Every step of supply chain management is a chance to improve

Supply chain management controls the goods and services needed to fulfill a product’s lifecycle, and powerful, modern software can assist with every step of the process.

Screenshot of a Prodsmart dashboard

Supply-chain management software can provide data analytics, automation, and facility improvements to help build a modern digital factory

What is supply chain management?

Supply chain management controls the goods and services needed to take a company’s product from raw materials to production, distribution, and returns. Effective supply chain management constantly seeks efficiencies to streamline workflows and lower costs while increasing quality, speed to market, and competitiveness.

From planning to delivery, supply-chain management software helps managers refine every phase of the supply chain.

From planning to delivery, supply-chain management
software helps managers refine every link in the supply

The five phases of supply chain management

A supply chain manager’s job entails looking for and enacting continuous improvements and efficiencies in the process by adopting new technologies, maintaining collaborative relationships with suppliers, controlling costs, and giving employees ways to evaluate the success of each step.

There are typically five phases to supply chain management, each of which can yield opportunities to improve efficiency and protect against unexpected shortages and circumstances.

  • Planning: Supply chain managers need to source all the raw materials and components required to manufacture goods and maintain factory equipment while anticipating future customer demand and matching it with available, reliable suppliers. Supply chain management solutions like production planning software can greatly assist this phase.
  • Sourcing: This phase includes ordering, receiving, paying suppliers, and managing inventory. Good sourcing depends on strong relationships with proven material and part vendors. Preferred vendors keep prices at market rates and also have the flexibility to increase their supply when needed.
  • Manufacturing: The process of creating a product from the supplied materials and parts includes assembly, testing, inspection, and packaging.
  • Delivery: This phase includes shipping from a diverse network of distributors that can adjust when one distribution method becomes temporarily unavailable. The delivery phase also includes scheduling shipments and taking orders and payments.
  • Returns: Also called reverse logistics, returns are part of supply chain management and require the company to have systems ready to receive returns and issue refunds. Customer reasons for returning goods can teach lessons about improving the product or the supply chain.

Supply chain management software can assist managers in their goal to continuously refine every phase of the supply chain. This software offers high-powered and insightful data analytics, automates certain processes, and facilitates constant improvement, making it a crucial component in a smooth-running digital factory.

Warehouse worker scanning inventory using supply-chain management software.

Real-time data changes give users continuously updated information about production flow and managing materials and teams for increased efficiency and productivity

Key features of supply chain management software

Supply chain management software from Autodesk changes the game with product lifecycle management (PLM) and product data management (PDM) centralized on the cloud, where any team member or partner can access supplier and product data from any device. Any changes to the data are reflected in real-time. That makes team collaboration more effective and efficient, cutting down on errors and speeding up product development and time to market. Autodesk supply chain management software is a single source of truth for product and supply chain data.

The cloud PLM and PDM solution Fusion Manage with Upchain brings together every stakeholder—teams, suppliers, customers—and shows them the complete picture from all data sources from any device, updated in real-time from a centralized source. As an open system, Fusion Manage with Upchain’s open API can integrate data from multiple CAD sources and upstream and downstream data such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) information. Anyone with access can, for example, review designs from rich CAD models (even without a CAD license), see bills of materials, change lifecycle states, and create or work on change orders. When product data changes, the software alerts users with real-time notifications.

Autodesk Prodsmart is supply-chain management software solution for production management and production floor tracking. It allows users to schedule and manage materials, teams, and machines through a real-time dashboard that tracks and analyzes the entire production flow, accessible from any device. Its insight into production, such as unseen costs, and ability to track and plan machine maintenance helps to reduce waste, cost, and lead times. Workflow visualization can identify bottlenecks to help manufacturers continuously improve productivity. Team resourcing also manages who does what, where, when, and how so that worker shifts align with shop floor activity.

Through Autodesk supply chain management software, businesses can thoroughly manage supply chain data for design and manufacturing. However, it is not used for onward supply chain management for distribution and sales.

Benefits of supply chain management software

Fully integrated data

Get the full picture of your data from all sources simultaneously, creating a single source of truth that updates on the cloud in real time.

Universal access

Anyone who needs access to the data—including stakeholders—can get it, including rich CAD data, even if they don’t have a CAD license, giving your projects more transparency.

Seamless collaboration

Collaborators can innovate more and make better decisions when different teams, suppliers, and customers can work together on the same data source regardless of a person’s location or time zone.

Simplicity and scale

Supply chain management software offers the simplicity to get up and running quickly, yet it can also scale up with modular processes and tailored workflows that don’t require custom coding.

Flexible, open system

Autodesk supply chain management software is a true central source of data. It includes multiple CAD integrations and an open API, so it can also integrate with upstream and downstream data from ERP and CRM systems.


Supply chain management software streamlines workflows and reduces the probability of errors, leading to reduced lag time and faster project delivery.

Autodesk software for supply chain management

Apply process management to drawings and designs. Execute change orders, release management, automated part numbering, and bill of materials management.

Upchain is cloud-based product data management and product lifecycle management software all in one.

Get Inventor + AutoCAD + Autodesk Fusion + more—Professional-grade tools for product development and manufacturing planning

Customers using Autodesk’s supply chain management software

The Autodesk PLM data and process management solution helps ME Global go big with their digital transformation. Photo courtesy of ME Global.

ME Global

Better, cheaper, faster: Choose all three

When combining Fusion Manage with Autodesk Vault Professional as its PLM solution, international mining component manufacturer ME Global saved time by having a cloud-based single source of truth and saved money by avoiding change order delays and costly mistakes.


Photo courtesy of ME Global

Reynaers Aluminium headquarters in Duffel, Belgium

Reynaers Aluminum

Managing a digital transformation

This manufacturer of aluminum systems for fabricators and architects maintains around 50,000 documentation pages for its diverse and growing catalog. For such a robust PLM job, Reynaers chose Fusion Manage and Vault Professional to give team members and partners a full view of everything at once.


Image courtesy of Reynaers Aluminium

Exploded CAD image showing a thermal heater from Termobrasa.


Less paper, fewer problems

For this Portuguese maker of home-based energy-efficient products, eliminating paper processes by shifting to Fusion and Prodsmart for production management reduced errors and made supply chain management more efficient.


Image courtesy of Termobrasa

Supply chain management resources

Learn the information security standards built into Autodesk Fusion 360 Manage, a multi-tenant live production environment for product lifecycle management (PLM).


As a single source of truth for the latest product data, Fusion 360 Manage lets users import, reuse, and combine existing data files from many sources.


This cache of quick explainer videos teaches the essential skills for both administrators and standard users of the Fusion 360 Manage PLM software.


Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about supply chain management

What are the five basic steps of supply chain management?

The five basic steps of supply chain management are planning, sourcing, manufacturing, delivery, and returns.


A business first tries to anticipate future production and customer needs and plans to match suppliers with them. Sourcing requires good relationships with vendors and enough diverse vendors to supply materials and components at the right price, quality, and quantity.


After manufacturing, the next step is delivery, where businesses should have diversified distribution options in case one becomes temporarily unavailable. Finally, returns, or reverse logistics, are also part of supply chain management. Companies should set up systems to take returns, issue refunds, and learn the lessons from what caused the return.

What are examples of supply chain strategies?

The industry standard supply-chain strategy is a just-in-time approach, where product sales automatically trigger part reorders.


Supply chain management software’s data analysis component can help improve that strategy in several ways. For example, data analysis may identify when a supply shortage will occur so the manufacturer can increase the supply and avoid customer complaints. Software analysis can also dynamically adjust the prices of seasonal products so they’re not scrapped or sold with tiny margins when their season ends. Also, supply chain management solutions can dynamically allocate resources and labor to create enough “available to promise” inventory.

Why is supply chain management important in the manufacturing industry?

Supply chain management is essential in the manufacturing industry because it can help businesses raise profit margins by cutting costs, waste, and time to market.


The manufacturing industry acutely feels the effects of unpredictable supply chain disruptions, and good supply chain management can help avoid periods of shortage and oversupply, improving profit and customer satisfaction.


Tight supply chain management can also improve product quality by ensuring that the right parts are always on hand, and product quality can strengthen brand reputation while reducing the risk of recalls.