What is Supply Chain Management?

Supply chain management—also known as operations management or logistics management—is a sub-field of business management focused on creating an optimal amount of efficiency in an organization’s supply chain. This efficiency is intended to lower the organization’s cost of goods sold, allowing the cost savings to be passed on to consumers through lower prices and, in turn, increasing the organization’s competitive edge in its chosen markets.

What Does a Supply Chain Manager Actually Do?

An organization’s goods and services have to get from their point of origination to customers’ hands. This is where a supply chain manager enters the picture. All of the organization’s resources, from product components to the labor necessary to assemble and deliver them, must be allocated to the right places at the right times to ensure that the supply chain is working at maximum efficiency. The day-to-day work life of a supply chain manager is a flurry of crunching numbers and ensuring that deadlines along the chain are met. Finding quick solutions to problems that arise between the time when the raw materials are obtained and the time when the goods are placed in customers’ hands is the name of the game.

How Do I Become a Supply Chain Manager?

At a minimum, you will need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year college or university. A major in business management—and, if your school offers it, a major, minor or concentration in supply chain management—will be beneficial, although it is by no means a necessity. Regardless of your chosen major, you should plan to leave college having completed courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, statistics and probability, corporate finance, financial accounting, cost accounting and business law. After you have graduated from college and worked for a few years, you may also want to consider pursuing a master’s in business administration with a concentration in operations management to increase the breadth and depth of your professional knowledge.

Where Do Supply Chain Managers Work?

Everywhere. Well, nearly everywhere. While retail companies are probably the entities most closely associated with the movement toward creating a supply chain that is as lean as it can possibly be, supply chain managers can be found in professional services firms, healthcare organizations, investment banks, state and federal government agencies, technology firms, large non-profit organizations, major law firms and transportation firms, among others. If you want to become a supply chain manager, there will be opportunities for you in almost any industry.

If you are a driven, self-disciplined person who enjoys devising creative solutions to complex business problems and is not shy about working with a few numbers here and there, supply chain management may be the career for you.