Trends in management towards a concentration on core competencies and outsourcing of non-core activities have created complex networks, i.e., global supply chains. At the same time, it has been discussed that this increased complexity has also made companies more vulnerable. An interesting paper, Structural Drivers of Upstream Supply Chain Complexity and the Frequency of Supply Chain Disruptions, co-authored by Bode and Wagner, is currently forthcoming in the Journal of Operations Management. Herein, the authors distinguish between three drivers of upstream supply chain complexity: (1) horizontal complexity (= the number of direct suppliers in a firm’s supply base), (2) vertical complexity (= the number of tiers in the supply chain), and (3) spatial complexity (= the geographical spread of the supply base). Based on survey data, the authors find that all of these three drivers increase the frequency of supply chain disruptions. It is further found that these three variables even amplify each other’s effects in a synergistic fashion.
Bode, C., & Wagner, S. (2015). Structural Drivers of Upstream Supply Chain Complexity and the Frequency of Supply Chain Disruptions. Journal of Operations Management DOI: 10.1016/j.jom.2014.12.004
Today, I would like to draw your attention to one of my favorite articles in the field of supply chain management: Design for Postponement by Swaminathan & Lee (2003). The article identifies three key postponement enablers: First, process standardization, where the initial steps of a process are standardized across a product line and distinct personalities are added at a later stage (e.g., localized manuals or power supply modules of a printer). Second, process resequencing, where more common components are added at the beginning of a process (e.g., cut of clothes), whereas components that create product differentiation are added later (e.g., color of clothes). Finally, component standardization, where key components are standardized to postpone decisions. The article also explains interesting concepts like “vanilla boxes” and “partial postponement”. I believe that postponement should be a key element of a supply chain management curriculum and that this classic article is really helpful to teach it.
Swaminathan, J.M., & Lee, H.L. (2003). Design for Postponement. Handbooks in Operations Research and Management Science, 11 (Supply Chain Management: Design, Coordination and Operation), 199-226 DOI: 10.1016/S0927-0507(03)11005-5