, work well under pressure, and thrive in a fast-paced environment
  • Ability to conceptualize broad-scale projects and related outcomes

What Education Does a Supply Chain Analyst Need?

Technically speaking, only a high school diploma is required for anyone hoping to earn the title of supply chain analyst. But in reality, it’s much more involved than that. An ideal candidate has a bachelor’s degree, or even a master's degree, preferably in business management, marketing or supply chain management. There is no such thing as a supply chain analyst degree in education, but if there were it would likely include the need to complete an internship related to supply chains, as well as obtaining professional certifications such as Planning and Inventory Management certification from the Supply Chain Management Association. That’s the best way to navigate yourself towards becoming an analyst in supply chains.

This is a role where proven experience is required - you won’t find many manufacturers that take a chance on someone without supply chain experience for this role.

How Do You Become a Supply Chain Analyst?

But since there is no crystal-clear pathway to becoming one, how exactly does a person end up as a supply chain analyst? As we mentioned, a solid degree is a good jumping off point. This demonstrates that you maintain a passion and desire to work in supply chain, that you succeed when tested, that you have years of experience with Microsoft suite products like Excel, know your way around the warehousing side of things, work well with analytics and communicate with other individuals within the industry. 

Beyond a degree, a proven track record in the supply chain is a preferred next step. A supply chain internship - say with a local logistics company or manufacturer where you can get in on the ground floor and work directly with management, get a handle on ERP, KPIs, and other supply chain data, understand the flow of supply chain processes, visualize what process improvement really is, and lock yourself into the world of SCM. This looks excellent to future employers.

To stand tall in comparison to your competition, a professional certification goes a long way. These certifications are ones like: APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional Certification, SAP - Systems, Applications and Products in Data Processing, APICS Certified in Production and Inventory Management, APICS Supply Chain Operations Reference Endorsement, APICS Certified Logistics, Transportation and Distribution, SOLE Certified Professional Logistician, and ISM Certified Professional in Supply Management - just to name a few.

For entry-level supply chain roles, there’s plenty of diversity - both in industries, as well as types of roles. Major industries that have been landing pads for recent graduates looking to move into a supply chain role include: automobile, consulting, e-commerce, retail and consumer packaged goods. Within those industries, available supply chain job titles include: sourcing analyst, materials analyst, production analyst, inventory analyst, demand planning analyst, deployment analyst, transportation analyst, supply chain planning analyst or supply chain modeling analyst.

Given the various industries that are heavy-handed in supply chain jobs, and the many styles of supply chain analyst job titles available - you can see that finding your niche is going to be crucial. What are you good at, what do you do well, and which of the above fit your skills well? Once you’ve begun to hone in on some possible options, start applying to jobs. Talk to everybody. The more experience surrounding yourself with the people of the supply chain world - even if only through unsuccessful interviews where you faltered in response to some supply chain analyst interview questions - the more you will understand the industry and what is expected of you.

The type of person well-suited for a supply chain analyst role is naturally drawn towards a structured environment, with detail-specific habits and a proclivity for leadership. And if you can produce a proven track record for your supply chain analyst resume, there’s good money to be made.

Supply Chain Analyst Salaries

Now to the part that every job seeker really wants to know - the money! Given the varieties of analyst roles within a variety of industries - the pay varies. Certain cities have a denser concentration of high-level supply chain companies, so the pay can vary not just by industry but also by geographical locations. Additionally, your salary will vary with seniority or experience - it is an industry full of proven winners, after all. But the median nationwide supply chain analyst salary is $60,730K/year. Overall, the average salary range is anywhere from $46K/year to $79K/year. For context, New York City, New York ($65K/year) and Atlanta, Georgia ($61K/year) were the two largest cities that both held an average salary for analysts over the median national average. 

How To Hire or Find a Supply Chain Analyst

If you’re here not because you want to become a supply chain analyst, but rather that you need to find one, this section is for you.

As with most recruitment strategies, a good set of rules to stand by when hiring new talent include: creating job posting descriptions that are compelling and call the individual to action, treating your candidates like customers, using social media to attract candidates, creating job alerts, and leaning on industry groups to source good talent. 

When you are looking to cast a wide net of procurement possibilities with your hiring, posting job vacancies through recruitment agencies and on job boards is the way to go. The recruitment agencies will go find options for you, while the job boards will send the options to you. It’s like active and passive marketing simultaneously. Make no mistake, these job postings need to be interesting. There’s a million job postings out there, and most look like they are templates copied out of a textbook, in the chapter titled “Supply Chain Analyst Job Description Sample”. Be creative, be concise, and make it clear why it’s a good time to work for your company. Transparency is the quickest way to build a rapport.

When you want to hone in on the type of talent you want to interview, cold-messaging prospective candidates across networking sites is a tried and true practice. Going through resumes on sites like LinkedIn and GlassDoor can connect you with some seriously talented individuals. And you never know when someone needs a change of pace, so there’s never a bad time to reach out. Don’t sound like a robot, but be professional and explain the job and the company in a clear, concise way that makes the candidate want to reply. 

When you need more of a niche-player, going through industry organizations like ASCM or WERC, and associated local events, to reach out to prospective candidates is a great way to go about it. These specific groups are coordinated by individuals either in the supply chain industry or have direct knowledge - so they can lead you to the right candidate. This may not be the quickest route or the most quantifiable, but the odds of you landing the specific type of employee you want is generally higher. 

But whichever options you take to attract a candidate, never forget that you are hiring the best person for your company. They need to have the skills. Candidates must demonstrate supply chain knowledge, problem-solving skills, an analytical mind that’s oriented towards organizational structure, and the desire to learn. Of course, relevant certifications are the cherry on top.

When You Should Hire Interim Supply Chain Staff

The analyst role has a direct impact on profitability - or loss. It’s an important role and should not be rushed through. Sometimes, the right move is to find a contract-to-hire or interim employee and make sure they can handle what you need first. Certain reasons to hire interim staff would be if there’s a need to cover a long term/indefinite leave by a current employee, or to cater to seasonal or short term projects, or to cover busy seasons without commitment. It’s a nuanced position so if you need to take the time to find the right person for the job, do it. Your company will be better for it.

Promoting a Supply Chain Analyst from Within

There’s a lot of niche roles in supply chain, so if your current supply chain analyst is leaving and his roles are highly company-specific it may be a good idea to hire from within. Somebody who operated under this employee and could be trained into the role would likely save you time and money by not conducting external search and onboarding. Now, we're not saying you should promote the distribution center hourly employee to the role of senior supply chain manager to implement supply chain optimization projects, but if there's a logical leap between the two roles that are being considered, it's always a good idea to consider from within.

Do You Need a Supply Chain Analyst?

If you are considering expanding into including a supply chain analyst, know that the upsides are huge. Increased profit, efficiency in production, stakeholder satisfaction, less time to market, and the ability to scale are all benefits we’ve seen first hand through the addition of a supply chain analyst.

When you hire an analyst, you will become aware of inefficiencies you’ve never seen before. Processes you thought were running smoothly will be even more streamlined. The analyst will always have new ideas ready for you based on trends in operations, and will take your business to the next level.


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Skylar Reddy

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