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What Does a Supply Chain Manager Do?

By DeVry University

November 11, 2022

6 min read


Supply chain managers are a critical component of the global economy, but what does a supply manager do? Supply chain managers are responsible for ensuring that businesses can efficiently source raw materials, manufacture products, store inventory and transport shipments through distribution channels to consumers or wholesalers. 


Sometimes called logistics managers, supply chain managers are responsible for keeping things moving. Without them, production of all kinds of manufactured products would be more susceptible to delays, interruptions and cost overruns because the raw materials or services required to make them were not available at the right time.


It’s exciting to know the outlook for this career path looks positive. According to the  U. S. Department of Labor Statistics, employment of logisticians like supply chain managers is projected to grow 28% on a national level from 2021 to 20311, a rate that is much faster than the average for all occupations. 


Additionally, about 24,800 new openings for logisticians are projected for each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or leave the labor force. 

What Is Supply Chain Management?

Let’s first take a look at what we mean when we describe the supply chain. It’s a network of organizations and people involved in the production and delivery of a product or service. 

The chain may include producers, vendors, warehouses, transportation companies, distribution centers and retailers. Specific supply chain activities can vary widely depending upon a company’s business model, but there are generally 5 primary activities in the chain:

  • Inbound operations, including transportation from suppliers and receiving inventory

  • Production operations, including the consumption of raw materials and finished goods

  • Outbound operations, including all fulfillment activities and transportation to customers

  • Order promising, accounting for all constraints in the supply chain, including suppliers, manufacturing facilities, distribution centers and customers

  • Performance tracking of all activities

Supply chain management is simply the management of these operations.

Supply Chain Management Job Duties

To ensure supply chains function smoothly, the supply chain manager performs a variety of strategic and managerial tasks that may include collaborating with other departments in the organization. 

For example, they might interface with the operations or finance departments to create business plans. Some experience in project management can be useful here, as well as leadership and communication skills or proficiency with project management tools.

  • Creating the company’s supply chain strategies

  • Analyzing shipment and delivery data to uncover bottlenecks and other issues

  • Finding cost-effective solutions for supply chain processes

  • Evaluating and reporting on key performance indicators (KPIs)

  • Monitoring logistics

  • Maintaining supply chain inventory and records

  • Training and mentoring employees

  • Developing and implementing safety guidelines in all aspects of the supply chain

Skills and Requirements

Many of the skills and qualifications required of a supply chain manager are commonly shared between industries, regardless of the employer’s business model. 

A quality supply chain manager is well organized, able to multitask and always looking for ways to improve the procurement of materials and the processes by which products are manufactured and shipped to markets. 

Companies use supply chain management software (SCMS) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) programs to automate and optimize the range of activities required to plan, control and execute product flows. 

Knowledge of SCMS such as SAP SCM, Oracle SCM, Magaya (supply chain automation) or ArrowStream (used in the food industry) can help you pursue this career path.

If you have strong project management skills – like the ability to keep things well organized and moving forward, even under pressure – you may want to consider a career in supply chain management.

Problem-solving skills are also essential in this career. An effective supply chain manager must be able to respond to challenges with a sense of urgency, creativity and a positive attitude to get things moving again.

Gaining work experience in this area is another good step in working toward success. Experience in inventory management, product distribution or project management can also be helpful, as can earning industry certifications such as the Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) through the Association for Supply Chain Management.


What is the education requirement for a supply chain manager?

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a supply chain manager, you may want to begin by earning a bachelor’s degree. At DeVry, our Bachelor’s Degree with a Specialization in Global Supply Chain Management can help you develop many of the supply chain operations skills needed to work in many industries while exploring the diverse cultural, political and economic circumstances of foreign markets.  

This specialization can also be earned as part of our Bachelor’s Degrees in Business Administration, Management or Technical Management.

How much previous experience do you need to be a supply chain manager?

How much previous work experience is required for a supply chain manager position will vary from company to company, however experience in inventory management or distribution, such as working in a warehouse or making deliveries, may be helpful in attracting the attention of hiring managers.  Any experience with ERP programs may also be a useful resume-builder.

Is supply chain management a lot of math?

The supply chain management field is not specifically mathematical, but you will need some basic math skills to make simple, on-the-spot calculations. You’ll also need to read and understand spreadsheets and the information contained in them to make informed decisions about inventory and supply chain sustainability.

What do supply chain managers do on a daily basis?

The supply chain manager’s daily activities might include material requirements planning, inventory control and transportation planning for maximum efficiency. Supply chain managers might also:

  • Determine appropriate equipment and staffing levels to handle materials
  • Confer with supply chain planners to forecast demand or create supply plans
  • Negotiate pricing and terms with suppliers, vendors or freight forwarders
  • Analyze inventories to determine how to increase inventory turns, reduce waste or optimize customer service

Is supply chain management a desk job?

The typical setting for a supply chain manager is an office environment. Because they generally need to have easy access to the production or manufacturing areas they oversee, their offices tend to be situated just off the manufacturing or engineering floor. 

Supply chain managers may be called upon to travel to other manufacturing sites if their company has multiple locations. They may also need to visit the sites of vendors or manufacturing partners to work out issues, find new means of production or seek out new sources of raw materials. 


Supply chain management is a fast-paced and fast-growing career path where you can put your project management and organization skills to work while experiencing the diverse cultural, political and economic aspects of global markets. 

Supply chain managers help manufacturers and service providers make and deliver their products on time while maintaining profitability and competitiveness. 

Pursue Your Supply Chain Management Career at DeVry

Your journey to playing a key part in the global economy begins here. Our Bachelor’s Degree Specialization in Global Supply Chain Management can help you develop supply chain and operations skills needed to work in many areas of business. Earn your degree 100% online with classes starting every 8 weeks. 

1Growth projected on a national level. Local growth will vary by location.

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