What Are Supply Chain Manager Skills? (With How to Improve)

Updated November 10, 2022

Supply chain management involves coordinating the production, purchasing, warehousing, and distribution of products or services from one end of a supply chain to another. Supply chain managers typically use various soft and technical skills to complete daily tasks. Understanding the essential skills to develop as a supply chain manager and learning how to improve them can help you get your desired job and advance your career. In this article, we explain what supply chain manager skills are, review ten examples, describe how to improve them, and provide tips for demonstrating them at work.

What are supply chain manager skills?

Supply chain manager skills are the qualities you apply at work to direct activities and operations, from sourcing products or services to making deliveries. You may need technical competencies like digital sourcing, networking, digital analysis, and change management to perform your duties efficiently. While monitoring data and metrics can help identify better supply chain strategies, you also need soft skills like excellent communication and collaboration skills to implement them successfully.

Supply chain skills help you recognize potential growth opportunities and maintain positive work relationships with colleagues and third-party partners. Employers often seek supply chain managers with the relevant skills to improve the organization's profitability and enhance business procedures. Consider exploring and using these skills at work to improve your job performance and achieve career success.

Related: How to Become a Supply Chain Manager

10 examples of supply chain manager skills

Here are examples of skills supply chain managers use at work:

1. Risk management

Supply chain managers use risk management skills when determining transportation schedules, inventory management, and production goals. It's important to consider possible internal and external risks and develop contingency plans. You can be aware of potential risk factors by implementing risk assessment checklists, preparing reports, conducting audits, or using other risk mitigation tools. Consider developing risk management skills to improve efficiency and provide more accurate forecasts.

Related: Why Risk Management Is Important (With Strategies)

2. Decision making

Decision-making is an important skill to develop as a supply chain manager. You may encounter many work situations requiring you to make quick and effective decisions when dealing with customers, vendors, and suppliers. This ability allows you to make the best decisions to save resources and ensure the successful completion of assignments.

3. Negotiation

Negotiation skills describe your ability to gain maximum benefits from a deal. Supply chain management requires excellent negotiation skills to get quality raw materials and dependable logistics partners for a company. Negotiation skills are also essential to ensure vendors and suppliers provide cost-efficient and timely services. This skill also helps improve your professional relationships with internal and external company stakeholders.

Related: Vendors vs. Suppliers (What They Are and When to Use Them)

4. Time management

Supply chain professionals use time management strategies to enhance operational efficiency. Time management skills help you order products at the right time and communicate with suppliers to ensure timely deliveries. Because supply chain managers handle various work tasks, time management is important to set schedules and establish processes to remain organized at work. You can also apply these skills to ensure the company delivers to customers on time and improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Related: What Is a Supply Chain? (With Stages, Tips, and an Example)

5. Accounting skills

Many supply chain operations require accounting skills to manage financial documents like balance sheets. Accounting skills are essential to identify and interpret financial documents and make data-driven decisions after analyzing the financial status of supply chain operations. These financial documents include tax returns, profit-and-loss statements, and cash flow statements. Accounting skills enable you to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) and make the necessary adjustments to increase the company's profitability.

6. Data analysis

Data analysis skills can help examine the best shipping routes, identify production inefficiencies, and optimize budgets. Effective supply chain managers use analytical skills to derive actionable information by analyzing unstructured data. Consider developing this skill to gain a competitive advantage and have a proactive approach to daily work operations. This can help you evaluate the business comprehensively and implement strategies to improve internal processes and optimize product movement. Machine learning and predictive modelling also help you recognize potential challenges and develop practical solutions to address them.

7. Communication

Communication skills describe your ability to exchange meaningful information with others. Supply chain management often involves collaborating with third parties, such as suppliers or vendors and employees in different sectors, including shipping and warehousing. You need written and verbal communication skills to interact with customers, colleagues, and relevant stakeholders. Being multilingual can also be beneficial to communicate with business partners in other countries and secure more deals for an organization.

8. Budget management

This is an essential aspect of supply chain management, especially if you work in procurement. Supply chain managers with excellent budget management skills can optimize resources to ensure all operations don't exceed the allocated budget. Consider developing budgeting skills to identify alternative cost-effective processes to complete tasks efficiently and quickly.

Related: What Is Budget Management? (With Helpful Tips for Managers)

9. Project management

Project management skills are crucial to completing projects within the specified timeframe and budget. This skill is important in the supply chain industry, as it showcases your ability to plan, manage, and execute assigned projects. Project management technical skills include business tools and software proficiency. Soft skills like leadership and interpersonal skills can also assist in supervising a team and ensuring every employee performs their respective duties and contribute to project goals.

10. Logistics

Supply chain managers use this skill to ensure logistics operations proceed appropriately. Logistics operations may include buying, storing, and distributing resources to specific destinations. You may need different logistics skills, such as attention to detail, accountability, and adaptability, to adjust to changing market changes and overcome any challenges that may arise in the logistics process.

Related: Supply Chain vs. Logistics (Definitions and Key Differences)

How to improve supply chain manager abilities

You can follow these steps to develop your skills and abilities as a supply chain manager:

1. Set specific goals

Setting specific professional and career development goals can help you improve your skills successfully. Once you identify areas you intend to improve, you can set goals or milestones and monitor your progress toward them. For example, suppose you decide to develop your accounting skills. You can enrol in accounting courses or take a certification course on them. Consider setting SMART goals to improve your skills and take actionable steps to accomplish them. The SMART acronym stands for:

  • specific

  • measurable

  • attainable

  • relevant

  • time conscious

2. Earn a degree

Consider studying a course in supply chain management, contract management, or a related field to gain fundamental knowledge and improve your skills. Because many employers usually seek candidates with a bachelor's degree in this field, earning one can give you a competitive advantage during your job search. If you already have a bachelor's degree, consider earning an advanced degree to improve your skills and qualifications and appear more desirable to hiring managers. Companies may list a master's degree as a requirement to hire a supply chain manager.

Related: 9 Supply Chain Management Degree Jobs (With Salaries)

3. Gain experience

After completing your education, you can gain work experience to develop the practical skills needed to excel in the supply chain industry. For example, collaborating with various colleagues and other professionals at work and coordinating work procedures can help you develop your negotiation and leadership skills. While you may work in a specific supply chain sector, such as procurement, consider learning more about other sectors to improve your overall skills and competencies.

4. Earn relevant certifications

Studying for certifications can also help you develop various technical skills. Many organizations and institutions offer certification courses to help you advance as a supply chain professional. Consider earning a supply chain certificate to enhance your qualifications, increase your chances of getting your desired job, and potentially negotiate more pay. While pursuing the certification, you can also learn more about the industry's best practices and regulations to follow.

Related: 5 Supply Chain Certifications to Advance Your Career

Tips for demonstrating supply chain manager qualities at work

Here are a few tips you can adopt to demonstrate your supply chain managerial skills in the workplace effectively:

  • Ensure consistency in operations. You can demonstrate supply chain skills by ensuring the availability of products and a consistent flow of operations at all times. Consider checking inventory levels regularly to confirm the available products can satisfy customers' demands for a specific period.

  • Be time conscious. Ensuring timeliness can help you showcase excellent time management skills. It also helps in executing operations efficiently to foster productive workflows.

  • Negotiate better deals for the company. A good agreement entails securing a cost-effective deal while maintaining the right quality, quantity, timeliness, and relevance to supply chain operations. Consider emphasizing your work skills by negotiating effective deals with distributors, vendors, and other business partners.

  • Submit accurate reports. Always submit accurate and error-free reports to demonstrate your attention to detail, analytical expertise, and written communication skills. Including financial data in your reports can also demonstrate your accounting skills and knowledge of financial statements.

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