Supply Chain Manager

Supply chain managers ensure that products and services are available in the right place at the right time. Retailers often outsource this responsibility to specialist logistics and distribution companies.

Supply chain managers have to manage the different aspects of the supply chain (including sourcing, purchasing, transport, warehousing and distribution), and they may organise distribution to consumers via home delivery services.   They direct or coordinate production, purchasing, warehousing, distribution or financial forecasting services or activities to limit costs and improve accuracy, customer service or safety.  They examine the existing procedures or opportunities for streamlining activities to meet product distribution needs and direct the movement, storage or processing inventory. They need to design or implement supply chains that support business strategies adapted to changing market conditions, new business opportunities or cost reduction strategies. 

They confer with supply chain planners to forecast demand or create supply plans that ensure availability of materials or products and monitor forecasts and quotas to identify changes or to determine their effect on supply chain activities.  Supplier performance is monitored to assess their ability to meet quality and delivery requirements.  They need to develop procedures for coordination of supply chain management with other functional areas, such as sales, marketing, finance, production or quality assurance.  They negotiate prices and terms with suppliers, vendors or freight forwarders and meet with suppliers to discuss performance or to discuss production forecasts or changes.  They work closely with suppliers and customers to improve operations and reduce costs, and to integrate the business processes and IT systems of many suppliers and customers. 

They participate in the coordination of engineering changes, product line extensions or new product launches to ensure orderly and timely transitions in material or production flow.

Increasingly, they take responsibility for ’reverse logistics’, such as the return of reusable pallets, collection of packaging for recycling, as well as the return of rejected or damaged goods. They investigate or review the carbon footprints and environmental performance records of current or potential storage and distribution service providers and locate or select biodegradable, non-toxic or other environmentally friendly raw materials for the manufacturing processes.

Personal Requirements

  • ability to understand the whole process ’from supplier’s supplier to customer’s customer’
  • interpersonal and negotiation skills
  • have numeracy and IT skills
  • confidence and integrity
  • organisational and planning skills
  • ability to work under pressure
  • written and verbal communication skills
  • willingness to work unusual hours (a lot of supply chain activity happens at night)

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course

What to Study

A National Higher Diploma in Supply Chain Management or equivalent. Computer Literacy-office applications. Code EB driving licence.

Most high-quality graduate training schemes include extensive supply chain exposure. Professional qualifications in functions such as purchasing, logistics or transport management are available and valued by employers. Courses in Supply Chain Management and Logistics are available at Bytes People Solutions, Intec and Damelin. Relevant courses are also available through the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (see below).


  • factories
  • manufacturers
  • large retailers
  • logistics and distribution companies

Further Information

Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILTSA)
P O Box 44945
Linden, 2104
Tel: (011) 789-7327

Getting Started

  • speak to a supply chain manager and ask to observe him at work
  • do volunteer or part-time work with a supply chain manager

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

Supply chain careers in the Agricultural sector

A supply chain manager at Coca Cola

A PACE Career Centre Product. © All rights reserved | Developed by Netgen (Pty) Ltd. Disclaimer: Please see disclaimer