Areas of Work in the FMCG Industry

gradmalaysia.com dishes out some insight into four areas of work you could get into in the FMCG industry.
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Buying

Buying revolves around products, the industry and customers. A clear understanding of your company’s brand and target audience is essential.

Job responsibilities

Your responsibilities include selecting and purchasing the merchandise to be sold at stores as well as buying and stocking items for operational use. The workload can get intense with tight deadlines and various ongoing negotiations, which require business acumen and entrepreneurial expertise. Buyers also need to know what’s in and what’s not, with the consumers and stock up the retail outlets accordingly.

Your job will include doing research on consumers and products, while sourcing, developing and introducing new product ideas to manufacturers. All the time, you will be ensuring that all purchases are within the company’s and consumers’ budget. A good eye for detail will help you pick out imperfections and compare the quality of the products. In addition to trends, buyers need to be updated on existing legislations, especially pertaining to food and cosmetic items.

Post-purchase evaluation is crucial. You will find yourself analysing sales data to find out the customers’ receptiveness of the products and deciding on new strategies to push the products or remove them from the shelves. You will also need to keep a close eye on competitor activities to stay ahead. Then there is keeping in close contact with suppliers, reviewing and selecting samples from various sources and conducting factory checks to ensure that your products are produced within ethical and safe standards.

Working environment

Buyers usually work from offices, not stores, but you won’t be spending much time at your desk. Travel is a must, so it is good to have a means of transportation. One of the perks is getting to see new things and meet new people all the time. You might even find yourself on the other side of the globe, searching for the best items and prices.

Getting in

Positions are highly competitive. Thus, the best way to get in is through the back door. Traditionally you would have to do an apprenticeship and work up from there. Nowadays, aspiring buyers can have a head start by obtaining a degree in strategic purchasing or retail. Nevertheless, contacts and references will be advantageous.

Finance

Finance in FMCG comprises two core functions – the central finance function and the commercial finance function.

The former deals with the recording and presentation of financial information for internal management and ensures that the financial systems operate within legal specifications, while the latter focuses on the analysis of financial information to measure a company’s performance for making forecasts and future recommendations.

Job responsibilities

If you are working in the area of central finance, a large part of your work will involve writing reports and presenting them to the management of the company as well as external regulatory bodies. You will also ensure that all the financial information fits within the legislation and to educate management on new regulations.

Those who are working on the commercial finance side are required to interpret financial reports that were churned out by the central finance team. Their job is to measure financial performance and develop new strategies, and also to possibly get involved with risk management and actuarial work. You will also work as an adviser on the capital investment decisions of the company, conduct project valuations and help manage the working capital of the organisation.

Working environment

In large organisations, various areas within the business will have their own finance department. In smaller organisations, everything will be handled by one team.

Most of your time will be spent at the office. Be prepared to put in longer hours at the end of the financial year.

Getting in

To work in finance, you will need to have a business, finance or mathematics-related degree. It is possible to enter with qualifications from other fields but make sure that you have an analytical mindset, are comfortable with numbers and prepared to go for extra training if required.

Logistics

Logistics or distribution is all about ensuring an effective supply chain. It’s absolutely crucial that goods are stored, ready for use when needed and delivered safely.

Job responsibilities

Regardless of where you are within the supply chain, you work will involve plenty of troubleshooting as problems, pressures, constraints and demands tend to happen frequently on a daily basis. When not solving problems, you will be involved in managing, checking and maintaining stocks, setting up new lines, meeting suppliers and monitoring and discussing product performance.

You work scope will be determined by your role. Generally, you will be involved in one or a few of the following stages in the supply chain:

  • Inbound logistics: Sourcing, transportation, pre-production storage, production
  • Outbound logistics: Post-production storage, distribution

Working environment

At the beginning of your career, you will be positioned in a warehouse or along the transport chain. Nevertheless, a clear understanding of the entire supply chain is required. Working hours will depend on your shift and other varying factors. You will work with a variety of people such as warehouseman, clerks, supervisors, managers, customers and suppliers. The number of people that you will oversee will increase as you move up the ladder and gain more responsibility. 

Product Design

Product design involves doing market research, identifying needs, developing creative solutions and troubleshooting technical and design problems.

Job responsibilities

Product designers are involved in developing concepts based on market research, trends and consumer demands, and bringing them to life. You will be required to monitor the process of production, at least for the first few cycles, to identify flaws and recommend improvements that can be made to the final product.

Once these ideas are implemented, they will be put to the test in various stages to gauge functionality, quality and appeal to the consumer. The process requires plenty of trial and error and problem solving, with many trips back to the drawing board. Product designers also need to factor in the cost and effort required to manufacture the final product and identify potential consumers.

When the product hits the stores, you will also be involved in monitoring feedback and finding ways to improve on the product or develop new solutions. You will also be required to go for training and conferences to keep up with the newest technologies and trends in the industry.

Working environment

Since your job involves art, science and business, you will work with a number of people such as researchers, marketing managers, product managers, industrial designers, etc. You will be working from various locations such as a lab, manufacturing plant, office or even do research on consumers at retail outlets as you need to know every process from production to sales. You may have to work longer hours when you are close to deadlines.

Getting in

You will need a degree related to design, manufacturing or engineering, paired with the necessary skills and/or relevant working experience in the field as the job is technical and requires a special skill set. Get ready to learn and absorb like a sponge at the start of your career. Your skills will also enable you to move into areas like project management, marketing or business development.