The Importance of Language Skills in Supply Chain and Operations
07 Jun

The Importance of Language Skills in Supply Chain and Operations Management

The supply chain industry has been evolving rapidly since the pandemic outbreak. After being disrupted and seriously jeopardized, the industry needed to find a way to carry out its activities and maintain its businesses. To do so, people needed to become innovative, adopt new technologies, digitalize, and even start using AI. As a result, the industry is growing, changing, and becoming more demanding, increasing the importance of language skills more than ever.


To stand out from the rest and succeed both in supply chain and operations management, you need to walk the extra mile. Learning to speak another language can be extremely beneficial for your career in either domain and help you maintain a strong and successful business. Let’s learn how language is an important skill in supply chain and operations management.

Key Takeaways:

  • Why is language a top skill for supply chain management?
  • What segments of supply chain communication can you improve with language skills?
  • What are the end results and benefits?
  • Why do you need language skills in operations management?
  • How does this positively reflect your business performance?
  • How to start learning a language?

How Does Language Help in Supply Chain Management?

At first glance, important language skills may not be a top priority when you’re thinking about your career as a supply chain manager. Skills like strategic planning and organizing, time management, data analysis, and problem-solving probably sound more important. But giving importance to language skills makes all the other skills stronger and more successfully applicable.


Below, we’ll consider the different aspects of supply chain management, where speaking more than one language is a lifesaver.

1.       Avoiding Supply Issues

In the supply chain, it all starts with suppliers. Without the materials and components necessary to produce the product, you’re as good as gone. Skillful and straightforward communication with the suppliers is often the key.


In most cases, you’ll be dealing with suppliers outside your country. If the two of you don’t speak the same language, your communication is rather limited. Often, you won’t fully understand each other’s business policies, needs, or specific requirements. This is when several issues may arise. That includes:

  • inadequate information about the materials
  • misunderstandings
  • delays or late shipments
  • wrong material quality


But, if the communication is done in a language you both speak, it would be more natural, open, and thus more successful. This would eliminate the said problems and leave you with a trustworthy supplier.

2.       Negotiating Contracts

Retailers are the ones who sell your product to the end customer, and thus an invaluable piece of the puzzle. But, managing the retail sector is a demanding job that consists of layers and layers of hard work.


In this case, language skills would primarily be important for negotiating contracts between the company and the retailers. You’d need to make sure the contracts are fair and meet all your needs while remaining fair for the retailers as well.


That includes defining:

  • reasonable pricing and terms of payment
  • delivery schedules, logistics, and handling late deliveries
  • penalties for not respecting the contract
  • quality standards


Negotiating contracts in a mutually spoken language would be a foundation for a strong relationship. You’d be building trust, loyalty, and smooth communication, which would benefit both parties. Check out these cheap custom essays to practice your professional writing skills and improve written negotiation.

Learn more about Negotiations from Procurement Expert Maryna Trepova in this 5-star rated course.

Negotiations course

3.       Conquering New Markets

Another huge responsibility of a supply chain manager is to be the mediator between the company and the customers. Given that the customers are what is keeping the company alive, the supply chain manager needs to understand them and meet their needs in the best way possible.


But what if the company’s aiming for a new market to distribute the products? importance of language skills would be a huge help in communication with the customers. It would allow you to:

  • interact with the customers
  • reach to them on a more personal level
  • manage complaints and resolve them faster
  • receive and understand customer feedback

Not to mention that the supply chain manager needs to oversee the process of receiving and fulfilling orders to make sure it all runs smoothly. Naturally, you’d need to hire a certified translator to handle all the official content on your website or social media. But it would help you immensely to understand things without anyone’s help.

4.       Managing Cross-Department Teams

Finally, supply chain management is all about making that chain strong and not letting it break. Cross-department communication often means connecting teams from different parts of the world who work in different time zones and have varied professional priorities.


And, if this communication isn’t spot on, the whole chain could break.


So, language skills will come in handy to:

  • be the mediator between teams
  • solve their misunderstandings
  • properly communicate tasks and responsibilities to everyone
  • hold online meetings efficiently

The more languages you speak and the better you speak them, the more successful you’ll be at managing all the teams that are in your supply chain operations.

How Does Language Help in Operations Management?

Operations management is closely related to supply chain management, so it’s no wonder importance of language skills are extremely appreciated in this field as well. The main focus of operations management is on the process of production, which can be tricky and sensitive on many levels. Here’s how language can help smoothen the process and make the most out of every interaction with those involved.

1.       Dealing With Design Specificity

The design of a product can be what determines how it appeals to customers, how well it sells, and what it says about a company. Being able to work closely with the designers allows the operations manager to guide them in the right direction and ensure the agreed vision is being fulfilled.

Speaking the language of your designers would mean you can:

  • brainstorm and exchange ideas
  • have creative sessions
  • be spontaneous about changes


Also, you’d be much more confident in delegating the required standards in terms of materials, waste production, production time, or any other important details.


Without speaking their language, you’d need a translator to deal with one message at a time. This would slow all of you down and minimize the feeling of efficient work.

2.       Resolving Issues

To make sure the supply chain isn’t broken, an operations manager has to make sure the production process runs smoothly. But, more often than not, issues arise and you need to resolve them as quickly as possible.


Those problems include:

  • equipment breaking down
  • issues with delivering the raw materials
  • products not meeting the quality standard
  • improper inventory management and being out of stock


But, when you’re delegating to production teams outside your country and your speaking zone, you can’t work as fast and as successfully. The language barrier not only slows you down but prevents you from receiving and giving straightforward information.


This is why it would be more than great to be able to speak directly to those responsible and in their native language.

3.       Ensuring Cost-Effectiveness

Finally, as an operations manager, it’s your job to make the entire production process cost-effective and within the arranged budget. This requires you to do a ton of market research, come up with the right numbers, and delegate those numbers to others in charge.


Since this is a delicate matter, clear communication is key. And misunderstandings or ambiguous messages could end up costing you a lot.


This is why you’d thrive speaking the native language if those in charge while performing tasks such as:

  • considering options for cost reduction
  • making an improved plan for distributing personnel or materials
  • negotiating fair prices of materials and labor expenses
  • reducing waste


The sheer confidence and preciseness that come with speaking the language of the other party is priceless. The benefits that come with it include way better communication outcomes and achieving your goals without as many bumps on the road.

Learning a New Language: Where to Start?

Now that you see how important language skills can be for supply chain and operations management, it’s time to start thinking about learning. Here’s the best strategy for getting started:

  • determine which language you need to learn
  • install a language app to get started
  • find a course, online or in person
  • hire a tutor


Also, don’t forget to practice by watching foreign movies, listening to music, speaking to a native speaker, writing, and more.

Final Thoughts on Importance of Language Skills

Language is a huge advantage when you’re in supply chain or operations management. Dealing with a large number of people who are scattered around the globe is a challenge, but it’s easier to deal with it when you can communicate more freely.


So, if there’s a language that you know would help improve global communication in your supply chain and operations management, start improving your skills ASAP. Choose your preferred study method and get to work.

Author’s Bio

Josh Garner is a linguist and a blogger. He writes about the advantages of speaking more than one language in terms of professional growth, social relationships, and self-appreciation. He also shares tips on how best to learn, where to start, and how to set your language goals.