The essential role of the Supply Chain Manager

He/She is now almost essential in the organization chart of our companies, whether industrial, distribution, retail…

However, when we ask people to explain the role of their company’s Supply Chain Manager (SCM), the vacuum quickly emerges or – conversely – we put everything in!

But who is he/she? What is he/she doing?

Where is the Supply Chain in the organization?

If we take our bible, the APICS dictionary, the definition of Supply Chain is: “Design, planning, execution, management, and monitoring of logistics chain activities to create value, develop a competitive distribution network, deploy international logistics, synchronize supply and demand and measure overall performance” (APICS Dictionary, 12th edition).

Indeed, many activities are integrated into the scope of Supply Chain management. Therefore, when we look at the Supply Chain organizations we work with, we never see the same one!

However, we can list the services/activities often included in a Supply Chain service, such as Physical logistics, Procurement, Purchasing, Planning, Continuous improvement, customer support, and many others.

Despite these inequalities we have seen over the past ten years, there is one similarity: the Supply Chain reports directly to the top management, it is integrated into a high dimension of industrial company organizations.

According to a study conducted among 743 companies, 74% of Supply Chain Directors report to the CEO of the company or of the Business Unit, 70% sit on the Executive Committee and 41% on the Board of Directors (study conducted in 2008 with 743 European companies from all sectors.)

We see that they have a central role and make it possible to decompartmentalize the silos.

The Supply Chain Manager: The pilot of industrial companies

The Supply Chain Manager must be comfortable with a dual dimension of time. On the one hand, he/she manages the short term or even emergencies. On the other hand, he/she must allow the organization to plan in long term (with the S&OP process for example)

Therefore, the main activity required for the Supply Chain Manager is to set the organization in motion!

He must also be comfortable with the upstream and downstream partners of his chain, which is increasingly oriented internationally, and whose constraints and developments directly impact his company’s performance.

As noted by Mr. Delestrange, former Supply Chain Manager of PCAS, “The Supply Chain manager is at the crossroads of the various flows. He/she is the link with the customer and the suppliers. So he/she has to take a step back and deal with the problems in a systemic way. “

When we take the study, “The job of Supply Chain Manager”; it identifies activities as:

  • Definition of the strategy and objectives of the company;
  • Supply Chain performance management;
  • Management and management of flows;
  • Optimization of the Supply Chain.

Along with the function’s objectives, Supply Chain Managers highlight the following major constraints:

  • Convince people and change management,
  • Coordinate the people (of his team, of his company, customers & suppliers),
  • Develop and implement a Supply Chain Management policy in the company.

It allows us to see that the main qualities required to be a Supply Chain Manager are human and managerial qualities. Such as the sense of communication, the ability to make decisions, leadership to supervise and lead a team, and an aptitude for coordination and cooperation.

Their versatile and chameleon profiles are a key success factor in the organizations with which we work.

The Supply Chain Manager is expected to unite around him and coordinate the company’s overall strategy (from upstream to downstream). He/she should be agile and demonstrate leadership towards its operational teams and its chain partners.

Then, if we take a step up, what should tomorrow’s Supply Chain Manager look like?

We interviewed Steven Melnyk, professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management at Michigan State University, about the future of the supply chain. For him, experience is the main success factor for future Supply Chains: using it will be the best way to optimize your Supply Chain.

The Supply Chain Manager will have to keep his versatile profile; remain unifying, improving his ability to manage complexity. He will have to adapt quickly and take a step back from past events.

The new challenge will be its ability to be curious about the emergence of new technologies, identify the appropriate options, and allow its organization to accept and integrate this change to improve the company’s performance.

Sources :

  • Conference “Supply Chain Managers – who needs them?”, April 2008, Antwerp, Belgium. Presentation of the study carried out in 2008 by Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School with Insead and S&V Management Consultants among 743 European companies from all sectors.
  •  Testimony A. Delestrange; AGILEA Newsletter October 2017
  • FAVRE-BERTIN Michel, ESTAMPE Dominique, BOSSU Vincent, GRESET David, MICAUD François, PAVIE, “The job of Supply Chain Manager”; Logistics & Management Vol. 12 – N ° 1, 2004, p 81-91 AGILEA video: “Carol Ptak & Steven Melnyk at AGILEA“
  • Other sources:
  • “The Supply Chain Manager of tomorrow will be an architect of time and space. “; Special report “The future of man in question”, Le Journal de la Logistique, n ° 81, December 2010, p 54-55,
  • “Supply Chain Manager, a strategic job”, Cathy Polge, Supply Chain Magazine n ° 27, September 2008, p 24-26,
  • Flöthmann, C., and Hoberg, K. 2017. “Career Patterns of Supply Chain Executives: An Optimal Matching Analysis.” Journal of Business Logistics 38, p 35–54.
Supply Chain manager