What Does a Material Program Manager Do?

Jan Fletcher

A material program manager oversees the purchasing, storage, and positioning of materials needed to produce finished goods. Those who work in this career field may also fill a liaison role between the supply chain manager and company management. This manager will likely supervise staff responsible for managing inventory. A key concept in material program management is the timely positioning of materials, so that production idling time is reduced. Material program managers may also maintain quality control assurance over inventory under their care.

A material program manager is responsible for managing inventory control.
A material program manager is responsible for managing inventory control.

In a large, complex manufacturing facility, a material program manager is typically the key staff person expected to oversee several areas related to efficient factory operation. These areas often involve oversight of materials purchasing and inventory management, ensuring a steady flow of product will be. Another concern for a person working in this capacity may be ensuring that materials are stored in such a way that no degradation occurs during the storage period. Positioning resources strategically for just-in-time production may also be the responsibility of the material program manager, and is a task essential to ensuring optimal workflow. Reducing transportation costs, and tracking materials to reduce loss may also fall to the material program manager.

A person functioning in this career path often serves as a crucial liaison between the supply chain manager, and those responsible for the actual manufacturing process. He or she may also be expected to report to senior management, alerting company leaders to potential quality control issues in materials used in the assembly line. The person who works in this capacity is typically expected to have excellent problem solving capabilities, as material management can be impacted by a wide range of problems.

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One such problem could involve a breakdown in the supply chain due to the bankruptcy of a supplier, for example. Another issue could involve tracking a case of property loss that may have come about due to a corrupt employee. Resolving transportation issues, particularly in severe weather or disasters, may also fall under the responsibilities of a material program manager. When a supply chain is disrupted, and materials are waylaid, the economic cost to a major manufacturing operation can be very costly.

At times there may be an overlap in the job descriptions of material program managers and supply chain managers. One point of divergence may be that the material program manager would likely focus more on the staging and flow of materials, while the supply chain manager would be more oriented toward the actual procurement. Depending on the size of the operation, a smaller firm may combine both aspects, while larger firms would tend to break out these processes into distinct job responsibilities. While a supply chain manager may spend significant time in the field maintaining relationships with suppliers, a material program manager usually focuses more on managing the physical shipments, and strategic positioning of supplies for just-in-time production.

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