Doing more than delivering goods
THE MANUFACTURING industry in southern China is certainly booming as companies from watchmakers to clothing manufacturers vie for a portion of the Pearl River Delta pie - also known as the world's factory - which promises greater efficiency at lower costs.
But beneath the surface, another type of competition is taking shape. Companies across the board are aggressively seeking people who can look after supply chain management and ensure the products of multibillion-dollar businesses flow smoothly out of mainland factories to elsewhere in Asia or the west.
'Supply chain managers with strong experience in the international environment and south China contacts are in high demand,' said Anthony Thompson, associate director of Michael Page International.
Last year, the recruitment agency started up its engineering and supply chain team to address demand for jobs in this area.
The supply chain management covers a massive range of industries from manufacturing to IT, shipping and third-party logistics providers, garment, textile and apparel companies, and even the banking and finance sector. Jobs in the industry are also emerging at every level, from junior positions to senior management.
'There is enormous demand for people in this industry,' said Mr Thompson.
'Many supply chain managers go on to become part of the management team either in a director or a general manager role. There are great career prospects for people in this industry.'
DHL Express (Hong Kong)'s director of human resources Jenny Lo said there was a higher demand for employees in import/export operations, warehouse and customer service management, inventory control, transport and delivery, as well as technical support sections of the supply sector.
Companies are seeking people with a technical understanding of the specific industry, as well as exposure to the international business environment.
Those working in supply chain management need to be familiar with the numbers and figures, as well as the commercial aspect of the field.
Employees should have good negotiating skills, be able to work with people of different backgrounds, and be extremely organised multitaskers who can manage relationships effectively.
Over the past 12 to 18 months, the tight market has put pressure on salary expectations. Candidates who possess in-demand skills have been given 10 to 15 per cent pay increases.
The industry is looking so attractive that people from other backgrounds - such as product development, finance and sales - have been crossing over.
Logistics companies are seeking to obtain more business by leveraging their supply chain management capabilities to provide more value-added services to customers as industry competition heats up.
The value-added services are so vast that they even include the management of information flow, better technology to track product details, and inventory management and warehousing.
'Lots of logistics companies can provide freight forwarding and transport, but if you want to offer better services, you must have good supply chain management capability,' said Gilbert Lau, managing director of Oriental Logistics.
But the potentially lucrative mainland market does not come without its challenges. 'The China market is like a rising star, while Hong Kong is the cash cow. It is very hard for logistics companies to make money in China as there are many very low-cost logistics providers competing for business, and companies there are very cost-conscious,' said Mr Lau.
He forecasts that it will be another three to five years before mainland logistics companies can increase their profits and fully rely on their value-added offerings as living standards first need to reach a certain level before companies are able to afford these additional services.
Despite the challenges, logistics providers remain extremely optimistic.
UPS plans to add staff throughout the Asia-Pacific region, from dock workers to IT and customer service management, according to Ron Jordan, UPS Supply Chain Solutions' vice-president of business development in the Asia-Pacific region.
Supply chain director
Supply chain manager