Supply chains refer to all the steps necessary to get products from a supplier's location to a customer's hand. Supply chain managers are in charge of every aspect of their company's producing, purchasing, transporting, distributing, engineering and financial forecasting activities. They implement new policies, or modify existing procedures, to minimize costs, increase accuracy, improve customer service or safety and meet product distribution needs. Managers also control the moving, storing and processing of all inventory.
Education and Certification
Supply chain managers typically have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in supply chain management. According to the Institute for Supply Management, some have technical, engineering or master's degrees. Institute for Supply Management reports that the salary of those with a master's degree was 24 percent higher than those with a bachelor's degree in 2013. Managers may obtain certification, but it's not a requirement. For example, they may take the Certified Supply Chain Professional exam offered by the Association for Operations Management, which is for candidates who have a minimum of five years of work experience or a bachelor's degree and two years of experience.
Analyzing and Streamlining
Supply chain managers frequently review quotes and forecasts to ensure changes won't negatively impact their operations, such as gas or raw material prices skyrocketing. They work to implement modern methods of maximizing profits and the economy. For example, they may find ways to reduce the amount of inventory stored in warehouses at one time or to combine transportation shipments. They evaluate inventories and design new techniques to optimize performance by lowering the amount of waste and increasing product flow.
Negotiating and Contracting
Supply chain managers keep an eye on their current suppliers' ability -- ensuring delivery and quality requirements are consistently met. They estimate acceptable requirements for materials or products, cost and labor before finding and assisting in qualifying new suppliers. Managers work with suppliers, freight forwarders and vendors to determine terms of contracts and to negotiate prices. They also implement guidelines for collaborating with other essential departments, including sales, quality assurance and marketing.
Supply and Demand
The Wall Street Journal noted in 2013 that supply-chain graduates were in high demand. It reports that supply chain managers for Michaels Stores supervise departments such as inventory, from Popsicle sticks to picture frames, or analysis, from engineering to operational efficiencies. According to O*Net OnLine, supply chain managers earned a median annual income of $103,530, as of 2013. It reports that 898,000 supply chain managers were employed in 2012 and 249,100 new jobs are expected to open between 2012 and 2022.
Experience and Advancement
According to the Association for Operations Management, career mobility is a trend in supply chain management. It notes that some of the top accomplishments leading to promotions include demonstrating proficiency in specific areas, maintaining a track record of positive performance and promoting high professional standards in work areas. As supply chain managers gain experience, they may be promoted to larger departments to oversee more complex chains or products.