• Course Introduction

        • Time: 3 hours
        • Free Certificate
        Have you ever thought about how the goods we buy get to the stores where we buy them? When we buy a computer, do we consider where the parts came from, how they got to the manufacturing plant, and how they were shipped to the stores? What about the fruits and vegetables we buy, or the coffee we purchase at our favorite coffee shops?

        In this course, we will explore the steps organizations use to select suppliers for raw materials, bring those raw materials to a manufacturing facility, and turn those resources into a finished product. After the manufacturing process is completed, the goods must be delivered to the customer. All of these steps are part of the supply chain. Along the way, things may happen that hinder the smooth operations of the supply chain management process. These might include problems with a supplier, changes in laws, inefficiencies, hidden costs, or many other factors.

        As you study, consider how the concepts could be applied to real-world situations, and relate them to your own experiences as a consumer and a businessperson. Even if you do not have plans to work in supply chain management, understanding the process will enable you to be a more effective professional in any field.

        First, read the course syllabus. Then, enroll in the course by clicking "Enroll me in this course". Click Unit 1 to read its introduction and learning outcomes. You will then see the learning materials and instructions on how to use them.

      • Unit 1: Fluctuations in the Supply Chain

        To begin our exploration of supply chain management, we will take a look at the various players in the process, their roles, as well as their individual objectives. Since each link in the chain comes from a different perspective, there will be conflicts between their goals, which can affect the efficiency of the process. These complexities can lead to uncertainty in the ability to meet customer demand. In addition to internal challenges, many critical factors can affect the supply chain process, including environmental uncertainty, governmental regulations, communication and information technologies, relationships with suppliers and customers, and many others. Each of these elements must be identified and prioritized to ensure an efficient supply chain management process. 

        Finally, we will take a look at the bullwhip effect, which is what happens when members of the distribution channel revise their forecasts (either up or down) based on their departments' expectations of customer demand. As these numbers get passed along the supply chain, they distort actual demand and increase supply chain inefficiencies. Understanding the problems and challenges that can occur in the supply chain management process will help us better prepare for conflicts, inefficiencies, and inaccurate demand forecasts.

      • Unit 2: Supply Chain Procurement

        As we saw in Unit 1, there are many steps in the supply chain management process. However, nothing can be accomplished if an organization does not choose the right suppliers of goods and raw materials. There are several ways an organization can manage this process; the most prominent among those are "lean" and "agile". Lean focuses on reducing waste, and identifies seven wastes that should be eliminated for a lower-cost and more efficient operation. Agile focuses on the need to be flexible and to be able to respond to rapid changes in the market or in customer demand.

        Once an organization has determined the process for obtaining materials and resources, it must choose the suppliers that will best meet its needs. Some of the questions a company must ask of their suppliers will focus on quality, timing, and reliability. It is also important to implement good procurement practices, so there is consistency and efficiency throughout the process. This helps to identify hidden costs so that they can be addressed and eliminated. Organizations must find the strategy that is the best fit for their operations, and determine which method can best meet their needs and goals.

      • Unit 3: Supply Chain Distribution

        This unit explores how organizations ensure efficient manufacturing and distribution processes. An organization's goal is to maximize profitability throughout their operations, but changes will be common throughout the lifespan of a product. Because of this, organizations want to lower manufacturing costs and identify the most efficient transportation and distribution channels available. Many organizations use algorithms and mathematical models to identify the best strategies and approaches. 

        Because markets are unpredictable, companies forecast consumer demands to aid in the supply chain manufacturing and distribution process. These forecasts try to determine what quantities will be needed, where they should be produced, and how those goods will be delivered to the customer. By exploring all of these elements and planning for uncertainties, an organization can develop a plan that best fits their company, their industry, and their marketplace.

      • Study Guide

        This study guide will help you get ready for the final exam. It discusses the key topics from the course, walks through the learning outcomes, and lists important vocabulary terms. It is not meant to replace the course materials!

      • Course Feedback Survey

        Please take a few minutes to give us feedback about this course. We appreciate your feedback, whether you completed the whole course or even just a few resources. Your feedback will help us make our courses better, and we use your feedback each time we make updates to our courses.

        If you come across any urgent problems, email contact@saylor.org or post in our discussion forum.

      • Certificate Final Exam

        Take this exam if you want to earn a free Course Completion Certificate.

        To receive a free Course Completion Certificate, you will need to earn a grade of 70% or higher on this final exam. Your grade for the exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you can take it again as many times as you want, with a 7-day waiting period between each attempt.

        Once you pass this final exam, you will be awarded a free Course Completion Certificate.