What Is a Supply Chain Analyst? (And How to Become One)

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Supply chain analysts help facilitate and manage the complex world of supply chain for companies. There has never been a better time to become a supply chain analyst.

[Featured image] Supply Chain Analyst in an orange shirt sits at a laptop computer

Ever wondered how your laptop made its way from China to your nearest Walmart or Amazon warehouse and into your hands? Or where the trendy new Vietnamese restaurant in your neighborhood gets their fish sauce?

Even if you live in the most rural of towns, you’ve most likely encountered products and services that participate in the global supply chain. In recent decades, the expansion of trade has required supply chain management to become leaner, more efficient, and flexible. But these supply chains can be disrupted by political and other unforeseen events, such as Russia's invasion on Ukraine or the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shortages due to transportation, logistics, and government sanctions can drive up prices of food, gas, and other essentials, as we have seen with the current global supply chain crisis. While supply chain analysts and managers were previously able to make quick adjustments to resolve bottlenecks, the compounding forces have created some serious damage [1].

The good news is that with a 30 percent job growth rate, there’s never been a better time to become a supply chain analyst [2]. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

What is a supply chain analyst?

A supply chain analyst plays an important role in planning, analyzing, and monitoring a company’s supply chain distribution to ensure products make it to their destinations in a timely, cost-efficient manner.

Supply chain analysts usually work on specific projects. That could be a product launch in a new country or lowering costs by identifying new routes or suppliers. Supply chain analysts serve as the liaison between a company and its (usually overseas) suppliers. They may be in charge of researching fair prices and negotiating good deals. A supply chain analyst also monitors inventory stock in warehouses and tracks how much more product is needed using tools such as SAP.

Responsibilities and tasks

Supply chain analysts are the contact person for organizations that purchase overseas, working on end-to-end projects to ensure products get from Point A to Point B. 

Here are some common supply chain analyst responsibilities and tasks:

  • Monitoring data on current business operations, managing different pieces such as sourcing, warehousing, deliveries, and scheduling production

  • Managing supply chain processes and inventory using tools like SAP

  • Maintaining professional relationships with vendors, acting as representatives of the company or organization to promote a positive image

  • Consistently seeking ways to improve supply chain management, including evaluating approaches, processes, tools, and technology

Where they work

As a supply chain analyst, it is likely that you will work in one of the main industries in which supply chain management is needed. These might include retail or e-commerce stores that sell food, soft goods like clothing, shoes, and toiletries, large goods like cars, electronics, and furniture, pharmaceuticals, and more.

That means you could be working as a supply chain analyst for any of these companies. That includes big names like Nestle, Walmart, Toyota, and Pfizer, but supply chain analysis is also needed at smaller companies like Mara Hoffman, a high-end fashion brand [3].

You might also need supply chain analysis skills if you are a business consultant working for a consulting firm such as McKinsey, that is dedicated to creating lean teams and eliminating unnecessary processes.

Skills needed 

Just like any other business role, supply chain analysts must have core workplace (soft) skills alongside technical (hard) skills.

Here’s a list of what a supply chain analyst needs to demonstrate to succeed in the role:

  • Effective communication: To collaborate with cross-cultural teams and colleagues, including suppliers and customers

  • Critical thinking and problem solving: To develop and implement logistical plans, respond to issues that inevitably arise, and find solutions to improve costs and efficiency

  • Interpersonal skills: To coordinate the complex movement of products between suppliers, warehouses, and customers. Active listening and a love of people can be helpful, especially if you rise up in supply chain roles.

  • Organizational skills: To maintain records across various tools and systems and manage multiple simultaneous projects

  • Time management: To keep up with the fast-paced environment with competing priorities and deadlines

  • Knowledge of tools and technology: To handle all of the data on enterprise resource planning (ERP) technology like SAP or Salesforce, and process it in a way that makes business sense

Supply chain analysts are needed at each stage of supply chain management. Here are some stages and focus areas that a supply chain analyst might specialize in.

  • Production planning

  • Inventory management

  • Raw material sourcing

  • Demand planning

  • Supply chain network design

  • Distribution planning

Salary and job outlook for supply chain analysts

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median salary for “logisticians” is $77,030 [2]. As mentioned earlier, the number of jobs is expected to grow 30 percent between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than the average of all occupations (8 percent) [2]. 

Supply chain analysts made the following in the top industries [4]:

IndustryMedian Salary
Federal government$88,710
Management of companies and enterprises$78,660
Manufacturing$77,740
Professional, scientific, and technical services$76,840
Wholesale trade$63,930

As e-commerce continues to expand, there is a need for more just-in-time deliveries [2]. The outlook for supply chain related careers is a bright one.

How to become a supply chain analyst

To become a supply chain analyst, it is advisable that you have a bachelor’s degree. If you already have one, and are hoping to switch careers, then you can skip the first step and go straight for building up your skills and work experience.

Here’s how to get started as a supply chain analyst.

1. Get a bachelor’s degree.

While not all supply chain analysts need to have a bachelor’s to land a job role, the chances of you getting hired are much higher if you do. A degree in business administration would be a great choice. 

According to Zippia, 72.8 percent of supply chain analysts have a bachelor’s degree and 15 percent have master’s degrees [5]. Because the field of supply chain management is complex, fast-paced, and requires managing many moving parts (literally!), you should have a strong technical know-how of tools like SAP, as well as a strong foundation in business acumen, problem solving, and quantitative analysis.

2. Build up your skills.

Build your skills and knowledge of supply chain management and analytics with a course. If you feel you need to brush up on communication skills, you can enroll in courses that challenge you to public speaking, or you can practice active listening at home or in the workplace.

If you require technical skills, play around with SAP or Excel. To get more familiar with Microsoft Excel, these short guided projects on Finding, Sorting, & Filtering Data in Microsoft Excel and Create Charts and Dashboard using Google Sheets might help.

3. Apply for entry-level jobs.

Next, you’re ready to apply for some jobs! You might want to start by researching companies or organizations you’d like to work for, and narrowing down your search from there. 

Make sure to create (or clean up) your resume and write an original cover letter for the supply chain analyst roles that interest you. If you are switching careers, modify your resume and brush up on your interviewing skills.

Read more:What Is an Entry-Level Job?

Other names for supply chain analyst 

“Supply chain analysts” might look different when you’re searching for jobs on LinkedIn or other sites. Some other names for similar job roles include sourcing analyst, materials planner, production analyst, transportation analyst, logistics analyst, demand planning analyst, and supply chain modeling analyst.

The title “analyst” might be at the same level as “specialist” in some companies, while “specialist” at other companies is a step up from “analyst.” Further, “manager” tends to be a step above “specialist.” 

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Written by Coursera • Updated on

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