Supply Chain Manager: What They Do and How to Become One
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Supply chain managers work to ensure efficient, cost-effective production and shipping timelines. This career guide provides insights into this high-growth job.
If you’ve ever wondered about the supply chains that allow your laptop to be manufactured in China and shipped to your nearest Amazon warehouse, then you might get excited by the idea of turning these logistical challenges into a career path.
The COVID-19 pandemic and other political events disrupted the global supply chain, so shortages due to transportation and government sanctions drove up food and gas prices. Similarly, a shortage of microchips contributed to disruptions in the electronics and technology industries.
Supply chain managers help businesses overcome logistical challenges by driving efficiency and lowering production, manufacturing, and distribution costs.
In this guide, you’ll gain insight into this high-growth job and learn how to become a supply chain manager.
What is a supply chain manager?
Supply chain managers are responsible for overseeing the import, export, and sometimes the creation of raw materials or finished products for a company. They might monitor the lifecycle of the product manufacturing process, ensuring the factories have enough supplies and then managing the distribution to warehouses in various countries.
A step up from supply chain analysts, supply chain managers are adept at managing operations overseas using software tools like SAP or Oracle, and maintaining communications with teams by visiting them every so often. A supply chain manager might be in charge of different parts of the supply chain process. For larger companies with robust supply chains, a manager might focus on just one area, such as demand planning or logistics.
Typically, supply chain managers work in an office environment where they can oversee day-to-day operations—either in a company’s headquarters (with other departments), or near the production facility itself. They may occasionally travel to other manufacturing sites or visit new vendors to find raw materials suppliers.
Tasks and responsibilities
As a supply chain manager, you’ll be managing teams and leading the strategy toward more efficient, cost-effective production timelines. Here’s what you can expect your day-to-day tasks to be:
Managing the manufacturing and distribution processes
Working with procurement managers, buyers, and vendors to source the right materials or products
Negotiating contracts with suppliers, vendors, contractors, and customers
Utilizing software to track goods from factory to warehouse
Using data analytics to forecast demand for inventory, analyze performance of products and measure against economy and other factors
Cutting costs at every level while maintaining quality and meeting sustainability targets(Video) What Makes a Good Supply Chain Manager? - I Think 3 Things
Developing new and existing relationships with suppliers and partners
Innovating the supply chain process and efficiency
Stay abreast of trends and developments in the sector and technologies
Salary and job outlook
As a supply chain manager, you’ll come in at a higher level than supply chain analysts, usually with the expectation that you have managerial skills to lead a team and implement cost-cutting strategies. You can expect to earn a median annual salary of $77,030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics .
The projected job growth rate between 2021 and 2031 is 28 percent, which is much faster than the average of 5.3 percent [1, 2]. That means there are plenty of jobs in supply chain management in the upcoming years, as e-commerce retail continues to grow alongside complex supply chain challenges.
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Related job titles and roles
Supply chain managers can be the sole person in a small company working on supply chain logistics—or, they can manage an entire team. Related roles include:
Network design planning
Supply chain analytics
Raw material sourcing
Depending on the company’s needs, there may be entire teams devoted to demand planning, or a supply chain team in which one person fulfills the role of “demand planner,” as an example.
Examples of job titles relating to supply chain manager include:
Supply Chain Consultant
Buyer and/or Planner
Head of Supply Chain
Global Account Supply Chain Manager
Keep in mind that often “manager,” “specialist,” and “analyst” can mean different experience levels at some companies, but at others they mean the same thing. Search on LinkedIn or Glassdoor for more information if you’re curious about a company’s standard for titling.
Skills needed to become a supply chain manager
Supply chain managers must have a strong grasp of the supply chain and logistics landscape while also cultivating soft skills to lead teams. Here are some skills that supply chain managers should have:
Logical and systematic approach to planning
How to become a supply chain manager
Supply chain managers will have many opportunities in the upcoming years. Here’s how you can get started today.
1. Earn your bachelor’s degree.
Like many jobs in business, supply chain managers tend to have at least a bachelor’s degree. According to Zippia, 70 percent of supply chain managers have a bachelor’s degree, 17 percent have a master’s, and only 9 percent have an associate degree .
That means a bachelor’s degree at minimum is typically required for these jobs. Sometimes, an MBA ormaster’s degree in another discipline can elevate your resume for promotions or more prestigious organizations.
2. Develop supply chain management skills.
You’ll want to gain experience in supply chain management, either as an intern or in an entry-level role. Develop your skills directly in supply chain management, as well as those listed above, which are transferable skills that can apply in many business management positions.
Supply chain principles
Taking a course in Supply Chain Principles such as this one from Georgia Tech can help you brush up on terminology such as just-in-time manufacturing. You’ll gain a solid introduction to supply chain management.
3. Prepare your resume.
As you gear up to start applying for jobs, you’ll want to prepare your resume for supply chain management roles. List all of your work experiences and skills on a separate scrap piece of paper, if this is your first resume, and put them in chronological order starting with the most recent. If switching careers, scour through job descriptions for supply chain managers to pepper your resume with relevant terminology and skills.
Next, add any Coursera credentials to your resume, include action words, and find ways to enhance your resume. It is a best practice to match your resume to keywords in the specific job you’re applying for. Small adjustments every time you submit your resume can make a big difference to hiring managers or recruiters.
Read more: How to Make a Resume: 2022 Resume Writing Guide
4. Start working as a supply chain analyst.
Once you’ve polished your resume and sent off job applications, you might land an entry-level position as a supply chain analyst or related role. Congratulations! You’re well on your way to becoming a supply chain manager. As a supply chain analyst, you’ll gain knowledge of your specific industry and hopefully an insight into how logistics and demand planning works for your organization.
Our advice? Be a sponge. There are so many complex moving parts to supply chain management that you’ll learn a lot even when you’re just starting. Learn as much as you can from fellow colleagues, managers, and partners, so you can be a supply chain expert.
5. Get promoted to supply chain manager.
While it is possible to get started as a supply chain manager if you’re switching from an adjacent role and have a few years of work experience under your belt, the most logical way to become a supply chain manager is to get promoted from supply chain analyst. You’ll be well-versed in the specific processes and develop all the necessary skills to succeed as a manager.
Developing strong relationships with your manager, director, and colleagues can be beneficial when you’re in line for a promotion. Do your best work, put forth your most positive self, and that promotion to supply chain manager could be yours.
Read more: 10 High-Paying Entry-Level Management Jobs + How to Get One
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The supply chain manager coordinates, organizes and manages all logistics involved in the production and distribution process of a company's goods. According to the BLS, supply chain managers oversee the entire life cycle of a product.What is supply chain interview questions with answers? ›
- What is supply chain management? ...
- What would you do if your warehouse ran out of stock? ...
- Which skills are needed to be successful in supply chain management? ...
- Are you updated on current supply chain management trends? ...
- Do you have experience collaborating with overseas suppliers?
- Good communication skills. Good communication skills are important in many lines of work. ...
- A strong sense of ethics. ...
- Commitment to quality. ...
- Time management. ...
- Tech knowledge.
A supply chain is the network of all the individuals, organizations, resources, activities and technology involved in the creation and sale of a product. A supply chain encompasses everything from the delivery of source materials from the supplier to the manufacturer through to its eventual delivery to the end user.What do supply chain managers do on a daily basis? ›
A supply chain manager's day-to-day activities may involve the following: coordinate and align events to convert raw materials and service inputs into finished goods and service provisions for end-consumers in a timely and cost-effective manner; negotiate to transfer and transform raw materials into finished goods; ...What are 5 key roles in the supply chain? ›
- Buying products or services. Purchasing is a key component of any procurement role. ...
- Managing procurement processes. ...
- Supplier relations. ...
- Understand business goals and objectives. ...
- Policy management. ...
- Sustainability & Ethics. ...
- Manufacturing. ...
A supply chain analyst or specialist makes sure the company's supply and consumer demand are balanced. They are responsible for managing the company's supply networks, guaranteeing prompt delivery, and maintaining financial accountability.What are the 3 basic supply chain? ›
There are three main flows of supply chain management: the product flow, the information flow, and the finances flow. The Product Flow – The product flow involves the movement of goods from a supplier to a customer. This supply chain management flow also concerns customer returns and service needs.What are the 3 P's in supply chain? ›
Supply Chain and Risk Management: “3Ps” – Predictive, Proactive, Prescriptive.What are the 5 biggest supply chain challenges? ›
- Keeping transportation costs down.
- Keeping up with customer/industry demands.
- Sourcing consistent, reliable carrier capacity.
- Keeping up with the latest technology solutions and demands.
- On-time pickup and delivery performance.
The five most critical elements of SCM are developing a strategy, sourcing raw materials, production, distribution, and returns. A supply chain manager is tasked with controlling and reducing costs and avoiding supply shortages.What is the most important factor in supply chain management? ›
Since Supply Chain Management consists of managing the flow of information, products and services across a network of supply chain partners, manufacturing plants, and customers, the most challenging key factor would be an accurate communication.What motivates you to work in supply? ›
Job satisfaction is high in supply chain roles. Whether it's due to the pay, room for growth, travel opportunities or the diverse nature of the role (I'd guess it'd be a combination of all four), supply chain jobs are proving to be well enjoyed.What is key to success in supply chain? ›
- Flexibility. ...
- Data. ...
- Focus On Your End Customer. ...
- Full Integration. ...
- Innovation. ...
- Performance Measurement.
The main goal of supply chain management is to manufacture products and deliver them to the end consumers. However, providing the product is not the only goal; the quality of that product also matters. You should provide consumers with a product that offers the best value possible.What were the 4 basics of supply chain? ›
Integration, operations, purchasing and distribution are the four elements of the supply chain that work together to establish a path to competition that is both cost-effective and competitive.What are the 7 R's of supply chain? ›
In this step, we look at the 7 Rs of logistics. So, what are the 7 Rs? The Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport UK (2019) defines them as: Getting the Right product, in the Right quantity, in the Right condition, at the Right place, at the Right time, to the Right customer, at the Right price.What is a good supply chain? ›
The characteristics of a good supply chain are visibility, optimization, having the lowest cost possible, timeliness, and consistency.What are the three most important functions in supply chain management? ›
Procurement, storing, and delivery is the functions of supply chain management. All these are now done in a coordinated manner to improve efficiency, reduce costs and improve customer experience. All these functions together form the supply chain.What are the 4 drivers of supply chain management? ›
Five supply chain drivers, Production, Inventory, Location, Transportation, and Information, influence the performance of the supply chain.
- Quality Customer Service. The supply chain management is centralized on the needs of the customers. ...
- Costing. ...
- Risk Management. ...
- Supplier Relationship. ...
- Qualified Personnel. ...
- Unforeseen Delays. ...
- Fast-Changing Markets.
A supply chain manager is a trained professional responsible for five essential components of the chain: The carefully researched and developed strategy of the supply chain. The source of the materials used to make the goods to sell.What are the 5 stages of a successful supply chain? ›
The Top-level of this model has five different processes which are also known as components of Supply Chain Management – Plan, Source, Make, Deliver and Return.What are steps of SCM? ›
- Production Planning.
- Inventory Management.
- Continuous Flow. This is one of the most traditional models on the list. ...
- Fast chain. The fast chain model is one of the new names in supply chain strategies. ...
- Efficient Chain. ...
- Agile. ...
- Custom-configured. ...
What are the 3cs of logistics? This method has you focusing your analysis on the 3C's or strategic triangle: the customers, the competitors and the corporation.What are 3 common supply chain risks? ›
Most of the risks that could disrupt your operations fall into four broad categories: economic, environmental, political and ethical.How do you solve supply problems? ›
- Use Tools to Boost Efficiency. Supply chain issues highlight a lack of efficiency in getting products into consumers' hands. ...
- Form Relationships with More Suppliers. ...
- Make Product Changes. ...
- Add to Inventory When You Can. ...
- Improve Customer Service. ...
- Increased Costs Throughout the Supply Chain.
- Supply Chain Complexity Due to Multiple Channels to Market.
- Consumer Demands Drive Need for Improved Speed, Quality and Service.
- Risk in the Supply Chain Creates Pressure.
- The Impact of Supply Chain Volatility.
ability to use data to track orders and shipments, sales trends, demand and any weaknesses and inefficiencies. understanding of technology—artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things, analytics software and apps. soft skills to negotiate and build relationships with suppliers, customers and team ...
Step 1: Planning
Planning is the first step in every supply chain management process.
Production is one among the most important aspects of this system. It is only possible when all the other components of the supply chain are in tandem with each other. For the process of production to start it is essential that proper planning and supply of goods, as well as the inventory, are well maintained.What are the 8 basic best practices for supply chain management? ›
- Set up a supply chain council. ...
- Establish a supply chain structure. ...
- Leverage technology. ...
- Create alliances. ...
- Focus on the total cost of ownership. ...
- Strategically source suppliers. ...
- Move contract management to the supply chain. ...
- Optimize inventory for reduced cost.
The jobs you can do with a supply chain management degree involve overseeing the coordination and allocation of the supplies businesses need in order to run effectively. Many of these occupations offer above-average salaries, including some with six-figure wages.Are supply chain managers paid well? ›
Supply Chain Manager Salary
Supply chain managers make $100,414 per year on average, or $48.28 per hour, in the United States. Supply chain managers on the lower end of that spectrum, the bottom 10% to be exact, make roughly $72,000 a year, while the top 10% makes $139,000.
- business management skills.
- leadership skills.
- knowledge of transport methods, costs and benefits.
- knowledge of manufacturing production and processes.
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail.
- customer service skills.
- the ability to work well with others.
- analytical thinking skills.
If you are looking to improve your operations and implement supply chain management strategies, it is important to explore some of the main goals of supply chain management. These strategic goals include ensuring efficiency, improving quality, and optimizing transportation.What does a supply chain manager do in a day? ›
A supply chain manager's day-to-day activities may involve the following: coordinate and align events to convert raw materials and service inputs into finished goods and service provisions for end-consumers in a timely and cost-effective manner; negotiate to transfer and transform raw materials into finished goods; ...How long do supply chain managers work? ›
Usually work 40 hours a week. However, overtime is common during project deadlines.What is the highest position in supply chain management? ›
- Inventory manager.
- Logistics manager.
- Logistics planner.
- Transport manager.
- Facilities manager.
- Supply chain specialist.
- Distribution manager.
- Production manager.
To pursue a career in logistics and supply chain management, you will first need to get a bachelor's degree in a relevant subject. Ordinarily, this could be something like Business Administration or Systems Engineering.How do you become a supply chain person? ›
Eligibility requirements include a bachelor's degree or three years of relevant work experience. Applicants must pass an eight-module exam that covers the following areas: global supply chain networks; sourcing products and services; supply chain risk; internal operations and inventory; and supply chain relationships.What do you study to work in supply chain management? ›
- Business Research and Analysis.
- Management of Information Systems.
- International Business.
- Principles of Supply Chain.
- Procurement and Supplier Relations.
- Transportation and Distribution Management.
- Supply Chain Risk and Compliance.
- Inventory Management.