The Importance Of Supply Chain Managers

Many years ago, I managed an onsite VMI (vendor managed inventory) location for Class C items at a global agricultural equipment manufacturer. Think of Class C items as fasteners, or nuts and bolts – typically higher-volume, low cost, and “less critical” production components.

Listening for customer feedback in that environment was easier because I was “inside the machine.” Still, today, I hear customers say, “No news is good news,” and it reminds me how an engaged, consistent supplier can affect the supply chain. In today’s ocean of distractions, the best suppliers often manage their business with few ripples, and respond the best when waves hit.


Regardless of Class A, B, or C product classes, when a big enough wave struck – a critical quality problem or overseas freight stuck at the port causing a “Line Down” – the effect was the same. Supply chain managers stepped in to help resolve the issue expeditiously. My response was critical to managing the relationship. Taking proactive steps to mitigate inevitable, yet unexpected, issues in a B2B relationship shows a commitment and understanding of a shared mission.

Supply chain managers at large equipment manufacturers have cross-functional roles, including:

  • Planning
  • Purchasing
  • Production
  • Transportation
  • Storage & distribution
  • Risk mitigation
  • Supplier development

They execute strategy and help create a foundation to achieve company revenue targets, reduce costs, and implement change. They create solutions.


Industrial production will always ebb and flow, which creates challenges in managing the labor force. When an industry is in growth mode, supply chain roles are a prime area of professional advancement.

(For more information on industrial production forecasts, the Manufacturer’s Alliance for Productivity and Innovation publishes a quarterly report that provides a detailed look at the health of the domestic manufacturing sector.)

Many global OEMs have defined strategies for managing talent pre- and post-growth cycle. A typical scenario includes targeting industrial or materials engineering graduates for entry-level engineering positions, then coaching them on the fast track to supply chain management (SCM) roles during growth cycles.

The main challenge in filling the talent pipeline is determining how to transfuse the shop floor experience of retiring SCMs. Theoretical training is valuable, but has its limits. Drilling holes for 8 hours a day or being a part of a manufacturing team that “does what it takes” for customers — each provides a very different learning environment.


As a supplier of metal components, fabrications, and weldments to OEMs, one of our most prized commercial roles is facilitating knowledge transfer. It’s not uncommon for a new “Supply Chain Manager-Fabrications” to ask why a hole tolerance of .003″ is consistently unachievable cutting 1/2″ plate on a sheet laser.

On a handful of occasions, we’ve opened up our plants to recently-promoted SCMs for tours to discuss the many facets of fabrication, from cutting technologies and post-weld machining to launch and order fulfillment processes.


We’ve gained an immense library of tribal knowledge over the last 90 years. Any of our7 North American locations are available for tours to learn more about basic or advanced metal fabrication.  Get in touch with us.