Supply Chain Excellence – Supply Chain Manager (SME’s)

Hunter Campbell’s Supply Chain Excellence Series profiles roles within the Supply Chain job family, including jobs in demand, wages, and employment prospects.

In this article, the role of Supply Chain Manager (specifically for SME’s), is in the spotlight.

I have previously covered the role of Supply Chain Manager in our Supply Chain & Salary Employment Forecast. You can click here to read an informative guide to all levels of Supply Chain Managers, current market conditions and salary information. For the purpose of this instalment, I will cover Supply Chain Manager specifically working within SMEs.

Purpose of the Role

Entrepreneurs often don’t go into business (at least for the first time) thinking their company would fundamentally come to be built on a supply chain. Often, before a company starts to scale, supply chain can be managed as part of another role. Often most responsibilities for freight and logistics (and warehousing) can be outsourced to a 3PL partner. Beyond this supply chain commonly amounts to little more than purchasing, limited procurement and some rudimentary planning. 

Eventually as the business scales the business owner and their team won’t have time to take care of supply chain as the growth and increasing complexity of the business creates extra demands and challenges, putting the businesses’ ability to effectively meet customer demand and cost control at risk. At some point in the company’s growth, it will be essential to appoint a supply chain specialist to ensure an effective and robust supply chain. 

Appointing a Supply Chain Manager will give the company a competitive edge, with the purpose of the role being to give the customers what they want, when the want it and without breaking the company’s bank. An astute Supply Chain Manager will be able to understand risk and how to mitigate it – a particularly useful skill to have, given the ongoing supply chain disruption. 


In one sense experience and the right attitude and mindset are most important. Particularly the ability to apply previous experience (perhaps from a larger business) to a more diverse range of responsibilities. The ability to be hands-on with transactional work, combined with the ability to effectively plan and contribute to the wider business as a key member of the management team are crucial. 

That being said, the Supply Chain Manager of an SME is typically the only and/or most experienced supply chain specialist in the business. A Diploma or a Bachelor degree in Supply Chain Management or qualifications such as NZPICS are advantageous here. As important as experience is, an understanding of Supply Chain Management and the ability to network and bounce ideas off fellow supply chain professionals can not be underestimated. 

Key Skills Required

Larger businesses with more complex, larger-scale supply chains have the luxury of being able to specialise. In addition to a Supply Chain Manager, they will often have a Procurement Manager, Logistics Manager, Planning Manager, and a Warehousing Manager, with teams to support them. 

While the principles are the same a Supply Chain Manager in an SME environment requires someone who is more of an all-rounder. Depending on the nature of the business it is likely a Supply Chain Manager will have a main area of specialisation. For example, a manufacturing business is likely to benefit from a Supply Chain Manager with some experience in production planning and materials management. An import business would likely require someone with previous experience in sourcing and supply planning. Whereas a business focussed on the sales, marketing and distribution of consumer goods would typically be best served appointing a Supply Chain Manager with some experience in demand planning/S&OP. 

Regardless, an effective SME Supply Chain Manager should be confident of turning their hands to the entire supply chain function and possess the following skills and experience: 

  1. Commercial acumen – the ability to assess and mitigate risk caused by supply chain disruption, company growth and cash flow 
  2. Sound numerical skills combined with analytical and data capabilities to understand supply and demand 
  3. Problem-solving – the ability to use sound analysis and commercial understanding to resolve issues and come up with sustainable solutions to improve supply chain efficiency 
  4. People skills – the ability to work effectively as part of the wider business. Effective Supply Chain Managers are able to build and maintain relationships, champion Supply Chain with key stakeholders and effectively communicate, negotiate and influence 
  5. Technology – ability to effectively use technology and systems and to adapt and improve as the business grows and the volumes and complexities in the supply chain increase 
  6. Forward-thinking mindset – in addition to running the day-to-day supply chain, an effective Supply Chain Manager in a growing business will be able to put a strategy in place to improve the supply chain though implementing new processes, sourcing new suppliers, hiring specialists in the Supply Chain Team (if required), and adapting new plans as the needs for the business increase and diversify  

Career Prospects

A Supply Chain Manager can be a very rewarding role, and a move that supply chain professionals can achieve relatively early in their career. The opportunity to take responsibility for an end-to-end supply chain can provide a steep learning curve and can vastly accelerate career development and supply chain capability. 

The ability to work as part of a leadership team opens opportunities to be more involved in the wider sense of the business – often more so than you would typically experience in a larger business. 

Assuming the company is growing or building its supply chain capability, Supply Chain Managers of SMEs often grow with the business, taking on more responsibilities and building a team to support them. 

Career prospects beyond this can vary from company to company. In high growth businesses we have seen individuals progress to Operations Manager or even General Manager positions. Another common route is to move to a large business and take on a challenge elsewhere in the future. We typically see this after 3 – 5 years in a role, as Supply Chain Managers build their experience, embed an effective supply chain and move onto a new challenge when they have achieved all they can. 

When recruiting a Supply Chain Manager or considering accepting an offer to take up Supply Chain Manager position at an SME, it is worthwhile asking what the company wants out of the position. Is there growth? Career development? Opportunity to be part of the management? Understanding the current and future requirements will help you determine what type and level of candidate would be best suited to the position. 

Recruitment Forecast

The recruitment outlook for Supply Chain professionals remains buoyant. While the importance of Big Business in New Zealand is not to underestimated, arguably SME’s are the backbone of the economy. Continued supply chain disruption and the value of a good supply chain is increasingly recognised, we are seeing the demand for experienced Supply Chain professionals continue to remain strong. 

The Hunter Campbell Supply Chain, Operations and Procurement team have experience in recruiting a number of Supply Chain roles for SME’s and we are seeing the demand continuing to increase. All signs point to this trend continuing. As such we expect candidates who are currently Supply Chain Managers in SMEs’ or for candidates with the right mindset, ambition and skillset looking to move into a Supply Chain Management position in an SME, to continue to enjoy positive career prospects in the foreseeable future. 

Salary Guide

This information is anecdotal and based on roles Hunter Campbell is currently recruiting or has previously recruited and relate to base salaries. They do not include any additional bonuses or benefits. 

Junior: $90,000 – $110,000 

Intermediate: $110,000 – $130,000 

Senior: $130,000 – $160,000 

These salaries will vary depending on the industry, company size and levels of responsibility. Typically, a junior salary would be appropriate for a stand-alone position, whereas the intermediate and senior salary guide would be relevant for SME’s that have grown, have some level of supply chain complexity and are likely to have some people leadership responsibility. 

If you would like to find out more about the role of Supply Chain Manager (SME’s), please contact Senior Consultant Wayne Fry. Wayne specialises in the recruitment of Supply Chain, Procurement & Operations roles. For more news and views visit our website by clicking here, see what opportunities we have available here or follow us on LinkedIn.

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