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Supply Chain Management (SCM): How It Works & Why It's Important

Updated: May 6

What Is Supply Chain Management (SCM)?

Supply Chain Management (SCM) is the coordinated management of a network of interconnected businesses involved in the ultimate provision of product and service packages required by end customers. SCM spans all movement and storage of raw materials, work-in-process inventory, and finished goods from point of origin to point of consumption.

The history of supply chain management

The concept of SCM has evolved significantly over the decades. Initially focused on improving manufacturing processes, SCM has grown to encompass a wide array of activities essential for efficient, effective supply and distribution of goods and services. The introduction of technologies such as the internet and ERP systems has further transformed SCM, enabling real-time data sharing and complex global networks.

How Supply Chain Management Works

Supply Chain Management works by overseeing and managing a product’s lifecycle from raw material sourcing to production, and ultimately to the delivery to the consumer. Effective SCM requires a combination of strategic planning, demand forecasting, resource allocation, and delivery execution to meet consumer demand with adequate supply.

5 Phases of Supply Chain Management

1) Planning

The planning phase involves demand forecasting, resource allocation, and supply planning to ensure that sufficient resources are available to meet expected demands.

2) Sourcing

Sourcing involves selecting suppliers that can provide the goods and services needed to create the product. Effective sourcing ensures that materials meet quality standards and are cost-efficient.

3) Manufacturing

Manufacturing oversees the production process to ensure operations are efficient and products meet quality standards. It includes scheduling, assembly, and testing of products.

4) Delivery

Delivery, or logistics, manages the movement of goods from warehouses to vendors and customers. It involves order fulfillment, transportation, and distribution.

5) Returns

The return process involves managing the reverse flow of goods back from customers in cases of returns or defects, ensuring that these processes are handled efficiently and cost-effectively.

Types of Supply Chain Models

Supply chain models can vary based on the industry and the specific operational needs of the business. Some common models include the lean supply chain, the agile supply chain, and the custom-configured model, each designed to address different priorities such as speed, cost reduction, or flexibility.

Example of SCM

A classic example of effective SCM is the retail giant Walmart, which excels in leveraging its SCM for competitive advantage. It uses a sophisticated replenishment system that allows shelves to be restocked almost in real-time, directly linked to customer purchases.

Why Is Supply Chain Management Important?

SCM is crucial because it directly impacts a company’s operational efficiency and success. Proper supply chain management can reduce costs, improve productivity, and enhance customer satisfaction.

The future of supply chain management

The future of SCM is likely to be shaped by advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain technology, which promise to bring even greater efficiency and transparency to supply chains.

How Are Ethics and Supply Chain Management Related?

Ethics play a critical role in SCM because they influence decisions regarding labor practices, environmental conservation, and fairness in trading practices. Ethical SCM practices are vital for maintaining corporate responsibility and sustainability.

How Much Do Supply Chain Management Jobs Pay?

Careers in SCM can be lucrative. Salaries vary widely depending on the specific role, industry, and geographical location, but positions in SCM typically offer competitive pay due to the high demand for skilled professionals in this field.

The Bottom Line

Effective supply chain management is essential for any business looking to succeed in today’s global economy. It not only helps in managing the production and distribution process but also in adapting to changes and challenges that come with market dynamics.


What are the best practices in SCM?

Best practices in Supply Chain Management (SCM) are strategies and methods that have been proven to optimize the supply chain's efficiency and effectiveness. Here are some key best practices:

  1. Integrated Planning and Execution: Syncing supply with demand proactively by integrating sales and operations planning with actual execution.

  2. Visibility: Gaining end-to-end visibility across the supply chain to detect disruptions early and respond quickly.

  3. Risk Management: Implementing robust risk management strategies to handle potential supply chain disruptions and mitigate their impacts effectively.

  4. Supplier Management: Establishing strong relationships with suppliers through regular communication, collaborative planning, and mutual understanding to enhance reliability and quality.

  5. Continuous Improvement: Applying lean principles to eliminate waste, reduce costs, and improve service. Regularly reviewing and optimizing supply chain processes using tools like Six Sigma.

  6. Customer-Centricity: Aligning supply chain strategies with customer needs, including segmentation and personalized service to enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

  7. Technology Investment: Leveraging advanced technologies such as AI, IoT, and blockchain to improve accuracy, speed, and cost-effectiveness.

How does technology impact SCM?

Technology dramatically transforms Supply Chain Management in several key ways:

  1. Enhanced Visibility: Technologies like IoT and real-time data analytics help companies gain deep visibility into every aspect of their supply chains, from inventory levels to the status of shipments.

  2. Improved Efficiency: Automation and robotics streamline operations in warehouses and distribution centers, reducing errors and speeding up processes.

  3. Advanced Analytics: Big data and predictive analytics can forecast demand more accurately, optimize routes, and schedule production, thereby reducing costs and improving service levels.

  4. Increased Collaboration: Cloud-based platforms and blockchain technology facilitate better collaboration between different stakeholders in the supply chain by providing a single source of truth.

  5. Greater Agility: Digital tools enable supply chains to become more flexible and responsive to changes in market conditions or customer demands by facilitating faster decision-making and operational adjustments.

What skills are necessary for a career in SCM?

A career in Supply Chain Management requires a mix of technical, analytical, and soft skills:

  1. Technical Skills: Understanding of supply chain software, such as ERP systems and data analytics tools, as well as familiarity with logistics and inventory management.

  2. Analytical Skills: Ability to analyze data to extract actionable insights, forecast demand, and optimize processes.

  3. Problem-Solving Skills: Strong problem-solving abilities to manage and mitigate issues in the supply chain efficiently.

  4. Communication Skills: Excellent communication skills are essential for negotiating with suppliers and collaborating with various internal teams.

  5. Adaptability: Ability to adapt to new technologies and changing market conditions.

  6. Leadership and Management Skills: Capability to lead teams, manage projects, and make strategic decisions.

  7. Global Perspective: Understanding of dynamics of global market supply chain, cultural nuances, and regulatory issues in international supply chain management.


Understanding SCM is crucial for businesses seeking to enhance their operational efficiency and competitive edge. As global markets continue to evolve, the importance of integrating advanced SCM strategies will only increase, highlighting the need for skilled professionals in this vital field.

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