Choosing a Supply Chain Field: Examples of Supply Chain Job Progression

Warehouse with boxes on storage racks
Examples of Supply Chain Jobs - Photo by Tiger Lily

Choosing a Supply Chain Field can be a daunting task; Nobody specializes broadly in logistics, purely because the supply chain is so complex. Find out whether you want to be in warehousing; transportation, procurement, etc. Ideally something that will keep you satisfied, but not be overwhelmingly busy.

Once you find a field that you enjoy, it can help to identify an industry - as experience in a specific industry can give an advantage to you in terms of lessons learned, and many industries operate very differently. Some good examples are oil and gas versus agriculture, aerospace versus automotive. 

Below is a basic list of some Supply Chain Career paths and their overall specialties. This is by no means a comprehensive list; some companies may choose to name and rank their positions differently, however it's a good place to start.

Below, I start with entry level and work my way up; so the first position listed would be an entry level role, the last in the bullet list would be the most senior. There may be opportunities to skip levels completely; this is especially common when applying to roles at new companies.

Table of Contents


Transportation & Logistics

Transportation and Logistics is a fast-paced, often stressful area of supply chain; however, you are not likely to be bored in these positions. Below is a list of possible Transportation job names that you might see on job boards.

  1. Logistics Coordinator / Transportation Analyst
  2. Logistics Analyst / Load Planner / Logistics Specialist
  3. Logistics manager / Transportation Manager
  4. Transportation Supervisor
  5. General Manager of Transportation
  6. Director of Transportation / Director of Operations

Distribution (Warehousing)

Warehousing and Distribution jobs are often consistent, and there's an abundance of them, so having this experience means you can work nearly anywhere.

  1. Picker / Packer
  2. Shift Supervisor
  3. Operations Manager
  4. Warehouse Manager / General Manager
  5. Supply Chain Director

Procurement (Acquiring Goods and Materials)

Buyer Path

Procurement has a few different specialties, with Buyer jobs listed below. Some procurement positions may have several overlaps with others, so this is not a comprehensive list by any means.

  1. Buyer / Planner
  2. Senior Buyer / Planner / Material Analyst
  3. Commodity Manager / Purchasing Manager / Materials Manager
  4. Supply Chain Supervisor / Manager
  5. Supply Chain Director / Director of Procurement

The Buyer uses expertise for a range of purchasing activities, including pricing and negotiating with suppliers to reach highest quality at best value. Examples of Buyer responsibilities are below:

  • Negotiates best terms (price, delivery, and payment terms) with suppliers, while maintaining efficient output of purchase orders
  • Goal of these positions is to get highest quality at best value
  • Establishes source selection criteria for evaluation of quotations such as target pricing
  • Evaluates quotes received from prospective suppliers
  • Makes decisions regarding award of purchase orders

Another example is a Material Analyst, which may have responsibilities similar to below:

  • planning and procuring material in support of our Warehouse and Operations.
  • product planning, scheduling, and procuring material to ensure product quality, delivery, and cost standards
  • Track supply and stock situation
  • take corrective actions if necessary
  • provide suitable information to internal customers (may use missing parts database to provide information) 

Procurement - General (Can work with Suppliers or also service industries like 3PL carriers)

  1. Procurement Specialist / Procurement Analyst
  2. Purchasing Manager / Sourcing Manager / head of purchasing
  3. Global Procurement - Category Lead
  4. Director of Procurement
  5. Vice President of Purchasing

Inventory / Supply Management (Monitoring Supply)

Inventory Planners typically work with the planning, scheduling and monitoring movement of material through the production cycle.

Typically these inventory and supply managers need to have the capability to balance the sometimes conflicting goals of inventory targets, targeted customer service levels, forecast accuracy, and safety stock requirements. The job can range from fairly straightforward to become quite technical, especially with larger companies with more SKUs.

  1. Supply Planner / Supply Chain Planner
  2. Materials Planning / Materials Analyst / Production Planner
  3. Materials Manager
  4. Director of Supply Chain

Demand Planning and Forecasting

The Demand Planner role reports to the Supply Chain Manager and is responsible for a portfolio of suppliers with the goal of improving forecast accuracy and optimizing inventory that leads to improved service to our customers, lower obsolete and slow-moving inventory, and improved relationships with our suppliers.

Demand Planner - This individual will take over short range forecasting from the long range demand planner and drive alignment of short term demand needs collaborating closely with the Sales & Operations teams to optimize fulfillment.

  1. Demand Planner / Demand & Distribution Planner- 1-3 years of experience
  2. Senior Supply Chain Planner - 3 years of purchasing, planning or related experience in a manufacturing environment
  3. Demand Planning Manager / Supply Chain Manager
  4. Sr. Manager of Planning

Operations (Production and Manufacturing)

A Master Scheduler/Production Planner typically requires 5 years prior experience in manufacturing, supply chain management or a related field.

  • Coordinate factories build planning
  • Hosting team meetings to execute sales forecasts
  • Create and maintain production / build plan incorporating available information from ERP and other sources
  • Alert supply chain for material shortages ahead of line down situations
  • Responsible for manpower planning and overtime planning to meet production plan and surge and overtime requirements
  •  improve customer service levels (on time delivery) and working capital (inventory turns).
  • This role is responsible for coordinating and expediting the flow of work and materials within or between departments according to daily and weekly production schedules. 
  1. Master Scheduler / Production Planner
  2. Senior Production Planner
  3. Production Manager / Operations Manager
  4. Plant Manager
  5. Director of Operations

Analytics, and IT, and Business Review

Often considered ancillary to Supply Chain, IT focused positions are becoming more and more important to all Supply Chains. These are usually ideal positions, as they are a growing field, combined with tech companies influenced flexibility in terms of remote work and benefits.

  • Business Analyst
  • Senior Data Analyst
  • Supply Chain Manager
  • IT Manager
  • Supply Chain Engineer
  • Supply Chain Project Manager
  • Business / Continuous Improvement
  • Project Management
  • Industrial Engineer

Conclusion: There are many, many Supply Chain Job Titles

Again, this is not an all-encompassing list; there are vital jobs not considered "formal" Supply Chain roles but absolutely vital to the global economy. Vessel operators, truck drivers, airline freight pilots, and more - Our Supply Chain jobs would be pretty limited without the hundreds of other operator roles.

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