What Does a Distribution Manager Do? Duties and Skills

Updated 18 August 2023

Distribution managers are important team members in the supply chain cycle. They monitor and improve different processes within the system that delivers products and communicates with clients and vendors. If you're interested in becoming a distribution manager, learning more about what they do can be beneficial. In this article, we explain what a distribution manager does, describe the requirements they meet, detail the steps you can follow to become one and answer common questions about distribution managers.

Related: What Is a Supply Chain Manager?

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What does a distribution manager do?

Learning the answer to 'what does a distribution manager do?' can help you learn more about the career and determine if you want to pursue it. Distribution managers are leaders within a company who organise and supervise the process of transporting and delivering products. They monitor the volume of product, the process for delivering it to customers and when the shipments leave the facility. These are some tasks a distribution manager may complete during a normal workday:

  • manage staff resources and allocate supplies

  • create schedules for the distribution staff

  • negotiate prices and amounts with supplies

  • communicate with customers about delivery

  • improve business performance and distribution

  • promote safety and contribute to compliance efforts

  • encourage team members to improve and perform

  • develop goals for distribution teams to meet

  • operate information technology distribution systems

  • coordinate and manage the ordering and supply cycle

  • assess performance and quality using associated information

Related: Pros and Cons of 10 Common Management Styles (With Examples)

Requirements for distribution managers

The requirements you meet as a distribution manager can depend on where you work and what your specialisation is. Different employers may also have varying requirements for their distribution managers, depending on the products they make for their customers. These are some requirements you may meet as a distribution manager:


Because they hold leadership positions, many distribution managers have at least bachelor's degrees in a related field. Many study supply chain management, while others can complete degrees in economics, business or manufacturing. The degree you choose can affect your specialisations and where you find employment. Some choose to gain experience as a distribution specialist before enrolling in university, while others work during their studies. The process that works best for you can depend on your situation and needs.


To become a distribution manager, you may need at least three to five years of experience working as a distribution expert or associate. Depending on where you work, you may receive training within the first weeks of a new position. You can also pursue entry-level positions in distribution warehouses to learn more about distribution and the technology you may use as a manager. Some distribution managers choose to pursue certifications that focus on workplace safety, distribution methods and leadership to improve their skills.


Improving your skills as a distribution manager can help you improve your performance and potentially increase your earnings. The specific skills you need can vary depending on where you work and the products you interact with. These are some important skills you may need for becoming a successful distribution manager:


Communication is an important skill that allows you to understand and articulate information. This is important for distribution managers because they can use it to negotiate better with vendors and customers. This is also an important skill for collaborating with team members and creating systems for communication within the distribution centre. Distribution managers can use their communication skills to improve collaboration among their teams and enhance their communication skills.

Related: How to Improve Communication Skills (With Definition and Examples)

Technical proficiency

Technical proficiency refers to the manager's ability to use different computers and software to complete their work. Many modern distribution centres use integrated systems that track inventory and promote communication. Technical proficiency is also important because it allows the manager to access and change spreadsheets and other computer documents. They often communicate with vendors, suppliers and customers using technology, so it's important that they understand how to do so effectively.

Physical fitness

Depending on where the distribution manager works, they may stand, walk and crouch during a normal workday. Many managers take part in the process of distribution, and that can include walking through a warehouse to monitor processes and ensure team members perform properly. Many managers also contribute when the centre experiences deadlines or other short-term changes. Though some distribution managers work in a more office-oriented setting, many spend time in the warehouse and may lift and move products in the space.


Calculating volumes and understanding the time for each order is an important part of being a distribution manager. The managers review inventory and determine how much to order from suppliers. Mathematics skills are important for understanding these figures and calculating percentages within the warehouse. The distribution manager can learn more about mathematics during supply chain management programmes at university.


Distribution managers provide direction and guidance to the team members in the distribution department. They use leadership skills to organise materials, manage their time and encourage their staff members to improve their performance. It's important that distribution managers can act as excellent role models for distribution team members while contributing to the team. Leadership can also help distribution managers with time management, organisation and conflict resolution.

Related: 10 Leadership Role Examples (With Functions of Leadership)

How to become a distribution manager

The path to becoming a distribution manager can change depending on your professional and educational goals. These are some general steps you can take to become a distribution manager:

1. Determine if it's the right career for you

The first step to becoming a distribution manager is determining if it's the right career for you. Distribution managers use leadership and critical thinking skills to provide guidance and direction to team members in their department. If you enjoy a fast-paced environment where you can take part in the work, you may enjoy being a distribution manager.

Related: How to Find a Rewarding Career Path in 9 Steps

2. Pursue a formal distribution education

Though earning a bachelor's degree may not be necessary for becoming a distribution manager, it can improve your candidacy and refine your application materials. During a distribution management or supply chain educational programme, you can learn more about distribution processes and build the skills you need. Formal education can also help you make professional contacts and build your network.

3. Complete training and gain experience

After earning your degree, pursue training programmes or entry-level positions to improve your skills and gain experience. Working as a distribution expert or associate can help you learn more about the technology and systems within the warehouse. You can observe distribution managers to learn more about what they do to be successful.

4. Apply for open distribution positions

With education and experience, you can apply for open distribution management positions. If you currently work within a distribution centre, you can show good performance and express your interest in a leadership position. If none are available, consider applying for outside positions. You can improve your application materials by editing and proofreading to improve grammar and spelling. To prepare for the interview, consider answering practice questions with a friend or family member.

Related: How to Write a Distribution Manager Resume in 7 Steps

FAQs about distribution managers

Learning more about distribution management can help you determine if it's the right career for you. These are the answers to some common questions about distribution managers:

What do you learn in a distribution management programme?

Many distribution managers earn degrees in supply chain management. These programmes help you develop your leadership and organisation skills. These are some courses you may take during a supply chain management programme:

  • introduction to business

  • business information systems

  • microeconomics

  • logarithmic functions

  • college algebra

  • analytical trigonometry

  • global awareness

  • business communication and writing

How much does a distribution manager earn?

How much a distribution manager can earn depends on factors like their education, experience and location. The average base salary for a distribution manager is $8,083 per month or $114,160 per year. To earn more, distribution managers can pursue more certifications or gain more experience in the field.

Related: How to Negotiate a Salary (With Examples)

Where do distribution managers work?

Distribution managers are an important part of the supply chain in many large organisations. They often work with manufacturing firms and retail organisations. These managers can also work with wholesale distributors and other warehouses that process orders and manage deliveries.

What is the work environment like for distribution managers?

The work environment for a distribution manager can vary depending on where they work and how their role functions. Some distribution managers spend more time in an office setting, managing staff, orders and deliveries from their computers. Other distribution managers may take part in the distribution efforts, touring the warehouse and working with spreadsheets from a portable device. This means some managers spend a lot of time walking, standing and lifting objects.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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