A Solutions Specialist works for suppliers or vendors of supply chain hardware and software solutions to help customers improve their supply chain operations. For example, if a retailer needed to build or improve a distribution center, they may hire companies to help them design and install those solutions, typically a combination of hardware and software to move products and information. The solutions specialist may be the person involved in a portion of the design or installation of new or upgraded facilities, helping with anything from the analysis, to the design, to the installation and startup of the operations. Solutions Specialists work closely with their own supplier company teams and with client teams to develop and install those solutions. They may be remote, but are quite often onsite during the installation process.
Regardless of your position, whether you are a Supply Chain Specialist, Logistics Coordinator, Sourcing Manager, Plant Manager, Demand Planner, Supply Chain Analyst, Continuous Improvement Director, or have another position that is managing part of the supply chain process, there are times when you need to rely on a Solutions Specialist and their team to assess the current situation, propose possible solutions, and follow through with installation and implementation. A Solutions Specialist is one of a team of people who can take the process from beginning to end when your operation needs changes, but they may often focus on a particular type of solution, such as conveyor systems, storage systems, warehouse management systems, etc.
There are companies that offer this role to supply chain leaders in organizations. These companies provide specialists who can do both the required analysis and also propose solutions. A Solutions Specialist knows which products are available to solve the issues a company is facing in their supply chain. Many of the companies that provide solutions specialists also furnish other specialists who can come into a company to work as a consultant or contract employee in order to fill specific gaps.
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A Solutions Specialist can either have a broad, overall knowledge of many different areas in the supply chain or can be very specialized in a specific area of the supply chain system. If the solutions specialist is more wide-ranging in knowledge, ultimately this person will determine the specific area(s) of the supply chain that need solving and will then bring in specialists for those areas. The first-line Solutions Specialist may be the lead, or account manager, who manages the entire project if it is a small or targeted project, but may be part of a team of specialists on larger projects as proposals are made and implementations are carried out.
This position requires a high degree of supply chain knowledge with strong analytical and problem solving skills. Additionally, the Solutions Specialist needs excellent communication (particularly listening and asking probing questions), team participation, and project management abilities in order to work successfully with the client. These skills are used whether you are in a role that is more broad-based or whether you are in a niche area of the supply chain industry. A knowledge of continuous improvement principles such as Six Sigma and Lean can be highly valuable for a Solutions Specialist to add value to the client.
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A typical day for Solutions Specialists may find themselves engaged in any of these activities:
Solutions Specialists often travel to client sites in order to assess the clients’ needs. They may need to be in an office environment or production floor. Each client’s situation may be very different. They need a variety of design tools to develop solutions, plus the tools that will be used by the clients to operate their supply chain systems (like ERP, WMS, analytics, visibility, etc.). . A Solutions Specialist will alternate their time between individually focused design work and interaction with their solutions team and clients.
Salaries for Solutions Specialists in the U.S. can vary quite widely depending on the size and complexity of projects, plus education, certifications, the number of years you have spent in the profession, your experience, and additional skills.
Recent job postings reflect this wide range of salary from approximately $50k to $150k.