It is every retailer's nightmare. In 1999, Toys R Us was unable to fulfill its online orders on time for Christmas and was forced to send out an email two days before the holiday to children and parents saying, "We’re sorry.” When supply chain disasters like this occur, bad press is soon followed by lost market share, lower stock prices, and ruined reputations. In fact, Toys R Us responded to the failure by contracting with then-fledgling online retailer Amazon for future fulfillment. Companies are increasingly sourcing raw materials, manufacturing, and labor from all over the world forming a global supply chain. How do companies ensure smooth operations in their far-flung supply chains and minimize the effect of inevitable crises? 

Job Description: What Is Supply Chain Management?

The answer is through supply chain management. The supply chain manager coordinates the logistics of all aspects of the supply chain which consists of five parts: 1) the plan or strategy, 2) the source (of raw materials or services), 3) manufacturing (focused on productivity and efficiency), 4) delivery and logistics, and 5) the return system (for defective or unwanted products). The supply chain manager tries to minimize shortages and keep costs down. The job is not only about logistics and purchasing inventory. According to, supply chain managers, “make recommendations to improve productivity, quality, and efficiency of operations.” Improvements in productivity and efficiency go straight to the bottom line of a company and have a real and lasting impact. Good supply chain management keeps companies out of the headlines and away from expensive recalls and lawsuits. 

Supply chain managers work in a variety of industries including manufacturing, aerospace, defense, and energy. They work for both large and small companies. A classic example of a supply chain manager's function might be finding the best price and quality for components in a consumer product like an iPhone. A supply chain manager can also oversee operations such as by managing processes for shipping and warehousing. Because corporate headquarters, raw material sources, manufacturing, shipping, and consumers can all be in different countries or even continents, supply chain management often requires extensive travel and on-call hours to work among different time zones.

Education and Training

Supply chain managers require skills in project managementcost accounting, e-business/e-procurement systems. They should also have global awareness, good business ethics, and an understanding of legal contracts. Since supply chain management can involve working across silos and in many different cultures, soft skills like communication, effective presentation, and multicultural understanding are also important. The acquisition of these skills comes from both formal education and on-the-job training.

More than 75 percent of supply chain managers have either a bachelor’s or master’s degree according to and most companies require some level of experience, typically between 5-7 years, in a related or similar field. This experience can range from management, e-business, purchasing, logistics, project management, or enterprise resource planning. Degrees in economics, business administration, statistics, manufacturing, and management are common. Some colleges and universities also offer specialized degrees in supply chain management. Certifications like the CPSM, CPIM, and CSCP can also give job seekers an advantage. 


According to Glassdoor, the annual salary range for a supply chain manager falls between $65,000 and $117,000 with an average of $89,067. Bonuses are not uncommon in this field. With bonuses, the annual average compensation for a supply chain manager is $99,000 with top performers able to earn much more. The outlook for these jobs has been and should continue to be strong as business becomes increasingly global. 

The Bottom Line

Top supply chain managers have joined the C-level of most companies and earned a place at the table with the chief executive officer, chief operations officer, and chief financial officer. Corporations are now very aware of the impact that supply chain management can have on the operations and economics of a company. This recognition has resulted in a strong total compensation package for these jobs.