The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Manufacturing Outlook 2013, written on behalf of KPMG, is out now. It is based on an international survey of more than 300 senior executives from five industries. The report demonstrates that competitive advantage can be secured by enhancing supply chain networks for efficiency and innovation. Particularly, it is demonstrated that (1) many manufacturers are planning mergers or acquisitions to seize opportunities in global markets, and they plan to exit non-profitable, non-core business units and product lines; (2) many manufacturers are building network relationships with suppliers to become more responsive to market changes; (3) supply chain visibility beyond tier-1 partners can have a positive impact on agility, resilience, and performance; (4) supply chain partnerships, rather than in-house efforts, are increasingly seen as an important source of innovation; and (5) manufacturers are investing in both breakthrough and incremental innovation to ensure competitiveness. In sum, the report highlights the importance of supply chain management for manufacturers.
Nobel laureates rarely publish articles in journals within the supply chain arena. Vernon L. Smith was awarded the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences “for having established laboratory experiments as a tool in empirical economic analysis, especially in the study of alternative market mechanisms”. In its recent issue, the Journal of Business Logistics had the great privilege to publish an article by Cary Deck and him, in which these ideas were applied to our field: Using Laboratory Experiments in Logistics and Supply Chain Research. It goes without saying that this article is certainly a must-read for SCM researchers, particularly, as the use of laboratory experiments has attracted some attention in our field. In their article, Deck and Smith highlight “several examples where experiments have been used to study issues relevant to logistics and supply chain management” and identify “several additional areas where laboratory experiments could be informative”.
Deck, C. & Smith, V. (2013). Using Laboratory Experiments in Logistics and Supply Chain Research. Journal of Business Logistics, 34 (1), 6-14 DOI: 10.1111/jbl.12006
In this video, José Lopez, Executive Vice President of Operations at Nestlé, warns that “we urgently need to account for things differently, we need to put a value on food and water”.
Good research stands out through relevant research questions which are answered applying rigorous research methods. Researchers routinely signal methodological rigor in a detailed methods section and reviewers take great care to check whether all methodological steps are applied properly. Besides rigor, it is necessary to ensure that research is relevant in terms of both theoretical and practical contribution. The former is usually reflected in a comprehensive theory section. The latter, however, is often just being skipped. Reviewers are rarely practitioners! It has, indeed, been demonstrated that practitioners often disagree that operations management research papers are useful to their practice (de-Margerie and Jiang, 2011). Salvador (2011) suggests “to get in contact with practitioners and to try to understand how they react to the central theoretical ideas proposed”. Moreover, I believe that reviewers should routinely ask for at least one paragraph on how the researcher has ensured practical relevance, e.g. by involving a practitioner panel.
de-Margerie, V., & Jiang, B. (2011). How relevant is OM research to managerial practice? An empirical study of top executives’ perceptions. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 31 (2), 124-147 DOI: 10.1108/01443571111104737
Salvador, F. (2011). On the importance of good questions and empirically grounded theorizing. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 47 (4), 21-22 DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-493X.2011.03248.x
Food supply chains are affected by trends such as globalization, consolidation, and commoditization. Supply chain managers have eagerly sought to apply textbook knowledge to these supply chains. Consequently, companies have concentrated on core competencies like processing or marketing to meet customer requirements. However, the horsemeat scandal is just another example to reveal that food supply chains got out of control. The more complex supply chain systems become, the less controllable they seem to be. Based on a series of incidents in food supply chains, Roth and her co-authors (2008) have developed a conceptual framework for quality management in food supply chains. The framework contains six Ts, which are identified as critical factors associated with food (or more generally: product) quality: (1) traceability, (2) transparency, (3) testability, (4) time, (5) trust, and (6) training. I believe that this framework can help improving food supply chains, but customers should also stop focusing solely on food price rather than food quality.
Roth, A., Tsay, A., Pullman, M., & Gray, J. (2008). Unraveling the food supply chain: Strategic insights from China and the 2007 recalls The Journal of Supply Chain Management, 44 (1), 22-39 DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-493X.2008.00043.x
In the face of disruptions and volatility, supply chain managers are concerned about resilience, which can be broadly defined as “the ability of a supply chain to cope with change” (Wieland and Wallenburg, 2013, forthcoming). Two recent publications present ways to implement supply chain resilience. First, the Business Continuity Institute has published a report that summarizes the key outcomes of its 4th Annual Supply Chain Resilience Survey. It discusses causes and consequences of disruptions, presents techniques to identify key supply chains, and offers approaches and solutions to achieve resilience. Second, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Accenture, offers a “blueprint for resilient supply chains based on four core components: partnerships, policy, strategy and information technology”, which is discussed in a report, Building Resilience in Supply Chains, developed as part of the Forum’s Supply Chain Risk Initiative. I believe that these publications will, indeed, help supply chain managers to cope with change.