Key Skills in Supply Chain Management and Why You Need Them

Earning a Master of Business Administration in Supply Chain Management online from Fitchburg State University can help students develop skills needed for success in the field. The degree program combines the study of generalized business management and the major functional areas of organizations with specialized courses on advanced supply chain management topics.

Through this integrated program of study, students refine a host of in-demand skills, both broadly applicable business skills and those explicitly related to supply chain management. As a result, students graduate from the program prepared to apply their supply chain expertise and business acumen to different types of organizations in various industries.

Here are five critical skills for today’s supply chain management leaders:


Supply chain management can seem like a near-constant practice of problem-solving. It is akin to assembling a wildly complex puzzle with pieces that continuously change shape, disappear or fall out of reach. Yet, this process is both the challenge of supply chain management and what attracts people to the field.

Supply chain managers need to be skilled problem-solvers at the macro- and micro-levels. They identify supply chain issues, investigate problems using available tools and resources and use what they learn to devise solutions.

Plus, problem-solving is not only a reactive skill. Effective supply chain managers use what they learn through problem-solving and decision-making processes to improve and optimize operations.

Risk Management

Blume Global notes, “Risk is a natural part of the supply chain ecosystem.” A supply chain network is a delicate web of interconnected, interdependent components. A disruption to any network component can dramatically hamper the entire supply chain. This fact has become brutally apparent with recent disruptions due to several factors, including the pandemic, trade wars and climate change.

Therefore, managing risks surrounding unforeseen disruption is a fundamental component of effective supply chain management. This protocol involves anticipating potential risk and installing risk mitigation and crisis management plans.

But building resilience and adaptability into the supply chain is perhaps the most effective component of risk management. Diversifying supply chain channels and securing backup suppliers and inventory warehousing can help continuity. And, as discussed below, developing strategic, robust alliances and relationships is essential, too.

Communication Skills

Excellent verbal and written communication skills are essential for leadership in supply chain management. The field is an intersectional function of an organization, interfacing with many other areas and departments that impact and/or rely on the supply chain.

Thus, supply chain managers must be in constant interdepartmental communication with colleagues. These communications surround everything from product development timelines to marketing campaigns, and human resources management to budgeting.

Supply chain managers must also communicate effectively with upper management. They are responsible for ensuring that supply chain design and performance align with company goals, expectations and market demand. Supply chain managers typically provide updates to company leaders. They also relay necessary communications from top leadership to the departments, teams and project leaders responsible for planning and execution.

Relationship Skills

With communication as a base, supply chain managers must excel in collaboration, teamwork and building relationships. These are necessary skills for leading teams, collaborating with other organizational departments and, importantly, building partnerships and relationships with the companies a supply chain relies on.

Fitchburg State’s MBA program examines these complex relationships between a company and the outside firms that form its supply chain network. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, the strength and resilience of a company’s supply chain network can make or break business success through disruptive times.

SupplyChainBrain uses the term “alliance builder” to describe this vital role of supply chain management. Building strong, collaborative alliances with network partners can increase loyalty, flexibility and resulting supply chain resiliency when it is most needed.

Information Systems and Technology Competency

SupplyChainBrain, Zippia and Logistics Bureau highlight the importance of information technology and information systems competency for today’s supply chain leaders. Fitchburg State’s supply chain MBA reflects this focus with courses on management information systems and the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) software to improve decision-making.

As with most functional areas of businesses, information systems are reshaping supply chain management, improving efficiency, performance and productivity. Data analytics helps management identify and remediate inefficiencies and vulnerabilities in the supply chain. Integrated analytics software and information systems offer real-time, predictive insight into changing conditions, assisting companies in anticipating, pivoting and adapting to supply chain issues with agility.

Fitchburg State’s online MBA can help aspiring supply chain professionals develop these critical skills along with advanced knowledge of supply chain management practices. With this specialized expertise, supply chain managers can be effective and adaptable in a constantly evolving field.

Learn more about Fitchburg State University’s online MBA program in Supply Chain Management

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