It’s the question you dread every time you get together with your buddies: “So, how’s work?”
You’ve been working in a warehouse for a few years now, and although you have no complaints about your job, you’re starting to wonder what else might be out there for you. Many of your friends are being promoted and working their way up the career ladder at jobs they love. You wish there was a way to leverage your warehouse experience into a more advanced career.
You’re in luck—supply chain management could be the perfect career field to take your warehouse experience to the next level. Supply chain managers are the organizational experts behind a company’s process for moving products from supplier to consumer.
You’ve been right in the thick of that process for some time now, so it only makes sense that you’d want to learn more. We’re here to help you in that process.
6 things working in a warehouse has taught you
Believe it or not, you already have many of the skills and experiences that are essential for a successful supply management career. Read on to find out just how far your warehouse experience could take you.
1. You know the basics of the supply chain
At its core, supply chain management (SCM) is about getting your organization’s product from point A to point B as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Understanding the supply chain system is one of the key tenets of success as a SCM professional. Your work in the warehouse has already exposed you to the basics of the supply chain, giving you a leg up in this advanced career.
To leverage your warehouse experience towards an SCM career, you should “learn how the systems work—the order flow, the warehouse management system, the load tendering or transportation management systems,” says Mark C. Smith, Pacific West Area Vice President at Penske Logistics. You might not know all of these systems like the back of your hand, but a basic familiarity with how these systems are used can be helpful for when it’s time to look at the bigger picture.
2. You’re a master at managing inventory
You spend your days handling incoming and outgoing deliveries, checking for damaged products and keeping an accurate inventory of what’s in the warehouse. These basic inventory skills are essential in the world of supply chain management.
“Understanding inventory management is also a big plus and a skill set that’s valuable,” Smith says. That’s because, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), supply chain managers are tasked with managing inventory turnover, inventory control, warehousing and receiving. You check shipments for accuracy against inventory lists and keep records of damaged or defective stock on a daily basis. Your warehouse job has provided a strong foundation on which to build a supply chain management career.
3. You understand how the warehouse works
The warehouse is a vital component of the supply chain. Supply chain management addresses questions like, “Do we have enough product available?”, “How can we strategically design the warehouse layout?” and “How can we become more efficient by combining shipments or consolidating the warehouse?”
The warehouse is the common denominator between all these questions. You’re a pro at knowing how the warehouse functions most efficiently and where there are hidden gaps that could be fixed to make the supply chain system run more smoothly.
Your frontline experience in a warehouse also gives you a unique perspective—some plans and fixes may be possible in a theoretical sense, but fail spectacularly in practice. Having a first-hand knowledge of what’s feasible and what’s not can be incredibly valuable.
4. You’re familiar with the technology
Supply chain managers rely on specific technology to help them do their jobs. The learning curve can be steep for the inexperienced, but you’re ahead of the game thanks to your introductions to the right tech software in the warehouse.
The DOL reports that supply chain managers are expected to use enterprise resource planning (ERP) software—such as SAP, Oracle Hyperion or Microsoft Dynamics—as well as inventory management software. Though you may not use these programs to their fullest extent in your current warehouse position, any familiarity could give you a leg up on others who are starting completely fresh.
5. You have leadership potential
Have you ever had to work for a demanding boss who didn’t understand how much hard work you put into your job? They probably weren’t someone you looked up to as a strong leader in the workplace.
When you’re working in a supply chain management role, your warehouse experience can garner you respect among subordinates who know that you understand all the hard work their jobs entail. Your deeper understanding of their work environment can also help you make strong decisions and understand how to best help them perform their job duties.
6. You’re a customer service pro
You probably aren’t surprised to hear that customer service is listed as an important proficiency for a warehouse worker. You interact with customers every day, and you always do your best to keep them satisfied and meet their expectations.
Those same customer service skills will come in handy in a supply chain management career. Supply chain managers have to coordinate with both internal personnel and external suppliers and customers as they plan for demand and negotiate costs and shipping schedules. That makes a logistics career the perfect place to put your top-notch customer service skills to good use.
Leverage your warehouse experience
Your warehouse experience has prepared you for a supply chain management career in ways you may not have guessed. You have inside knowledge and skills that will give you an advantage as a logistics professional. With a career like that, you’ll never dread telling your friends about your work again.
If you’re excited about the possibility of advancing into a supply chain management career, learn more about the ins and outs of the job in our article, “6 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Supply Chain Management Career.”