Definitions of a "supply chain" virtually universally encompass the following three functions: i. supply of materials to a manufacturer; ii. the manufacturing process; and, iii. the distribution of finished goods through a network of distributors and retailers to a final customer. Companies involved in various stages of this process are linked to each other through a supply chain.

To facilitate the flow of products, information is shared up and down the supply chain, i.e. with suppliers and clients. This sharing of information enables all parties to plan appropriately to meet current and future needs. Numerous goals can be achieved through successful supply chain management:

The more the companies within a supply chain are able to integrate and coordinate their activities, the more likely they'll be to optimize the flow of goods from supplier to customer and to react efficiently to changes in demand.

"Supply Chain Management"

For the purpose of the supply chain sector study conducted by the CSCSC's predecessor organization, the Canadian Logistics Skills Committee, the following definition of supply chain management was borrowed from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals:

Supply chain management encompasses the planning and management of all activities involved in sourcing and procurement, conversion, and all logistics management activities. Importantly, it also includes coordination and collaboration with channel partners, which can be suppliers, intermediaries, third-party service providers, and customers. In essence, supply chain management integrates supply and demand management within and across companies.

Supply chain management is an integrating function with primary responsibility for linking major business functions and business processes within and across companies into a cohesive and high-performing business model. It includes all of the logistics management activities noted above, as well as manufacturing operations, and it drives coordination of processes and activities with and across marketing, sales, product design, finance and information technology.

12-part video series that introduces viewers to the field of supply chain management, from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University