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Supply chains experience peaks and troughs over the course of a year, month, week or day. Sometimes they are completely predictable (e.g. when a factory is closed); other times they are expected (e.g. the prevailing weather and related demands during summer and winter; and on occasion they take everyone by surprise (e.g. a derailment closing a railway down). But to the good planner, all of these events will have been anticipated and their negative effects minimised, their positive ones capitalised on.

The planner will be at the heart of the supply chain, making sure that every element’s needs are met by constantly assuring, to his or her best ability, that their chain links are kept operational. In normal circumstances, the ongoing quest for efficiency will be the planner’s role; during highly unexpected events their role will switch to firefighting mode, putting in place contingency plans or, if it is off the scale, working with the other parties to arrive at a solution.

The planner will at all times need to know how well stocked warehouses are and how production and demand are looking. Stock takes will be daily or even more frequently in busy operations. There will be regular contact with suppliers, forecasters, producers and logistics teams to ensure that customer demands are met and that the system is running as efficiently as possible.

The skills required

Although prior planning experience will usually be a massive advantage for a planner, experience in one of a number of specialitys from supply chain, logistics or procurement can be advantageous, as they all have elements of planning in them.

A key part of the job will be dealing with people, both from within and external to the company, to build up a picture of the current state of affairs as regards stock levels, raw materials availability, expected peaks and troughs and transportation issues. Communications skills will therefore be a prime requirement.

Analysis of the present situation and reconciliation of this with plans will be important to the job, so someone with a mathematical, logical mindset will be sought. The work will involve a lot of work at the computer screen so familiarity with desktop office solutions will be required.

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