Logistics and supply chain

Supply chain collectively describes the routes or means by which supplies are received and the chain of processes involved in the production and distribution of a commodity (Oxford English Dictionary). Logistics refers to the organisation necessary to support this chain of supply.

Working in supply chain and logistics offers the opportunity to work in an exciting, business critical role, getting people, goods, materials and waste from A to B, on time and in budget. An increased focus on carbon management has brought an additional challenge to the role, as well as increased fuel cost and increasing consumer focus on 'food miles'.

Logistics organisations typically fall into two categories: those that manage their own distribution and third party logistics organisations such as Exel, Eddie Stobart and Wincanton.

The organisations who manage their supply chain in house are diverse and in addition to more obvious firms such as retail businesses (supermarkets, clothing, consumer goods), there are opportunities within the public sector and the armed forces. Many of the major retailers have graduate opportunities within distribution management (eg Asda, Sainsbury's and Tesco). There are opportunities in energy companies too.

Getting in and getting experience

Supply chain and logistics is not just about moving commodities; it is about building and managing relationships along the way. It requires a lot of organisation, problem solving, teamwork and drive. A break in the chain can cause problems further down the line and these need to be anticipated and contingencies prepared.

Working with a third party logistics provider means working in a totally customer-focused environment and you need to be able to communicate with confidence at all levels. Whether you work on a dedicated contract or in a multi-user, multi-customer role, overcoming obstacles to customer satisfaction will be your primary focus.

Language skills can also be an advantage. This area of work is open to all graduates but some employers may require more specific qualifications, e.g. a degree in a scientific or technical discipline, or even a degree in logistics/distribution being an essential requirement.

Getting experience in retail, warehousing, storage, or administration can be useful.