Supply Chain Management - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Supply Chain Management

Course Number 2108

Professor Jan Hammond
Fall; Q1Q2; 3 credits
28 Sessions
Exam or Paper

Career Focus

This course is appropriate for students interested in pursuing careers in any management function (e.g., operations, marketing, finance) in firms that make, sell and/or distribute physical products, or in organizations (e.g., consulting firms, investment banks, private equity firms, software providers, transportation providers) that analyze, invest in, and/or offer products and services to those firms.

Educational Objectives

Supply Chain Management (SCM) builds on aspects of the first-year Technology and Operations Management (FYTOM) course. However, whereas FYTOM focuses primarily on producing and developing products and services, SCM emphasizes managing product availability, especially in a context of rapid product proliferation, short product life cycles, and global networks of suppliers and customers. Hence, topics not examined in FYTOM such as inventory management, distribution economics, and demand forecasting are explored in depth in SCM.

SCM also differs from FYTOM in that FYTOM concentrates primarily on material and information flows within an organization, whereas SCM focuses on managing material and information flows across functional and organizational boundaries. Due to the boundary-spanning nature of supply chain management, the SCM course also has strong links to the first-year courses in marketing, leadership, and strategy. The course emphasizes the "general manager's perspective" in managing supply chains. Cases in the course illustrate that barriers to integrating supply chains often relate to organizational issues (e.g., misaligned incentives or change management challenges) and operational execution problems (e.g., misplaced SKUs in a retail store) that fall squarely in the domain of the general manager. The course makes clear that suitable information technology and appropriate use of analytical tools are necessary, but by no means sufficient, for supply chain integration.

Content and Organization

The Supply Chain Management course comprises four modules. A number of sessions will feature case protagonists and other visitors who will bring their practical experience into the classroom.

Module 1: Logistics - This module examines transportation economics, the role of distributors, and network design for the efficient and effective flow and storage of goods and information in a supply chain. The module demonstrates the multiple faces of supply chain management - strategic, organizational, and tactical.

Module 2: Inventory Management and Planning - This module provides an introduction to the basics of supply chain management, with an emphasis on how to design and manage a supply chain to ensure that product supply meets product demand. It introduces students to basic analytical tools for demand forecasting and inventory management, and illustrates the various roles of inventory in the broader context of a firm’s strategy and financial performance. The module concludes with a comprehensive Global Supply Chain Simulation that allows student teams to design and operate a supply chain over a multi-year period.

Module 3: End-to-End Supply Chains - This module requires students to broaden their perspectives to look at each supply chain holistically, from end-to-end. This perspective is increasingly critical as supply chains become more complex, more global, and more fragmented at the same time as customers demand greater speed, flexibility, and product variety. The module also introduces students to problems that arise due to conflicting incentives across functions within an organization or across firms in a supply chain, and provides a framework for analyzing and addressing these challenges.

Module 4: Supply Chain Execution - This module focuses on common execution problems that undermine supply chain performance, and illustrates the critical roles of technology (e.g., RFID), process design, and organizational culture in driving supply chain excellence.