By Maureen Latta
Storms, floods, labour disputes, train derailments – any of these events can disrupt the flow of goods and services and threaten a community’s comfort and safety.
Qualified people are needed to manage the supply chain, which includes purchasing, transportation and warehousing.
“There’s a lot of moving pieces and certainly I think it’s safe to say that life in supply chain is not dull. There are lots of issues to manage on a day-to-day basis,” says Catalyst Paper’s Director of Procurement Hamish Doughty, who manages the inbound supply chain for the company’s three divisions.
“I think supply chain as a discipline has come a long way and is increasingly seen as important to organizations,” Doughty says. “On purely commercial terms, it’s a very sizeable spend. So just in pure dollars alone it’s very important. There’s also ensuring that all those materials show up in a timely fashion to meet your manufacturing requirements, and also making sure your products arrive where they should in a timely fashion to meet your customer needs as well.”
Doughty says Powell River presents unique supply chain challenges.
“Everything that comes in and out of Powell River has to go across water once or twice, so things like tides and storms can have a very significant impact on our supply chain.”
Supply chain jobs range from general labour positions to supervisors and managers. As Manager of Mill Stores Purchasing here in Powell River, Cathy Bailey is part of Catalyst’s corporate supply management team. She does the mill’s purchasing along with a supervisor who runs the crew. She makes sure orders go through in a timely manner and deals with the end users – planners, engineers, maintenance groups and operations groups.
“It’s a great job actually,” Bailey says. “You’re almost like a cog in the wheel. You make sure that your customers get what they need on time and you work well with your vendors. So you put together really good working relationships on either side.”
The Mill Stores employs receivers, shippers and delivery people – all part of the supply chain team. “They’re a large part of what we do,” says Bailey, who worked as a buyer for hospitals and mining companies before joining Catalyst as a corporate buyer in 2008.
“In my day we incorporate everything from nuts and bolts up to the larger equipment that comes in. There’s a huge variety for a buyer in this working environment. The challenge for us of course in this industry, and in a lot of industries too, is to make sure that we’re getting the best buy for the company.”
Bailey says she feels lucky to work with supportive people within Catalyst’s supply management group. “It’s set up really well because you belong to such a talented group. If you need any help and you’re trying to rush something in and you’re looking for resources, there’s always someone there who can help.”
The largest economic sectors employing supply chain management professionals in Canada are Manufacturing, Services, Natural Resources, Retail, Government, Health Care and Education. According to the Supply Chain Career Awareness Collaborative (SCCAC), there are more than 27,000 unfilled supply chain positions in Canada, and another 66,000 openings are anticipated each year for the next five years.
Bailey recommends that anyone interested in a supply chain management career look at courses for professionals offered through the Supply Chain Management Association of British Columbia.
“It’s a great career for anyone who’s looking for something where they want a lot of variety, who’s looking for a great challenge, to be able to belong to a great team of your peers, as well as being in a position where you can make a difference.”
Doughty points out that there is a huge demographic shift in Powell River due to aging baby boomers, which means well-paying jobs will need filling in supply chain and other areas at the mill. “We have a very high percentage of our workforce that has already started to retire and will retire over the next number of years, so that demographic is going to drive needs for all our workforce.”