A supply chain is the network of suppliers, distributors, service providers and sub-contractors a company uses to source materials, components, supplies and services it needs to run its manufacturing operations. Supply chain managers plan, manage and coordinate all activities related to the sourcing and procurement of these supplies, according to the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals. A supply chain manager must ensure that supplies are available when they are needed to meet changing levels of demand for a company’s products.

Pay and Outlook:

The median annual wage for supply chain managers was $99,540 in 2011, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data reported by O*Net Online. Employment opportunities in this field are projected to grow less than 10 percent from 2010 to 2020, slower than the average for all occupations in the United States.


Supply chain managers typically hold a bachelor’s degree, according to O*Net Online. A degree in business, finance, industrial engineering or supply chain management is relevant to this position. Managers can improve their professional credentials by obtaining certification from an accreditation organization, such as the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, the Institute of Supply Management or the Institute of Supply Chain Management.


These managers must have good analytical and planning skills to establish supply requirements. They review demand forecasts with the marketing team and manufacturing schedules with the production management team. They establish supply schedules and communicate requirements to members of the supply chain. They aim to ensure that all essential supplies are available when needed so that the company can meet market requirements. To control costs, they must also minimize unnecessary stock.

Supplier Performance:

Supply chain managers monitor supply chain employee performance. They establish metrics to assess factors such as quality, cost and delivery performance. To enforce standards, they may operate a system of bonuses or penalties related to the agreed level of performance. Managers also collaborate with members of the supply chain to find ways of improving efficiency or reducing costs.


To ensure that supply chain members can respond quickly when market conditions change, managers must develop effective communication processes. They work closely with technical specialists to integrate the diverse networks and communication systems that different members of the supply chain use. Providing supply chain members with essential market and production information helps them plan their own production schedules and investment programs.


Supply chain managers aim to build mutually beneficial relationships with suppliers so that the entire supply chain works in a cooperative way. Instead of constantly changing suppliers to find the lowest prices, supply chain managers build longer-term relationships with suppliers that offer quality, value, a willingness to collaborate and the flexibility to meet changing supply requirements.

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