Supply chain internships are a way for college students to gain practical experience in designing distribution strategies, inventory ordering systems and supply logistics support. Major companies offer supply chain internships at both the undergraduate and graduate level, although they primarily recruit MBA students for their advanced assignments. Most of these companies offer paid internship experiences, both during the regular school year and the summer break period.
At the undergraduate level, supply chain internships focus on acquainting the student with the procurement and distribution process. Interns may work with computer systems that help firms handle replenishing inventory and moving product through the distribution pipeline. Support positions might entail tracking a shipment of product from the time it leaves a company's manufacturing facility to the time it reaches the customer. Supply chain internships for those students who are pursuing a bachelor's degree may cover topics such as cost efficiency and competitive analysis.
A company's distribution strategy is never completely set in stone. In order to reduce costs and stay competitively priced in the marketplace, a firm must always be on the lookout for alternative ways to move product. The introduction of computer information systems and technology has made it possible for companies to analyze data and pull reports that may reveal inefficiencies. In addition to identifying gaps in distribution methods, selecting various scheduling and routing designs, inventory control systems can also be selected and updated.
Graduate level supply chain internships deal primarily with finding solutions to big-picture problems. For example, an intern may work on a team that analyzes the way a company stores and distributes inventory. The team may find that the computer program or system is outdated and the company's distribution costs could be reduced by upgrading to a system that has additional features that save employees time or eliminate unnecessary work tasks. MBA level internships often entail the examination of a company's entire supply chain management process to make recommendations for improvement.
Some of the areas that may need improvement include the number and location of warehouses, fleet routes, and whether the company relies primarily on rail, boat or air. It may be more efficient for a company to take over its own distribution, employ a third-party or use a variety of direct to store delivery vendors that handle the distribution of a single line of products. Inventory storage methods might also be examined by students who take on graduate level supply chain internships, including location look-up, number of days in inventory, and movement of products from one warehouse to another.