Supply Chain Manager Skills: Examples and Tips for Enhancement

Updated 20 September 2023

A supply chain manager coordinates all aspects of the supply chain, including planning, sourcing, manufacturing, delivery and disposal. They require a unique set of skills to fulfil these responsibilities. Learning about these skills may help you develop them and effectively fulfil a supply chain manager role. In this article, we define supply chain management skills, provide examples, explain how to improve them and discuss how to use them in the workplace and when applying for jobs.

What are supply chain manager skills?

Supply chain manager skills are abilities you can apply to manage various operations and activities that range from sourcing to delivery of products or services. You can categorise skills into hard and soft skills. Examples of hard skills include data analysis, knowledge of enterprise resource planning software, change management, logistics, customer service, networking and digital sourcing. A supply chain manager also requires soft skills, including time management, leadership, emotional intelligence, problem solving, organisation and communication skills.

Related: Procurement management: a step-by-step guide (with tips)

Examples of supply chain manager skills

Here are some examples of supply chain manager skills:

Accounting skills

Supply chain managers may require extensive skills to manage supply chain operations. These include management, cost and financial accounting knowledge to analyse management activities, cost factors and financial information. Accounting enables supply chain managers to monitor key performance indicators, make changes and help the company improve profits.

Knowledge of financial statements

Supply chain managers use different financial documents while managing supply chain operations. They identify, interpret and distinguish unique documents, such as balance sheets, to collect data and make decisions when analysing the financial health of the supply chain operations. Other financial documents may include cash flow statements, profit and loss statements, ageing reports and tax returns.

Understanding e-business and e-procurement systems

Companies may integrate technology into their supply chain operations and use a business or a procurement system. E-procurement or electronic procurement is the sale and purchase of supplies, equipment and services. This process uses a network system or a web interface. The system helps with supply chain functions, such as spend analytics, e-sourcing, savings tracking and contract management.

Related: E-procurement: definition, benefits and how-to guide

Logistics skills

Supply chain managers apply logistic skills to ensure logistics operations run smoothly. Logistics operations include procuring, storing, and transporting resources to their final destination. A supply chain manager may require different logistic skills, including decision making, leadership, adaptability and analytical skills. They also require accountability, attention to detail, teamwork and industry knowledge.

Related: What are logistics? A comprehensive guide for a better career


Supply chain operations are more efficient when they have a good flow of information. Supply chain managers require written, verbal and nonverbal communication skills to interact with suppliers, vendors, customers and colleagues. Proper communication enables you to manage supply chain operations efficiently and effectively. For example, communication ensures that the supply chain orders correct items within a reasonable time to avoid delaying or halting operations.

Planning and organising

A supply chain manager plans and organises operations to increase efficiency. Planning and organising also minimises uncertainties, facilitates coordination and improves employees' morale. Supply chain managers also use planning and organising skills to control operations efficiently. Planning also helps ensure activities are meaningful to the organisation and supply chain. A supply chain also relies on planning and organisation skills to expect, prepare for and manage risks.

Time management

Supply chain managers require time management skills to improve operational efficiency. Their time-management skills ensure they order goods on time and communicate effectively with the supplier to ensure on-time delivery. Time management can help avoid supply chain bottlenecks, establish processes and identify fallback strategies. Supply chain managers also apply time-management skills in distribution to ensure the company delivers products to its customers on time.

Related: How to improve lead time (with techniques and benefits)


When the market changes because of factors like market demand, supply chain managers may encounter unique challenges and require flexibility and adaptability to overcome them. Adaptability and flexibility help improve innovation in the supply chain, as they promote creative thinking. For example, if a delivery truck breaks down in transit, the supply chain manager may send a backup track or outsource delivery services to another party to ensure they deliver items on time.

Negotiation skills

Supply chain managers negotiate with suppliers and vendors to source products and services, helping sustain the company's operations. They may negotiate with suppliers and vendors to agree on various terms. Negotiation skills help the supply chain manager assess cost, quality, quantity and delivery.

Project management skills

Supply chain managers may work on projects that require project management skills. Project management is a process that coordinates activities and resources to meet specific goals within a particular time, budget and scope. Skills you can apply in project management include organising and planning risk management and financial awareness.

Contract and legal knowledge

Supply chain managers may apply contract and legal knowledge to comply with organisational and legal regulations. They may apply this knowledge to resolve contractual problems, develop high-value contracts and implement and monitor contracts.

Other supply chain manager skills

A supply chain manager may require multiple other skills to succeed in various aspects of their job. For example, they may require innovation management skills to manage stores or warehouses. Here are some examples of these skills:

  • business ethics

  • networking

  • data analysis

  • inventory management

Related: Analytics in supply chains: definition, types and features

How to improve your supply chain manager skills

Here are some key steps to help you improve your supply chain managerial skills:

1. Get an education

Study a course in supply chain management procurement and contract management or relevant fields to develop your skills. You can study for an associate or bachelor's degree to be eligible for many supply chain management jobs. Some companies may ask for a master's degree before hiring you as their supply chain manager.

2. Get certifications

You can also study for certifications to improve various skills. For example, you can get a Lean Six Sigma certification to show you have competence in quality management with the knowledge to minimise defects and reduce errors. Certifications may also make your job application unique and improve your chances of getting a supply manager job.

Related: 9 professional business certifications for a career boost

3. Gain work experience

Gaining work experience can develop your skills practically. For example, working with different people helps you develop your interpersonal and negotiation skills. You may work in a particular supply chain sector but try to learn more about other sectors to learn and develop more skills.

4. Set skills goals

Setting goals for developing your skills and defining actions can help you achieve your objectives. For example, if you want to improve your financial skills, you can take an accounting certification course. You can then set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time conscious) for a better chance of success.

Supply chain skills in the workplace

Here are ways to show your supply chain management skills in the work environment:

  • Provide accurate reports: Writing accurate reports helps you show your communication skills, analytical expertise and supply chain knowledge. Adding financial data to your reports also demonstrates your financial knowledge and accountability.

  • Negotiate good deals for the organisation: You can demonstrate your supply chain management skills by negotiating good deals with suppliers, vendors, distributors and the employees you hire. Some characteristics of a good deal include cost-effectiveness, quality and quantity, timeliness and relevance to the company's operations.

  • Be time-conscious: Observing timeliness helps you demonstrate your time-management skills. It also helps you to execute supply chain operations efficiently.

  • Ensure a consistent flow of goods: Supply chain management aims to ensure the availability of goods and consistency in operations. You can demonstrate your supply chain skills by ensuring that the company's inventory levels meet customer demands.

How to highlight supply chain managerial skills in job applications

Here are some tips you can use to highlight your supply chain management skills in the job application process:

Supply chain manager skills on a CV

Mention some of your relevant skills, including technical and soft skills. Try to align your skills with those the job description mentions to improve your chances of getting the job. You can also highlight your skills in the education section and add certifications to your CV.

Supply chain manager skills in a cover letter

A cover letter provides the opportunity to introduce and discuss your skills. For example, discuss technical skills like your knowledge of financial documents or inventory management and soft skills like communication and organisation skills. Refer to the job description to highlight skills the employer wants and mention your awards to emphasise your skills and improve your chances of getting the job.

Supply chain manager skills in a job interview

Interviewers may ask you different questions to analyse your supply chain skills. Answer the questions and describe examples from your experience to demonstrate your proficiency in a skill. Read different interview guides and the job description to prepare for questions the interviewer may ask regarding your skills.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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