A supply chain is a coordinated system of processes, information, resources, physical locations, and service providers that are responsible for a product’s manufacturing, storage, distribution, and retail.1 All activities between the extraction of raw materials and the product’s acquisition by an end customer make up part of the supply chain. Links in the chain include manufacturers, transporters, distributors, suppliers, retailers, and customers. A supply chain always includes the following basic steps: extraction or sourcing of raw materials; manufacturing materials into parts; assembling parts into a finished product; selling finished products to customers; and delivering products to customers.
However, these steps depend on other essential activities, including the transportation and storage of goods; management of supply and demand; documentation and contracts that specify responsibilities and expectations throughout the supply chain; stock and inventory tracking and management; tracking and authentication of goods; and onward logistics and distribution of goods to the end customer.2
The supply chain can also refer to the exchange of information and material between the various parties involved. Supply chain mapping is the process of communicating with all companies and suppliers to document the source of every material, process, and shipment involved.3 This can be a complex process, as modern supply chains are often international and involve many steps.4 A product’s transportation alone might include ports, shipping lines, trucking companies, customs brokers, highway administration, and storage facilities.
Supply chain management (SCM) is the planning, coordination, and optimization of all elements of the supply chain to ensure that it functions efficiently, profitably, and in a timely manner.5 Key to SCM is material management, which support the flows of materials across the supply chain, and logistics, to ensure that the right materials arrive at the proper destination at the specified time.6 SCM specialists are responsible for managing the process, but it depends on collaboration and communication between the links in the chain.7 SCM integrates functions and processes both within and between companies involved in the supply chain, and also coordinates activities such as marketing, sales, product design, finance, and information technology.8 SCM must also consider the infrastructure and regulatory landscape involved in production, movement, and retail.