Supply Chain Manager: What They Do and How to Become One

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Supply chain managers work to ensure efficient, cost-effective production and shipping timelines. This career guide provides insights into this high-growth job.

[Featured Image]: Supply chain manager discussing strategies with a team member.

If you’ve ever wondered about the supply chains that allow your laptop to be manufactured in China and shipped to your nearest Amazon warehouse, then you might get excited by the idea of turning these logistical challenges into a career path.

The COVID-19 pandemic and other political events disrupted the global supply chain, so shortages due to transportation and government sanctions drove up food and gas prices. Similarly, a shortage of microchips contributed to disruptions in the electronics and technology industries. 

Supply chain managers help businesses overcome logistical challenges by driving efficiency and lowering production, manufacturing, and distribution costs.

In this guide, you’ll gain insight into this high-growth job and learn how to become a supply chain manager.

What is a supply chain manager?

Supply chain managers are responsible for overseeing the import, export, and sometimes the creation of raw materials or finished products for a company. They might monitor the lifecycle of the product manufacturing process, ensuring the factories have enough supplies and then managing the distribution to warehouses in various countries. 

A step up from supply chain analysts, supply chain managers are adept at managing operations overseas using software tools like SAP or Oracle, and maintaining communications with teams by visiting them every so often. A supply chain manager might be in charge of different parts of the supply chain process. For larger companies with robust supply chains, a manager might focus on just one area, such as demand planning or logistics.

Typically, supply chain managers work in an office environment where they can oversee day-to-day operations—either in a company’s headquarters (with other departments), or near the production facility itself. They may occasionally travel to other manufacturing sites or visit new vendors to find raw materials suppliers.

Tasks and responsibilities

As a supply chain manager, you’ll be managing teams and leading the strategy toward more efficient, cost-effective production timelines. Here’s what you can expect your day-to-day tasks to be:

  • Managing the manufacturing and distribution processes

  • Working with procurement managers, buyers, and vendors to source the right materials or products

  • Negotiating contracts with suppliers, vendors, contractors, and customers

  • Utilizing software to track goods from factory to warehouse

  • Using data analytics to forecast demand for inventory, analyze performance of products and measure against economy and other factors

  • Cutting costs at every level while maintaining quality and meeting sustainability targets

  • Developing new and existing relationships with suppliers and partners

  • Innovating the supply chain process and efficiency

  • Stay abreast of trends and developments in the sector and technologies

Salary and job outlook 

As a supply chain manager, you’ll come in at a higher level than supply chain analysts, usually with the expectation that you have managerial skills to lead a team and implement cost-cutting strategies. You can expect to earn a median annual salary of $77,030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [1]. 

The projected job growth rate between 2021 and 2031 is 28 percent, which is much faster than the average of 5.3 percent [1, 2]. That means there are plenty of jobs in supply chain management in the upcoming years, as e-commerce retail continues to grow alongside complex supply chain challenges.

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Learn more about Supply Chain Management from Rutgers.

Related job titles and roles

Supply chain managers can be the sole person in a small company working on supply chain logistics—or, they can manage an entire team. Related roles include:

  • Network design planning

  • Demand planning

  • Production planning

  • Supplier management

  • Logistics

  • Supply chain analytics

  • Inventory management

  • Raw material sourcing

  • Distributing planning

Depending on the company’s needs, there may be entire teams devoted to demand planning, or a supply chain team in which one person fulfills the role of “demand planner,” as an example.

Examples of job titles relating to supply chain manager include:

  • Operations Manager

  • Logistics Manager

  • Transportation Analyst

  • Production Planner

  • Supply Chain Consultant

  • Buyer and/or Planner

  • Demand Planner

  • Inventory Analyst

  • Procurement Specialist

  • Purchasing Manager

  • Production Manager

  • Head of Supply Chain

  • Global Account Supply Chain Manager

Keep in mind that often “manager,” “specialist,” and “analyst” can mean different experience levels at some companies, but at others they mean the same thing. Search on LinkedIn or Glassdoor for more information if you’re curious about a company’s standard for titling.

Skills needed to become a supply chain manager

Supply chain managers must have a strong grasp of the supply chain and logistics landscape while also cultivating soft skills to lead teams. Here are some skills that supply chain managers should have:

  • Time management

  • Logical and systematic approach to planning

  • Decision-making

  • Problem-solving

  • Negotiation

  • Management skills

  • Analytical thinking

  • Communication skills

  • Leadership

  • IT literacy

How to become a supply chain manager

Supply chain managers will have many opportunities in the upcoming years. Here’s how you can get started today.

1. Earn your bachelor’s degree.

Like many jobs in business, supply chain managers tend to have at least a bachelor’s degree. According to Zippia, 70 percent of supply chain managers have a bachelor’s degree, 17 percent have a master’s, and only 9 percent have an associate degree [3].

That means a bachelor’s degree at minimum is typically required for these jobs. Sometimes, an MBA or master’s degree in another discipline can elevate your resume for promotions or more prestigious organizations.

2. Develop supply chain management skills.

You’ll want to gain experience in supply chain management, either as an intern or in an entry-level role. Develop your skills directly in supply chain management, as well as those listed above, which are transferable skills that can apply in many business management positions.

Supply chain principles

Taking a course in Supply Chain Principles such as this one from Georgia Tech can help you brush up on terminology such as just-in-time manufacturing. You’ll gain a solid introduction to supply chain management.

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3. Prepare your resume. 

As you gear up to start applying for jobs, you’ll want to prepare your resume for supply chain  management roles. List all of your work experiences and skills on a separate scrap piece of paper, if this is your first resume, and put them in chronological order starting with the most recent. If switching careers, scour through job descriptions for supply chain managers to pepper your resume with relevant terminology and skills.

Next, add any Coursera credentials to your resume, include action words, and find ways to enhance your resume. It is a best practice to match your resume to keywords in the specific job you’re applying for. Small adjustments every time you submit your resume can make a big difference to hiring managers or recruiters.

Read more: How to Make a Resume: 2022 Resume Writing Guide

4. Start working as a supply chain analyst.

Once you’ve polished your resume and sent off job applications, you might land an entry-level position as a supply chain analyst or related role. Congratulations! You’re well on your way to becoming a supply chain manager. As a supply chain analyst, you’ll gain knowledge of your specific industry and hopefully an insight into how logistics and demand planning works for your organization.

Our advice? Be a sponge. There are so many complex moving parts to supply chain management that you’ll learn a lot even when you’re just starting. Learn as much as you can from fellow colleagues, managers, and partners, so you can be a supply chain expert.

5. Get promoted to supply chain manager.

While it is possible to get started as a supply chain manager if you’re switching from an adjacent role and have a few years of work experience under your belt, the most logical way to become a supply chain manager is to get promoted from supply chain analyst. You’ll be well-versed in the specific processes and develop all the necessary skills to succeed as a manager.

Developing strong relationships with your manager, director, and colleagues can be beneficial when you’re in line for a promotion. Do your best work, put forth your most positive self, and that promotion to supply chain manager could be yours.

Read more: 10 High-Paying Entry-Level Management Jobs + How to Get One

Learn supply chain management

With Rutgers University’s Supply Chain Management specialization, you can master the fundamentals of logistics, operations, planning, sourcing, and strategy. You’ll get to solve a real-life business case study as a part of this six-month course.

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Supply Chain Management

Supply Chain Management. Master the Fundamentals: Logistics, Operations, Planning, Sourcing, and Strategy

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Average time: 6 month(s)

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Skills you'll build:

Forecasting, Logistics, Supply Chain, Lean Six Sigma, Supply Chain Risk Management, Warehouse Management, Logistics Planning, Inventory, Six Sigma, Microsoft Excel, Planning, Demand Forecasting, Sourcing Best Practices, Strategic Sourcing, Supply Chain Sourcing, Supply Chain Strategy

Article sources

1

US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Logisticians, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/logisticians.htm.” Accessed October 12, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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