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Supply Chain Management - Process

Updated: May 6

Supply chain management (SCM) is the art of managing the flow of goods and services, transforming raw materials into final products, and delivering them to customers. The process encompasses a broad range of activities and requires meticulous planning and execution. Here’s a detailed look at each step in the supply chain management process.

1) Plan

The planning phase is foundational in SCM. It involves forecasting demand, planning inventory, and devising production strategies to ensure that every part of the supply chain runs smoothly and meets customer demands efficiently.

Key activities include:

  • Demand planning: Predicting customer demand using historical data and market analysis.

  • Supply planning: Ensuring there is enough inventory to meet projected demand without overstocking.

  • Resource allocation: Determining how resources should be allocated to meet production needs.

  • Financial planning: Budgeting for the costs associated with manufacturing, logistics, warehousing, and procurement.

Effective planning aims to balance demand and supply, minimize costs, and maximize efficiency and customer satisfaction.

2) Develop (Source)

The development or sourcing phase focuses on procuring the raw materials and other inputs required to produce goods. It includes identifying potential suppliers, negotiating contracts, and managing ongoing relationships with vendors.

Essential components are:

  • Supplier selection: Choosing suppliers based on criteria such as price, quality, reliability, and service.

  • Purchase ordering: Placing orders for the required materials.

  • Inventory management: Managing inventory levels to keep production running without excessive stock.

  • Supplier relationship management: Maintaining good relationships with suppliers to ensure a reliable flow of materials and negotiate better terms.

This phase is critical for maintaining the quality of the final product and ensuring cost-efficiency in production.

3) Make

The making phase involves the transformation of raw materials into finished products. This stage is where production planning, scheduling, and control come into play to ensure that products are manufactured efficiently and to quality standards.

Activities include:

  • Production planning: Scheduling the production runs to meet customer orders.

  • Manufacturing: The physical process of creating the products.

  • Quality control: Ensuring the products meet quality standards and specifications.

  • Packaging: Preparing the products for shipment.

This phase requires careful coordination to optimize manufacturing processes and minimize waste and downtime.

4) Deliver

Delivery, also known as logistics, manages the transportation of goods from factories to end customers. It encompasses warehousing, order fulfillment, transportation, and distribution.

Key processes are:

  • Order fulfillment: Processing customer orders and preparing them for delivery.

  • Warehousing: Storing goods until they are needed for delivery.

  • Transportation: Moving goods from production facilities to various distribution centers or directly to customers.

  • Distribution management: Managing the flow of goods in the most cost-effective and efficient way.

Efficient delivery systems ensure that customers receive their products on time and in good condition, which is vital for customer satisfaction and retention.

5) Return

The return process, also known as reverse logistics, involves managing the return of goods from customers. It includes handling repairs, replacements, and recycling of returned products.

Important aspects are:

  • Return policy management: Setting up rules and procedures for handling returns.

  • Return processing: Receiving and processing returned items.

  • Refurbishment: Repairing returned items if necessary.

  • Disposal: Properly disposing of unrepairable or unwanted products.

This phase is crucial for maintaining customer trust and loyalty by ensuring a hassle-free return process.


The supply chain management process is a complex but vital component of business operations that directly impacts a company’s success. By understanding and optimizing each phase—Plan, Develop, Make, Deliver, and Return—businesses can ensure efficiency, reduce costs, and improve customer satisfaction. Businesses can adopt green supply chain to increase efficiency. As global markets continue to evolve, the ability to effectively manage a supply chain becomes a significant competitive advantage, enabling businesses to adapt quickly to changing consumer needs and market conditions.

Effective SCM not only ensures operational efficiency but also drives innovation and growth in an increasingly interconnected world.

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