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What is the Supply Chain Management Process?

By Steve Smith

The information presented here is true and accurate as of the date of publication. DeVry’s programmatic offerings and their accreditations are subject to change. Please refer to the current academic catalog for details.


May 29, 2024

7 min read

What is the Supply Chain Management Process?

Have you ever purchased a product made halfway around the world and wondered about what it took to get it into your hands? The journey of any one product requires a careful orchestration of raw materials, suppliers, timelines, production processes, transportation modes and other moving parts in the wide-reaching supply chain management process.

In this article, we will describe how supply chain management works and dive into its various elements. We’ll also discuss the different supply chain process flow models that help companies meet their objectives while responding to fluctuations in customer demand, product life cycles, profitability and seasonality.

How Supply Chain Management Works

Companies are under continuous pressure to deliver their products to consumers faster and more efficiently. In highly competitive markets, narrow profit margins require the supply chain management process to be fine-tuned for maximum efficiency. The need for smart supply chain management is also heightened by consumers’ expectations for fast delivery along with competitive pricing.

Every product that is sold is the result of the various vendors, organizations and suppliers that make up its supply chain. Supply chains are typically global networks, managed by professionals in a range of positions and areas of responsibility. A domestic manufacturer may work with dozens of suppliers in several different countries to source raw materials or components for its products.

As companies strive to keep up with customer demands, they must maximize the ways their supply chain’s function. Emerging technologies, including generative AI, are driving supply chain trends that will enable organizations to respond more quickly to demand, reduce errors and inefficiencies and provide new levels of visibility, transparency and traceability. They will also help them be more resilient to supply chain disruptions.

The Supply Chain Management Process

Effective supply chain management begins with planning, and follows a multi-step process of sourcing and procuring materials, manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, and transportation. It extends beyond the final delivery of a product to a consumer, encompassing the return of goods that have gone astray or fallen short of customer expectations.

The steps of effective supply chain management typically encompass the following:


Every supply chain begins with a robust strategy based on cost reduction, customer demand, competitive advantage, market conditions, risk management and other considerations. At this early stage, planners forecast consumer demand and analyze their needs. Consumer behavior and economic trends are analyzed to determine the feasibility and marketability of the product. Data analyses of previous sales of similar products or buyers can inform the decision-making process at this stage, and this can be facilitated by using various cloud-based solutions.


Manufacturers rely on suppliers to provide them with raw materials to feed their operations. The sourcing, or procurement, element in the supply chain process is critical in controlling the availability and cost of these materials. In this stage of the process, purchasing managers will strive to procure the right amount of raw materials at the lowest possible cost while ensuring they meet the manufacturer’s technical requirements.


The manufacturing element of the supply chain management process involves transforming the raw materials into finished products. This phase typically includes testing, quality control and packaging the finished products as well. At this stage, manufacturers are careful to avoid inefficiency, waste or errors that could negatively impact product quality or diminish the product’s profitability.

Inventory management

Inventory management is all about having the right products in the right place at the right time. Manufacturers using multiple channels to sell products may have inventory maintained in several places. If inventories are managed well, customer orders can be fulfilled and shipped promptly.

Companies with complex supply chains are continually challenged with the balancing act of having too much inventory on hand or too little. If a company has insufficient inventory when customers need it, those customers may go elsewhere. Having too much inventory, however, can be just as problematic, as the cost of storing and insuring finished items is piled onto the cost of manufacturing them.


Also referred to as transportation or logistics, this is where finished products are shipped either directly to customers or to distribution centers. The objective here is to get the finished product to the consumer as quickly as possible, in good condition, and with an eye toward cost efficiency. To get products to consumers faster, companies may choose to ship them to regional distribution centers where they can be trucked locally to consumers’ homes or retailers’ shelves.

Options like no-cost shipping to a nearby store, online sales and drop-shipping directly from manufacturers are intended to enhance the consumer’s experience. Manufacturers and sellers must consider the logistics required to make this possible.

Large retailers maintain their own huge distribution centers near transportation hubs so consumer goods can move from cargo ships and rail cars to store shelves with new levels of efficiency. Here, supply chain managers like DeVry graduate Juan Varela are immersed in the monitoring and management of a perpetual flow of goods as they face challenges that can make or break profitability and profoundly influence customer loyalty.


In the last part of the supply chain management process, which is sometimes called reverse logistics, companies must develop a process to take back defective, unwanted or excess products from customers. The returns process is another make-or-break area for a company’s reputation, presenting opportunities for it to gain customer feedback while making the process as convenient as possible.

Supply Chain Process Flow Models

Companies across a wide range of industries share the need to streamline operations, maximize efficiency and boost customer satisfaction; but there is no single supply chain model that works for all of them. 

Businesses adopt supply chain process flow models based on their needs. A company that needs to adapt to market fluctuations and changing customer demands, for instance, would not use the same model as a company that sells into a market with minimal supply and demand fluctuations. 

Here are 5 examples of supply chain models:

  • Continuous flow model: Intended to maximize efficiency and keep a steady flow of products moving, this supply chain model allows very few pauses in the supply flow and enables companies to develop a reputation for prompt, reliable service. Companies with little variation in product demand are likely to use this model.

  • Fast model: Companies that need to respond to rapidly shifting supply and demand are likely to use this model. As its name implies, this model prioritizes speed, where companies need to bring new products to market quickly.

  • Flexible model: Emphasizing flexibility in the supply chain, this model allows companies to adapt quickly to changes in consumer preferences. The flexible model is also useful for companies that may need to adjust production output in response to seasonal shifts in demand and production.

  • Efficient model: Companies with an emphasis on reducing waste and increasing the overall efficiency of the supply chain are likely to use this model. Removing unnecessary steps or resources helps to keep things moving and with less waste.

  • Custom-configured model: This allows the supply chain to accommodate a high degree of customization in products, based on what customers are looking for.

Launch Your Career in Global Supply Chain Management at DeVry

At DeVry, our Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, our Bachelor’s Degree in Management or our Bachelor’s Degree in Technical Management can be earned with a Specialization in Global Supply Chain Management. This specialization can help you prepare to pursue a career in the international supply chain field with coursework that centers on strategies, logistics, distribution and warehousing, procurement, management and global issues in supply chain management.

And because this program is part of a bachelor’s degree in business, you’ll be exposed to a well-rounded curriculum of essentials like accounting, management and leadership, business technology, finance, mathematics, project management and much more.

Already have your bachelor’s? Our Graduate Certificate in Global Supply Chain Management is a great option, or explore how a DeVry MBA with a Specialization in Global Supply Chain Management can help you take the first steps toward preparing to pursue management careers in this area of business.

Our Bachelor’s Degree Specialization in Global Supply Chain Management, our Graduate Certificate in Global Supply Chain Management and our Master of Business Administration with a Specialization in Global Supply Chain Management are accredited1 by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)

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1Conferral and Assessment Data - Available for all of DeVry and Keller's ACBSP accredited programs. For a full list of DeVry University's business and accounting degree programs accredited by ACBSP, please see the  Accreditation page.

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