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Consumer Goods and FMCG
Submitted by Nurhuda Syed on Thu, 2017-06-22 18:57
Get all the advice you need to kickstart your career in Consumer Goods & FMCG!
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FMCG Areas of Work
Supply Chain: Graduate Area of Work
A career in supply chain involves the process of getting consumer products onto shelves from start to finish.
Supply chain oversees the product journey, from raw material to supply of the finished product to the point of sale. It is essential to have a supply chain with a high level of service, quality and efficiency in order to meet the needs of the consumers while actively enhancing the company’s profitability.
Due to the high volume and speed of production in this sector, graduates in this field will be able to experience working in a demanding and fast-paced commercial environment.
However, it will also give graduates the opportunity to flex their intellectual muscles by researching and implementing methods that can reduce environmental impact throughout the product journey as the industry works toward meeting corporate responsibility and sustainability goals.
Major FMCG companies offer graduate schemes designed to introduce graduates to different aspects of the supply chain. The graduate programme typically lasts for a year or two and involves rotations across different areas of the supply chain, such as procurement, demand planning and logistics.
Graduate roles may range from purchasing raw materials to customer service and distribution. As a graduate with a role in purchasing, you may be expected to analyse markets, assess suppliers, and prepare and carry out negotiations with them.
You are also required to manage data about your transactions to be used in project management and price forecasting, especially if you are working on supply management or strategic purchasing.
If you are placed in customer service and distribution, your responsibility will include warehousing, overseeing transport arrangements, managing shelf availability as well as ensuring the timely delivery of products.
On the other hand, if you end up being placed in supply chain planning, you will be required to liaise with the different functions in the business to lock down potential sales for a product and later plan for factories to meet those sales on time.
Skills picked up in this industry are largely transferrable among businesses in different industries, as the demanding environment of the consumer goods sector sets its employees up to progress well in other equally fast-paced industries.
Supply chain roles require a logical mind and the ability to solve problems. The need to work with various departments will require good communication skills and the ability to be a team player.
Working with demanding vendors and clients can also be stressful, hence patience and solid negotiation skills are important for graduates who are interested in this field.
Employers in this field also have a preference for candidates with a background in logistics, engineering, IT, operations management, finance, business administration and supply chain-related qualifications and degrees.
However, candidates who do not possess such qualifications are still welcomed, but they will need to demonstrate sound commercial awareness, and strong analytical and problem-solving abilities.
Ups and downs
Work pressure is something that most employees struggle with, given that customer’s satisfaction is of top priority. However, the stable and constant demand for workers in the consumer goods sector provides a range of opportunities to graduates interested in this field.
Research and Development: Graduate Area of Work
Research and development (R&D) allows graduates to transform scientific ideas into business practices.
A career in this field will involve figuring out how to meet consumer demand and turn concepts into reality. FMCG companies place a priority in recruiting innovative and talented graduates for the R&D team as they play a vital role in ensuring that the company stays ahead of the competition.
The fundamental aim of R&D in this industry is to refine existing products and develop new ones with the use cutting-edge technologies.
As a nation known for its formidable research capabilities, Singapore is the leading player in the consumer business in Asia, with key multinational corporations (MNCs) such as Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, and Mondelez setting up R&D centres in Singapore.
The maturity of this area of work in Singapore provides graduates with vast learning and growth opportunities.
Although scientific and technological investigation and experiments make up a large part in graduate R&D jobs, you can expect to work outside of the lab as well, and with teams from other areas of the business, such as manufacturing and marketing.
Quite often, graduate training programmes offered by FMCG companies are designed to ensure interaction amongst the various teams.
As a graduate trainee, you can also expect your work to include patent protection, regulatory compliance and ensuring that products have the lowest possible environmental impact. This is where graduates are able to use their problem solving and analytical skills to make a real and positive impact to the environment.
That said, the structure of each R&D division varies depending on the company’s needs. Different tasks and roles will be assigned at different stages of a product’s life cycle ranging from prototype to manufacturing and full-scale production.
Additionally, some FMCG organisations have specific research centres located across the globe, giving graduates in this field the opportunity for travel and international exposure.
These centres tend to focus on conducting research to develop and/or improve a particular aspect of the organisation’s products, for example on flavour, fragrance, appearance, texture or nutrition only, rather than on the entire product as a whole.
Unlike other areas of work in this sector, R&D roles call for candidates with technical qualifications in specific disciplines related to the field of research, for example in chemistry, chemical engineering, food science or biology.
Some research positions may also require postgraduate qualifications.
However, having the right qualifications may not be enough for you to secure the role as recruiters also look for individuals who have a different view on things, have good commercial awareness, and are curious and inquisitive in nature.
This is because R&D professionals need to be willing to constantly ask questions and to follow up on them in order to keep up with the quickly-changing market demands.
Ups and downs
A common frustration that researchers in this industry express is the need to keep up with the rapid changes in market trends and consumer demand. You may find yourself working on a project for some time, only to discover the need to alter your area of research due to an unexpected drop in demand.
However, the variety of tasks that you will have to perform in your role will ensure an exciting job scope. You will also be surrounded by a diverse range of experts in their fields, providing you with plenty of resources and opportunities for growth.
Human Resources and Recruitment: Graduate Area of Work
The human resources department is largely responsible for recruiting and training candidates to meet the company’s talent demand.
Consumer goods companies know the critical role that a strong talent pool plays in securing continued commercial success. Company output is dependent on employee competence which human resources (HR) and recruitment management have a strong influence in.
HR roles in this industry entail the recruitment, selection, training, and performance management process as well as compensation practices.
As the workforce in the consumer goods industry comprise of different areas of expertise, you will find yourself on the perfect platform for learning and growth with maximum exposure to working with diverse individuals.
Large FMCG organisations may offer graduate schemes catered specifically for HR roles. For companies that do not offer a specific HR training programme, you may be able to break into the industry through an entry-level role as a HR assistant.
During the course of a graduate scheme, you’ll primarily be gaining a broad perspective on HR and an in-depth, practical understanding of different areas of the business.
As a fresh grad, your placement would require you to spend time in different locations ranging from manufacturing sites to the head office.
You may also get the chance to take on international projects or be appointed as the single point of contact for employees at a specific site. Gaining such responsibilities early on in your career will push you to adopt an in-depth understanding of the work culture and needs of the team.
Additionally, you will be involved in designing and facilitating team building events and gaining an understanding of the employee life cycle from the point of recruitment to retirement. You can expect mentoring and support from your experienced colleagues as you go through the training programme.
Employers usually consider applications from a range of degree backgrounds for entry-level HR roles. However, a degree in human resources, management and business will give you an edge.
Whether or not you have a relevant degree, it is important for you to demonstrate a genuine interest and strong knowledge on the general consumer goods market. Some experience in leadership roles in university clubs, volunteer experiences and projects will add to your credibility as a candidate.
You will also need to demonstrate effective interpersonal skills as a role in HR entails regular interaction with colleagues from various education and cultural backgrounds in the global organisation.
Pros and cons
Having in-depth knowledge about the company may be a daunting but necessary task when you hold a HR role in a sector with such diverse departments and talents.
You’ll have to understand the challenges faced by different employees, which can be specific to their departments, to be able to provide a solution accordingly.
However, there is satisfaction in knowing that you get to make a direct impact on your organisation’s output by boosting the staff’s productivity.
Manufacturing and Engineering: Graduate Area of Work
Engineers in this industry are primarily responsible for developing and optimising manufacturing processes to promote efficiency.
Engineering in consumer goods companies is a diverse area of work. It includes designing and installing advanced machinery and ensuring that production lines run smoothly. The fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry manufactures products on a massive scale, entailing complex operations that often involves leading-edge technologies.
Aside from overseeing the machinery, engineers are expected to maintain, upgrade and optimise all equipment. As consumer demand constantly fluctuates, engineers need to innovate new machines and processes to match them.
Maintaining reliability is a trending issue in this field, and engineers are involved in implementing efforts to make machines run efficiently and consistently for long periods of time. Automation and robotics are also growing areas of focus in this sector.
Graduate engineers can expect to be involved in the process design for the manufacturing of new products. During this stage, you’ll be tasked to assess the needed machinery and equipment and how to maintain them throughout the manufacturing process. You’ll be working as part of a larger, multi-disciplinary project team.
For instance, you may have to work with production colleagues who will assess the ingredients required and determine the number of people required to man the production lines. Throughout such tasks, graduate engineers also develop ways to manage, reduce and recycle waste.
As a graduate engineer, you may find yourself in either production or manufacturing roles. Roles in production primarily focus on product creation and making sure that products meet the required quality levels.
You’ll also work on people management and shift management, which is an excellent training ground for graduate engineers to get to know different teams of people who run the production lines and the procedures better. Aside from working with colleagues from different departments, you’ll also have to liaise with external suppliers and distributors.
Manufacturing roles on the other hand are focused on increasing efficiency and the improvement of industrial performance. Here, you may find yourself putting your analytical skills and problem-solving skills to the test as you’ll be tasked with analysing problems for possible solutions.
It’s not just brainwork, though. You’ll also be required to put control mechanisms in place to make sure that the improvement is sustainable.
Most engineering disciplines can apply for manufacturing jobs in this industry. Work in this sector is challenging and fast moving, so recruiters look for graduates who can think on their feet, have strong analytical abilities and a strong drive for continuous improvement.
You’ll also need good interpersonal and project management skills, especially for manufacturing roles, as you will work with people inside and outside of the company for projects.
Pros and cons
This area of work will often have you travelling to different manufacturing sites in multiple locations, which may tire some individuals after some time.
However, such an arrangement opens up more opportunities for graduates to learn about the company and be acquainted with other functions within the organisation. The pace and steep learning curve will also push you to learn more in a shorter period of time, contributing to your personal and professional growth.
Finance and Financial Management: Graduate Area of Work
The vast scale of FMCG calls for finance professionals to perform functions ranging from tax planning to cost forecasting.
Graduate finance roles in consumer goods companies call for plenty of team work and effective communication from across different areas of work to maintain and execute effective financial controls.
In this area of work, you will be responsible for providing information to the management that will later be used to make business decisions and to assess the company’s performance against targets and budgets. The primary aim of finance roles in this industry is to help steer the profitability and efficiency of the business.
As you advance in your career, you may be put in a team that will oversee the success of a particular brand/product. You will thus need to be aware of market developments and any changes in regulation that may affect the company’s business.
It is common for major graduate employers to offer finance graduate schemes, where you will go through rotations across various finance functions in the company before settling into one particular team.
During your time in the scheme, you would be expected to provide financial information about specific products throughout the different stages of their life cycles. Additionally, you may also be analysing the sales progression across the business.
You may also be tasked to undertake other duties such as providing financial analysis for a brand or product category, profit forecasting, optimising costs in manufacturing facilities and internal audits.
Upon completion of the training scheme, you may advance into management accounting roles where you will focus on either commercial or operational activities. You may also progress to a senior role in finance management or even a finance director for a brand, a group of products or the region.
Numerical competence is something you will need in order to cope with the day-to-day tasks assigned to you. A degree in finance and management, as well as other business-related degrees will give you an advantage among applicants from other disciplines.
You will also need to have good communication, negotiation and interpersonal skills, as well as good attention to detail, while being highly results-driven.
Self-confidence will also take you a long way in this field as you will need to challenge business decisions that don’t make financial sense.
Ups and downs
Expanding your commercial awareness of the fast moving consumer goods sector will take up your personal time, but there are plenty of diverse opportunities and flexibility to move around the industry.
Graduates keen on attaining both personal and professional growth will also find this an attractive industry.
Distribution and Logistics: Graduate Area of Work
Distribution and logistics deal with the management of the flow of consumer goods through the supply chain to the consumer.
A role in this sector entails the management and organisation of the storage and delivery of consumer goods from factories to the right retail outlets, while adhering to strict cost and time guidelines. This area of work is a complex and global business, with time and technology being critical factors affecting an organisation’s success.
Holding this role in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector, you are required to work in areas such as transportation, stock control, warehousing and monitoring of the movement of goods. You may also be given the option to work in reverse logistics, where you will be involved in the management of waste and by-products that come about during the production and transportation process.
Most graduate roles in this area begin with a graduate scheme. Lasting about two years on average, you will learn the skills required to manage the people as well as systems involved in the supply chain.
Logistic roles in the FMCG industry involves working closely with customers such as supermarket chains and other retailers. With experience, you will get to improve your client-facing skills, and understand your customer’s needs. You will also be able to sharpen your problem-solving skills as you encounter time-sensitive issues throughout the process.
On the other hand, if you are placed in distribution roles, you will be involved with the warehousing and transportation of the goods. Typically, you will have to manage the warehouse workers, work in stock control and provide support services to major customers when needed. You may also find yourself needing to work alongside 3PL (third-party logistics) companies, which are organisations that outsource the logistics function.
In terms of career progression, you may pursue a managerial position as a logistics and distribution manager. Managers in this area of work coordinate inventory management, warehousing and transportation. They make strategic decisions to meet business objectives and liaise with relevant parties, such as manufacturing companies, retailers and resellers.
While they make top-level decisions in this area of work, managers are still needed to manage the nitty-gritty side of the job.
This area of work welcomes graduates from all degree backgrounds, though candidates with qualifications in logistics management, engineering, IT, economics and business studies may have a leg up during the hiring process.
Having work experience in warehouse management and delivery services would also make you stand out among other graduate applicants.
You will also need to showcase strong problem-solving, communication, organisational and analytical skills. Candidates need to be adaptable and be comfortable working with technology and information systems, while leading and managing teams, and dealing with customers.
Ups and downs
You are likely to work long hours on a daily basis. Weekend work is also something common in this sector. For major companies that operate on a global level, operations are usually carried out on a 24/7 basis – you can thus expect to do shift work if you join one of these companies.
Tight deadlines are also a common occurrence in this line of work, so the ability to remain calm under pressure is something you will need to possess to succeed in this field.
However, the stress often pays off when you see the impact of your work. This is especially so for those who favour hands-on work, and who dislike being chained to a desk for a living.