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Course Details

Course Number: 94-810

Introduction to Supply Chain Management and Systems

Units: 6

In the simplest sense, supply chains are “process umbrellas” under which products are designed, created, and delivered to customers. A supply chain incorporates procurement, production, storage, distribution, selling, and disposal/recycling activities that are connected by material, information, and financial flows. Despite its name, a supply chain is in fact a network of activities and flows that often involves the extensive participation and integration of external trading partners. Therefore, Supply Chain Management (SCM)includes:

• The strategic design of the network and its operational capacities

• The tactical utilization of these capacities (e.g., by managing production, inventory, and logistics activities)

• The simultaneous control of material, information, and financial flows to achieve an optimal mix of responsiveness and efficiency in the face of changing market conditions and customer demands.

Building on lean/just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing concepts and quality methodologies (e.g.,Six Sigma) that were all the rage in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, SCM has gotten significant attention in recent years. What were “theoretical” capabilities ten years ago are now hot competitive weapons. Although recent developments in large-scale optimization software applications have provided industry players with the information visibility needed to synchronize the entire channel, SCM isn’t just about technology. It’s fundamental to business strategy and can be leveraged to create new opportunities to succeed and achieve long-term competitive advantage.

The central objective of this course is to introduce future senior decision makers to the concepts, skills, and perspectives necessary to make good SCM choices. Analytical foundations of SCM related to key concepts such as inventory, capacity, and quality will be introduced. A variety of SCM examples from the private, public, and social sectors, from the simplest to the most complex, will be explored and compared. The emerging challenge of incorporating recycle and reuse strategies into SCM objectives will be investigated. Particular emphasis will be placed on evaluating the appropriateness of mainstream SCM technologies such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems as well as emerging enablers like radio-frequency identification devices, 3D printers, and do-it-yourself, opensource manufacturing.

With this emphasis on “currency”, the course is primarily readings-based with numerous examples cited to further illustrate key concepts, and it relies significantly on active student participation. The materials are primarily from “hardcore” management publications like Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, and McKinsey Quarterly as well as more ”mainstream” sources such as Fortune and Bloomberg Business Week, and selections from “academic” texts and journals. Although no textbook is assigned for the course, I will attempt to draw from among the best SCM books that I’ve come across such as Supply Chain Management by Chopra and Meindl and Designing and Managing the Supply Chain by Simchi-Levi, Kaminsky, and Simchi-Levi, particularly to highlight some of the theoretical underpinnings of SCM in areas such as forecasting and inventory management.


Tim Zak