Director of supply chain management: Learn more about the career

November 27, 2017 · 5 min read · By ASU Online

The concept of supply and demand is at the core of a profitable business. Every successful organization needs a quality product or service and consumers to purchase it. The supply chain director is the one who ensures raw materials, equipment, hardware and staff are in position to deliver the finished product to waiting consumers, at the right time, location and quality.


As the director of supply chain management you would be responsible for overseeing and organizing the acquisition and transportation of the raw materials and products an organization needs to operate. The supply chain management director scrutinizes each component of the process, from product creation to supply procurement to delivery.

Such an integral role typically requires both a strong educational background and relevant work experience. Earning a Master of Business Administration can teach you the fundamentals of business and help you develop the right skills to be a successful director of supply chain management.

A supply chain manager reviews an order at her desk.

The fully online Master of Business Administration program from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University starts with functional knowledge, “making sure you know something about each of the major functions: accounting, finance, supply chain and so on” says Reynold Byers, Clinical Professor, Supply Chain Management at ASU. “That functional knowledge is important in any aspect of business.”

With a flexible and customizable program, you can aim to create an experience that best prepares you to accomplish your goals in supply chain management. The online MBA program can help to improve your operational effectiveness through a comprehensive curriculum that teaches the fundamentals behind supply chain management and skills required for successful leadership.


A typical day in the life of a director of supply chain management

As a director of supply chain management, your overall goal is to reduce costs and increase efficiency throughout the supply chain process. You implement operations and develop strategies to ensure product quality, safety and customer satisfaction.

On a daily basis, this is achieved by monitoring each step of the supply chain process, assessing employees and goods, modifying policies when necessary and establishing or maintaining relationships with outside vendors. You may also manage a smaller group of employees who work in the manufacturing process. Examples of supply chain management include meeting with stakeholders to identify and solve problems, using new technology to streamline inventory or adjusting staffing numbers for improved efficiency.

Specific activities for a director of supply chain management include:

  • Developing efficient and cost-effective supply chain strategies
  • Managing inventory
  • Monitoring the market and adapting supply chain processes to deal with changes
  • Nurturing relationships with vendors and communicating specific order requirements
  • Regularly analyzing vendor risk, vendor performance and overall supply chain effectiveness

A closer look at the professional landscape for a director of supply chain management

The professional landscape of supply chain management has many potential career paths. Other positions, including purchasing or logistics managers, are offshoots of this role. A purchasing manager plans, directs and coordinates the purchase of materials, products or services while overseeing buyers, purchasing agents and others in procurement-related occupations. Logistics managers analyze and coordinate an organization’s supply chain, managing the entire product lifecycle from acquisition to delivery. These jobs can each lead to supply chain management director roles, as they provide fundamental work experience coveted by employers.

The median salary for a director of supply chain management is $120,000, according to Payscale, but this can increase with experience, education and certification.  Known to be a competitive field, one qualification employers may look for is your educational background and whether or not you have any certifications. Earning an MBA may improve your job prospects or even help you move up the supply chain ladder to roles such as vice president of operations or eventually, chief operating officer.

Certification isn’t often required, but it can be beneficial. There are quite a few options, including the Certified Professional in Supply Management credential offered by the Institute for Supply Management and the Senior Professional in Supply Management certification from the Next Level Purchasing Association. Both certifications have different requirements. The first combines a series of three exams with three years of relevant work experience plus a bachelor’s degree, while the latter requires applicants to complete six online courses and pass an exam. Exploring options like these while completing your MBA program can help you potentially earn certification as you’re completing your graduate degree, allowing you to enter the workplace as a highly competitive candidate.


Becoming a director of supply chain management

Based on your experience, you may decide to specialize in a particular field as a director of supply chain management, rather than simply looking for general supply chain opportunities. Often, individuals will opt for a career in a specific area like technology or a certain industry like education or retail.

“The good thing about supply chain is capturing so much of the business cycle and activity, you can find a spot anywhere, depending on your traits,” says Byers. “Quantitative, qualitative, people person, non-people person; there’s a spot for everyone.”

Beyond learning the fundamentals of business and management while grasping the ins and outs of the supply chain, having well-developed soft skills can be equally influential in your success as a director of supply chain management. These include:

  • Analytical skills — when evaluating potential suppliers, you must analyze options to select the vendor with the best combination of price, quality, delivery and service
  • Critical thinking — building out strategies relating to the supply chain and then being able to adjust and carry them out successfully
  • Problem solving — handling unforeseen issues such as delivery problems and making appropriate and timely adjustments to quickly resolve issues
  • Interpersonal skills — managing a team of employees plus vendor relationships to remain productive

Learn more about your potential career as a director of supply chain management

Byers, speaking from experience in both education and the industry, believes in the value of an MBA for anyone who wants to move into management or director-level roles. Working with the supply chain is especially relevant to an MBA education because the career touches the most important part of an organization: the part that makes the profitable products. A strong understanding of business can help you develop the right knowledge base to think strategically about maintaining the supply chain’s efficiency in your organization.

Learn how an online Master of Business Administration from ASU can help prepare you for a career in supply chain management.


A supply chain manager reads an iPad while two people stand in the workroom background.
A supply chain manager smiles at his desk as he writes on a keyboard.


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