Understanding Supply Chain Functions

By Published On: March 26, 2021

Keeping SCOR: A Good Way to Understand Supply Chain Functions

Supply chains can be incredibly complex networks of companies worldwide that are transforming raw materials into products you buy and use. Materials may come from other countries, processed in still other countries, then travel by ship to ports in your own country, where they are put on a combination of trains/trucks/vans to get to your local store to be picked up. Many steps. A high amount of travel. Typically a lot of time and expense involved for a large number of supply chain employees. For some companies, however, their supply chains may be fairly simple, just buying from a few local suppliers, then transforming a much smaller variety of materials into saleable products distributed to local customers. Far less complexity of materials and distances traveled.

Common Supply Chain Functions

What the complex, worldwide supply chains have in common with the far less complex, local supply chains are some basic functions that each must perform in order to be successful. They each have to make products or have them flow through their systems, configuring them in a way that consumers or other businesses want. They distribute their products to customers through various channels (like retailers, or business to business deliveries, or e-commerce). They have to plan how many of each type of product or service will be needed during each planning period (days, weeks, months, years), plus what kind of capacity of resources will be needed to support the operations to produce the products and services. Once they know the plans, they have to obtain all the materials, machinery, and other resources to make the products. If it is possible for customers to send products back, either because they didn’t want them, or they had defects, or they were no longer usable and needed refurbishing, then they have to deal with reverse logistics. All the processes above also need supporting capabilities like information technology, management of facilities, dealing with regulations and measurement systems.


The common supply chain functions described in the paragraph above map into six processes as defined in the Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR) model that is developed and maintained by the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM). The SCOR model has six (6) high-level processes: Plan, Source, Make, Deliver, Return, and Enable. If you reread the paragraph above, it gives you a rough idea of how these six processes help form the common functions of supply chains. Each of the high-level functions have sub-level functions that define them in greater detail. Then, in turn, those sub-level functions have sub-functions.

You can get a further basic overview of SCOR here.

The full SCOR model is available to ASCM members.

Map SCOR Processes into Common SC Terms and Job Tasks

Since SCOR uses the high-level terms to represent a wide range of activities, it may be helpful to see them shown with terms that are typically packaged within those high-level processes along with some typical job titles along with their links to one of the best places, O*NET, to see a wide range of tasks that are performed by those job titles.


Typical alternative SC terms within Plan

S&OP (Sales & Operations Planning)


Capacity Planning

Material Requirements Planning

Supply/Demand Management

Typical SC job titles within Plan (with link to O*NET description)

Supply Chain Managers

Operations Research Analysts

Logistics Engineers


Typical alternative SC terms within Source





Typical SC job titles within Source (with link to O*NET description)

Purchasing Managers

Wholesale and Retail Buyers

Procurement Clerks

Purchasing Agents


Typical alternative SC terms within Make




Typical SC job titles within Make (with link to O*NET description)

Industrial Production Managers

Industrial Engineers

General and Operations Managers

Quality Control Systems Managers


Typical alternative SC terms within Deliver





Typical SC job titles within Deliver (with link to O*NET description)

 Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers


Shipping, Receiving, and Inventory Clerks

Freight Forwarders


Typical alternative SC terms within Return

Reverse Logistics

Returns Management

Repair and Refurbishment

Typical SC job titles within Return (with link to O*NET description)

NOTE!  O*NET does not have specific returns-related occupation listings, it may be helpful to view the Reverse Logistics Association (RLA) job listings (must register to view job postings).


Typical alternative SC terms within Enable

Information Systems

Human Resources



Facilities Management

Typical SC job titles within Enable (with link to O*NET description)

NOTE! The job titles in this category can both overlap with some of those above, but more often are more generic titles that are simply applied to supply chain, purchasing, operations, distribution, etc.