A supply chain manager is responsible for managing and organizing the activities involved with the identification, acquisition, production and distribution of the goods that a company provides to its customers. Supply chain management typically begins with the acquisition of raw resources and ends with the delivery of the final goods to customers. A manager in this field must have the ability to communicate, negotiate and coordinate events with business partners and service firms in a variety of sectors, including manufacturing, transportation and warehousing. Information management and distribution management are also important aspects of this job.
A Critical Role
Supply chain management is often considered to be just as critical to a company's success as other functions, such as sales, marketing or finance. Managers are expected to master the ongoing challenges of effectively and efficiently managing limited resources by obtaining the best prices for raw materials and purchasing the necessary quantities without tying up valuable resources in inventory. A supply chain manager must ensure that there is always an optimal quantity of materials and supplies on hand for meeting production schedules and other needs of the organization. He or she also must ensure that an appropriate quantity of goods are stored in warehouses or delivered to retail outlets in a timely fashion so that customers' demands can be met at all times. If those demands cannot be met because of low supply, the company will miss potential sales, and if the supply is too great, the company's storage costs might rise and reduce its profits.
In some organizations, these managers might manage particular areas of the supply chain, supervise contract development or play key roles in the product design process. Not only are they active in inventory control and product development, many supply managers also are responsible for making assessments and creating policies. They often are required to be proactive and versed in strategic planning and formulating partnerships to create better value for their companies. One of their key goals is to reduce costs and increase efficiency at every step in the supply chain without sacrificing quality or safety.
At one time, the supply chain manager position essentially was a contract management job that involved coordinating and supervising the work of suppliers, producers, distributors and dealers. Tasks that were associated with this position were primarily manual functions consisting of purchasing, ordering and inventory control. Many of these tasks have become automated. The duties of a supply chain manager have grown and developed over the years, and the responsibilities for those in this position now often depend on the size of the company.
Jobs as supply chain managers are available in every segment of industry. Supply chain management is utilized in government, manufacturing and communication. The retail, education and service sectors also offer opportunities to supply chain management professionals. Some individuals in this field focus on specialized areas to develop expertise, such as warehousing, e-commerce or technology.