Distribution Manager

    If you are wondering how to become a distribution manager, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning supply chain management careers within the transport industry, as well as logistics job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Supply chain managers, also known as logistics or distribution managers, plan and manage the flow of goods and materials from manufacturers and suppliers through to customers.

    As a supply chain manager you could be managing the distribution activities of a specific company, such as a manufacturing firm, a major retailer or a construction company. Alternatively, you could work for a logistics contractor that specialises in distributing and delivering goods for other companies.

    Your main responsibilities would include:

    planning delivery timetables
    monitoring stock levels using computer databases
    tracking the movement of goods through depots and re-ordering stock
    overseeing the ordering process and packaging of goods ready for dispatch
    analysing supply networks and systems to improve efficiency
    overseeing the arrival of shipments
    managing clerical, administrative and warehouse distribution staff
    monitoring performance and making sure targets are met
    dealing with staff recruitment and training.
    Supply chain managers work closely with purchasing officers, warehouse staff and transport clerks to make sure goods and materials arrive at the depot as scheduled, are in good order, stored correctly and dispatched to customers on time.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good logistics managers include:

    the ability to motivate and lead a team
    good planning skills
    good spoken and written communication skills
    good problem-solving and numeracy skills
    the ability to pay attention to detail
    confidence in using computer packages, such as spreadsheets and databases
    the ability to work under pressure to deadlines
    good geographical knowledge.

    How to become a supply chain manager
    Your main route directly into supply chain management would be to take a foundation degree, BTEC HNC/HND or a degree. Relevant courses include:

    international transport
    supply chain management
    transport management
    These are available at colleges throughout the country and you will need to check with them for their exact course entry details. To search for colleges and universities offering these courses see Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

    Another common route is to start with a company in a related job, for example as a transport clerk, and work your way up through to supervisory and management levels.

    Training and Development
    Once you are working as a supply chain manager, you can take on-the-job training awards, which include:

    postgraduate degrees – transport planning, supply chain management and logistics
    NVQs – in Distribution, Warehousing and Storage Operations Level 3, and Integrated Logistics Support Management Level 4
    BTEC Professional Diploma in Logistics at Level 4.
    If you have a degree, you may be able to start training with a larger employer on a graduate training scheme. These are structured programmes lasting from a few months to two years. During this time, you will have placements in several departments, gradually taking on more responsibility.

    The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT UK) also offers certificate, diploma and advanced diploma courses in Logistics and Transport. They also have a continuing professional development (CPD) scheme for their members.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Starting salaries for graduates are around £18,000 to £22,000 a year
    With experience between £25,000 and £35,000 a year
    Senior supply chain managers could earn up to £60,000 a year.

    Job Prospects
    With the right skills, your job opportunities are likely to be good across the country. Although growth in the sector may not be quite as rapid as the last few years, Skills for Logistics believe that long-term developments, particularly in the south-east, for example air freight expansion, are likely to continue to drive demand for distribution support services.

    You may find work with a wide variety of organisations. These range from small firms that operate locally, to national and multinational companies. Employers can include warehousing and distribution firms, manufacturers, freight forwarders, major retailers and charities.

    With experience and the right skills, you could progress to senior planning jobs and consultancy work.

    Useful logistics or transport resources:
    Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT UK)
    Logistics and Transport Centre
    Earlstrees Court
    Earlstrees Road
    NN17 4AX
    Tel: 01536 740100

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