What Is Supply Chain Management?

Updated April 27, 2021 | Staff Writers

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What Is Supply Chain Management?

The world of big business and international industry will never become less complicated. As the scope of each industry and organization expands, more highly skilled and educated roles will need to be filled in order to meet its needs. One of the more broadly defined categories of "supporting role" in the business world is that of supply chain management, which deals with every aspect of product development and distribution.

What Is a Supply Chain?

Many individuals are entirely unfamiliar with the concept of supply chains in the modern business world, in terms of how they work and what they do, but the idea is simple enough to explain. Throughout history -- ever since humans settled down, started growing food, and began building permanent cities -- the existence of large, centralized populations has mandated a certain degree of logistical refinement. Thousands of years ago, everybody needed food, and builders needed wood and stone, but neither could be provided locally in sufficient quantity to meet the demands of an urban population. In a sense, the supply chain industry is one of the earliest organized human endeavors, having grown out of our basic need to see that our other basic needs are met. In the military, and in industry; in peace and in war, supply chains are critical to getting material goods to where they need to go.

What Does a Supply Chain Professional Do?

There are many types of supply chain professionals. The scope of the industry is a broad one: obviously, supply professionals need to be able to move physical products from point A to point B, but they are also involved in every vital step along the way. Logisticians often handle the organization of cargo and shipments, but they might also handle quality control. Landmen assess the usability of land, and determine whether or not a plot of land is available for rent or purchase. Analysts work to establish the policies, particular to a given company or industry, by which other supply chain management professionals may operate at peak efficiency. Supply chain professionals work out contracts between organizations, connect public and private infrastructure, and ensure that all pertinent government regulations are followed.

Where Are the Opportunities for Employment?

Because of the breadth and scope of the industry, there are ample opportunities for supply chain professionals within the public and private sectors. There are jobs in academia, where the supply chain professional's analytical skills come in handy. There is military work, particularly with the American military policy of rapid worldwide deployment, and there are significant opportunities within such government departments as the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Energy. Entry-level supply chain and logistical positions pay well, typically in excess of $56,000 per year to start, and they offer advancement to high-level management positions. A qualified and educated professional, with a well-rounded career behind him or her, can easily start their own independent consultancy: many firms, public and private, hire the services of independent contractors.

For More Information

SCM is a growing field, at once rich with opportunity and highly competitive. The good news is, there are certain to be opportunities in SCM within your preferred niche, field, or industry; everybody needs to work with suppliers, and move their products around. The better your educational qualifications, the more likely you are to stand out in the hiring pool. Investopedia helps with the breakdown of supply chain management, providing additional information about what is needed to help you make an ideal first impression.

Related Resource: The 20 Best Online Master's in Supply Chain Management Programs

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