Education and Training Bachelor's degree plus training minimum; master's degree plus training preferred
Salary Average—$73,050 per year
Employment Outlook Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Distribution managers oversee the transportation of goods from the place where they are made or grown to the location where they are used or consumed. Such managers are employed by almost all large business organizations, including manufacturing firms, wholesale distributors, and retail chains.
The process of moving goods from producer to buyer, called logistics, generally involves several steps. In wholesale distribution, goods arriving from a manufacturer are first inventoried and arrangements are made for shipping goods to a point of sale. In manufacturing distribution, managers are responsible for incoming raw materials as well as inventory control and shipment of finished products.
When making arrangements for shipping, distribution managers must address issues such as how much freight to place on each shipment, what routes the shipments must take, and whether enough truck drivers are available to make the shipments. Once the products ship, they must monitor the progress of the major shipments to ensure they reach their destinations on time. In small companies these tasks are handled by the distribution manager and several assistants. In large companies the distribution manager directs a logistics division with separate departments for receiving, warehousing, and shipping goods.
Supervising the complex operations of a logistics division is usually only part of a distribution manager's work. As a member of the company's top management team, a distribution manager works with marketing executives to ensure that new products reach the right markets at the optimal time. Getting a product to a market on time and at low cost is crucial to its success in competitive retail fields, especially around the holiday season.
Education and Training Requirements
Distribution managers must have excellent managerial skills and a solid understanding of economics. A college degree in business, accounting, or economics is a prerequisite for the job. Because most logistics departments rely heavily on computers, courses in computer science are very useful. Companies with extremely complex logistics operations (such as multinational corporations) may require candidates to have a master's degree in business administration or distribution management.
Getting the Job
Managers are often hired from within their company's logistics division. Experience as an inventory control analyst, warehouse supervisor, or traffic manager is useful. Distribution managers may also be recruited from other companies. Openings for experienced distribution managers are often listed on Internet job sites and in newspaper want ads.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Experienced and successful distribution managers can advance to top corporate posts. In large companies distribution managers may become vice presidents. Some managers set up their own transportation or logistics consulting firms. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of distribution managers was expected to increase about as fast as the average for all jobs between 2004 and 2014. The demand for goods and the need to distribute them fluctuates with the economy as a whole. As companies continue to put more emphasis on efficient logistics, talented distribution managers will be in demand.
Working conditions vary, depending on the size of a company's logistics operation. In small companies distribution managers divide their time between the office and the warehouse. Managers working in larger companies may spend all of their time in the office or in meetings with assistants and other managers. Hours also vary according to the volume of goods that need to be handled. Most managers work forty to forty-five hours a week.
Where to Go for More Information
Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals
2805 Butterfield Rd., Ste. 200
Oak Brook, IL 60523
National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors
1725 K St. NW, Ste. 300
Washington, DC 20006-1419
Earnings and Benefits
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for distribution managers in 2004 was $73,050. Benefits include paid holidays and vacations, medical insurance, and retirement plans.