Coordinating and Managing Supply Chains - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Coordinating and Managing Supply Chains

Course Number 2125

Visiting Associate Professor Daniel Snow
Fall 2016; Q1Q2; 1.5 credits
14 Sessions

This 1.5-credit course covers the essential foundations of supply chain management. Like most 1.5 credit courses, the course will include 14 case-based class sessions. However, these class sessions will be spread across the Q1 and Q2, typically with one class per week on Monday afternoon.

A 3-credit field version, Field Course: Supply Chain Management (course number 6218 in Q1Q2), will include the same 14 case-based class sessions as well as a course paper or project.

Students can enroll in either option.

Career Focus

This course is appropriate for students interested in pursuing careers in management functions (e.g., operations, marketing, finance, entrepreneurship) in firms that make, sell and/or distribute physical products. It is also appropriate for students intending to work in investing or professional services where the ability to analyze and improve supply chains will be a differentiator. Examples include retail, consulting, investment banking, private equity, software, and transportation and logistics.

Educational Objectives

Supply Chain Management (SCM) builds on aspects of the First-Year Technology and Operations Management (TOM) course. However, whereas first-year TOM 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 first-year TOM such as inventory management, distribution economics, demand forecasting, and supplier management are explored in depth in SCM.

SCM also differs from first-year TOM in that first-year TOM concentrates primarily on material and information flows within a single 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 builds on first year courses in marketing, leadership, and strategy. The course emphasizes the "general manager's perspective" in supply chains. Cases in the course address the key barriers to coordinating supply chains. These barriers often relate to behavioral issues (e.g., misaligned incentives and change management challenges) and operational execution problems, challenges that fall squarely in the domain of the general manager. The course makes clear that suitable information technology and knowledge of analytical tools are necessary, but not sufficient, for supply chain coordination and integration.

Content and Organization

The Supply Chain Management course comprises three modules:

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.

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, inventory management and production planning. The module illustrates the various roles of inventory in the broader context of business strategy and financial performance.

Supply Chain Execution - This module focuses on common execution problems that undermine supply chain performance, and illustrates the critical role of an organization's culture in driving supply chain excellence. The module also introduces students to problems that arise due to conflicting incentives across functions within an organization and across firms in a supply chain, and provides a framework for analyzing and addressing these challenges.