When you think of what happens in the supply chain, you think of constant motion. Raw materials are dug up or chopped down, shipped to factories, turned into components for other factories, shipped out again, and so forth. Eventually, they find their final home in the hands of the consumer.
But the reality is that all that stuff ends up sitting in one spot for long periods of time at different points on that journey. That means companies need some place to put it, where it will remain safe, secure, unspoiled, and easily retrieved.
Making sure all that happens is the role of storage managers in the supply chain. Storage is a consideration anywhere in that long line of motion where things may have to stay in one place for a while, whether intentionally or unintentionally. And that means jobs in supply chain management in storage and warehousing are available in all kinds of industries, all over the world.
Global Shocks Resulted in New Respect and Demand for Supply Chain Storage Management Professionals
It wasn’t supposed to be that way. Storage means holding inventory, and inventory is an expense that businesses love to hate.
The rise of just-in-time manufacturing processes in the 1970s and ‘80s was intended to be the death knell of bulk storage. The idea that every component of the chain would arrive at the moment it was needed for the next part of the process, and no sooner, seemed to remove the need for warehousing.
How Toyota Changed the Game in Supply Chain Storage Management
You won’t get very far in the world of supply chain education before you hear about the Toyota Production System. The forerunner of the modern rage of lean productions processes, TPS was developed in the 1950s and ‘60s by the expanding Japanese carmaker. The success of the process was much of the secret to Toyota’s phenomenal global growth in the following decades.
The brainchild of founder Sakichi Toyoda, the Toyota Way started out by defining 8 types of waste that cost companies money or quality. Then it set about reducing those through a series of concepts and processes that dominate the supply chain and manufacturing world today, including continuous improvement, management by walking around, visibility through the process, and simplification.
TPS took the world by storm. The book The Toyota Way that described the system became a must-read in MBA programs. Programs like Six Sigma popped up to systematize and validate quality management and production processes. And Lean consultants sprouted like weeds at business conferences all over… all in the name of reducing storage and warehousing needs.
But a funny thing happened on the way to just-in-time nirvana: a global pandemic broke out. Without any slack in those just-in-time supply chains, the links snapped. And the logistics world suddenly found value in storage and warehouse professionals again.
What is Warehousing in Supply Chain Management?
The tasks that are involved in storage and warehousing can vary depending on the type of goods and the level of the position. A regional director of warehouse operations for a furniture manufacturer has different concerns than a materials technician in a biomedical institution.
Supply chain managers in warehousing and storage are responsible for accounting for, organizing, protecting, and retrieving the goods their company receives.
Management Tasks in Supply Chain Warehousing and Storage
In general, warehouse managers need to be able to:
Although warehouse management is an old profession, it’s constantly changing under the influence of new technologies. Automation, digital record-keeping, blockchain tracking all offer new opportunities in the eternal game of balancing storage space with fast access to products.
The leads to niches even within warehousing. Experts might specialize in fields like:
And while many storage experts work for companies in every kind of industry that has stuff to store, there’s also a robust role in the logistics industry for running cooperative or outsourced warehouse space.
Most Supply Chain Management Degrees Offer Opportunities to Learn Warehousing and Storage Skills
Storage is such an important part of supply chain management that every degree in the field has required coursework on the topic.
On the other side of the coin, storage is so integral to SCM that few degrees offer it as a distinct specialty. So, your path to becoming a storage or warehouse manager will go through a very standard course of study in supply chain management.
Warehousing is considered part of the logistics function within supply chain management. Many degrees that are the best choice for learning storage management skills are majors in supply chain and logistics.
Both because it is so central to supply chains and because tasks in storage management exist at many levels of responsibility, degrees at every level of college can get you started in storage management.
A two-year Associate of Applied Science in Supply Chain Management will typically cost less than $8,000 according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). That makes it a quick and affordable path to low-level supply chain storage management jobs. With coursework split between logistics and general studies, it also sets you up for further educational opportunities down the road.
Those opportunities could include a Bachelor of Science in Supply Chain and Logistics Management. With an average annual cost of $17,251 for each of the four years they take to earn, these degrees aren’t cheap. But they do deliver comprehensive storage and logistics management training together with liberal arts coursework that boosts creativity, critical thinking, and communication skills. Those are all highly valued by employers, opening the door to entry-level management jobs in storage and warehouse management.
For even more senior positions in warehouse and storage, earning a Master of Science in Supply Chain Management or a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Logistics Management can equip you with expert-level skills and advanced knowledge. These graduate programs cost, according to NCES, an average of $19,749 per year and may take two or three years to earn. But they set your thinking and skills to the most cutting-edge levels in storage systems today.
The MBA option splits your education between logistics studies and more general business leadership and management studies, giving you a skillset that overlaps SCM and more advanced executive positions.
For people who have already earned a degree, whether in supply chain management, business, or some other field, a Certificate in Logistics and Supply Chain Management might offer a faster and less expensive path to warehousing specialization. A certificate program is quick and focused but doesn’t come with the framework of a full degree. With only a handful of classes, all focused tightly on the subject, you can complete these programs quickly and at a lower cost. Building on your existing education, they deliver only the details you need to tack on expertise in storage management.
There are also programs in logistics and supply chain management at the doctoral level, like a PhD in Logistics or a DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) in Supply Chain Management. The PhD is primarily aimed at preparing for academic or research positions; a DBA is more practical for senior executives, but rarely focuses narrowly on storage and warehousing.
Professional Certifications Validate Your Storage Management Expertise
Professional industry certification that many logistics experts pursue with a more practical focus than education certificates. These are professional evaluations of expertise such as the CLTD (Certified in Logistics, Transportation, and Distribution) from ASCM (Association for Supply Chain Management) or the ISM (Institute for Supply Management®) CPSM® (Certified Professional in Supply Management).
These offer a stamp of approval from independent evaluators that tells colleagues and employers you have mastered the subject they cover. Since storage is a core component of logistics, most professional certifications deal with it in some form or another. They evaluate your:
Some certs that might be particularly useful in storage management include:
College Courses to Build Your SCM Storage Management Expertise
A standard curriculum in supply chain management includes coursework in areas such as:
That’s not to mention standard business coursework in accounting, communication, HR, and other essential systems.
If warehouse and storage is your future, though, you’ll want to focus your attention on classes in subjects like:
Some of these may be core courses in your program. Others may be available as electives.
At more advanced degree levels, you’ll also have the opportunity to focus your studies through independent research and original thinking toward a dissertation or capstone project. In cooperation with professors and advisors, you can develop new ideas and put your stamp on the world of supply chain storage and warehousing.
And in almost all supply chain management degrees today, the opportunity to participate in internships, overseas study opportunities, or large cooperative projects gives you some real-world experience that is invaluable to honing your skills.
Studying Supply Chain Management Storage Through Online Degrees Offers Virtual Options for a Very On-Site Career
While warehousing and storage jobs are firmly tied to physical locations, your studies to get into them don’t have to be. Many supply chain management programs today are available entirely online.
There are plenty of good reasons to consider online over traditional college studies:
Jobs in Warehousing and Storage in Supply Chain Management Exist in Every Industry
While warehouse managers are the most well-known position in logistics, they aren’t the only important job you can get in supply chain storage. The storage management role takes place on factory floors, in out-of-the-way depots, in supply rooms in massive office buildings, and in offices and board rooms in those same buildings.
Supply chain storage management positions can span the range from widget-counters moving boxes around personally to vice presidents negotiating deals with major 3PL logistics providers to outsource storage.
Some of the job titles involved in these roles include:
Many positions that are simply titled Supply Chain Manager or Logistics Manager also include storage management functions to a greater or lesser degree. In other cases, positions like Warehouse and Transportation Manager combine two closely associated functions. And at senior levels, storage is often bundled under the oversight of positions like Vice President for Ground Operations or Distribution Director.
The specifics of these jobs all depend on the industry and the need of the company doing the hiring.
How Much Do Warehouse Manager and Storage Professionals Make in Supply Chain Management?
Likewise, salaries for storage management jobs vary depending on level of responsibility and the industry.
Narrowing those numbers down is tough, since the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) drops storage professionals in together with many other similar roles in supply chain management. In general, however, they fall within two different categories. Those categories, and their median salary levels for 2022, are:
Logisticians - $77,520
These tend to be entry-level or hands-on positions in warehousing and storage. They may be analytical or organizational in nature.
Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers - $98,560
At the next step up, managers have direct supervisory, coordination, and planning responsibilities.
Both roles have plenty of room for improvement in the median salary level, however. For logisticians, the top ten percent can make over $124,050 annually. In the storage management category, that peak shoots way up to $169,070. In both cases, it reflects higher levels of education, experience, and expertise.
Although those numbers include plenty of logistics professionals who have nothing to do with storage activities, there is a way to narrow down the scale a bit to only storage-specific jobs. That’s because BLS also categorizes warehousing and storage itself as a separate industry.
Warehouse Management Salaries in the Warehousing Industry
While there are certainly storage management roles in every other kind of industry, the existence of many dedicated logistics providers creates its own base of employment. Looking at the median salaries for the categories above, but only within the warehousing industry itself gives you a better perspective on storage expert salaries.
But one of the best things about working in supply chain management warehouse jobs is that you aren’t pinned down to any one industry or activity. With such an enormous range of challenges in storage and storage systems, flexibility is one of the best benefits. And the right college education can take you into any storage and warehousing in any industry you choose.
2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Logisticians and Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed July 2023.