Supply Chain Manager Competencies

By Vokurka, Robert J. | SAM Advanced Management Journal, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview
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Supply Chain Manager Competencies

Vokurka, Robert J., SAM Advanced Management Journal

Building on the concept of logistics, supply chain management (SCM) has become a recognized discipline of increasing importance in our global economy. Competence in managing the supply chain often affects and can determine the bottom line. But business and management programs do not produce enough people with the necessary SCM skills. As part of a leadership development program, an SCM professional organization has developed a model describing the competencies needed for designing SCM-related positions as well as training and educating individuals to fill them.


Supply chain management (SCM) has been recognized by corporate business as a necessary business function, and may be used for competitive advantage. The definition of SCM has evolved over the past 25 years, with the concept gaining broad understanding. At the same time, corporations continue to staff SCM functions, but have not been fully satisfied with the talent available from academic institutions and their own development processes.

Part of the problem underlying the insufficient talent pool has been a lack of defined competencies required for a supply chain manager. This paper describes the development of the Supply Chain Manager Competency Model[C] after reviewing the history of SCM and current SCM education.

Finally, the uses and implications of the model will be discussed.


The term "supply chain management" was first introduced in a 1982 Financial Times article about an approach being developed by Keith Oliver and other consultants at Booz Allen Hamilton (Laseter and Oliver, 2003). There have been many definitions the discipline has developed, and most are similar to the following "The Association for Operations Management" (2008) definition: The design, planning, execution, control, and monitoring of supply chain activities with the objective of creating net value, building a competitive infrastructure, leveraging worldwide logistics, synchronizing supply with demand, and measuring performance globally.

The activities of SCM include the flow of raw materials to the finished product realized by end customers--and back, in the case of recycling or return. Another way to look at the activities is in terms of five major processes: buy, make, move, store, and sell (Webster, 2009).

SCM may be an outgrowth of "logistics," a term denoting a functional area of responsibility dating from to the late 17th century and the creation of the Gram mareshal de Logis, an officer charged with providing lodging and support for French troops in the field (Webster, 2009). Debate continues regarding the differences between the two terms. Lummus, Krumwiede, and Vokurka (2001) discuss the differences; SCM is generally thought to be the broader term.

The early beginnings of the execution of a supply chain initiative can be traced to the textile's industry quick-response program and later to efficient consumer response in the grocery industry. Owing to intense, worldwide competition, leaders in the U.S. apparel industry formed the "Crafted with Pride in the USA" Council in 1984 (Kurt Salmon Associates, Inc., 1993). In 1985, Kurt Salmon Associates was commissioned to conduct a supply chain analysis. The results showed the total delivery time for the apparel supply chain, from raw materials to consumer, was 66 weeks long, 40 weeks of which materials spent in warehouses or in transit. The long supply chain resulted in major losses for the industry because of inventory financing and not having the right product in the right place at the right time. The study spurred the development of the quick response (QR) strategy. QR is a partnership where retailers and suppliers work together to respond more quickly to consumer needs by sharing information. Significant changes were the adoption of the universal product code (UPC) used by the grocery industry and a set of standards for electronic data interchange (EDI) among companies.

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