A Theory of Robust Supply Chains

Strategies and practices to achieve supply chain resilience have been at the heart of supply chain management practice and research for almost a decade. However, such efforts have often focused on ways to make supply chains more reactive to turbulence and disruptions. In our recent article, Antecedents and Dimensions of Supply Chain Robustness, my co-authors, Christian F. Durach and José A.D. Machuca, and me build a theoretical framework that depicts antecedents and dimensions of a second, rather proactive construct: supply chain robustness. We define supply chain robustness as the ability of a supply chain to resist or avoid change. Some of my previous research has shown that this construct is even more positively related with business performance than supply chain agility. Through reviewing 94 articles, and a Q-sorting exercise, we identify four (i.e. leadership commitment, human capital, relationship magnitude, and risk management orientation) important intra-organizational robustness antecedents and four (i.e. node centrality, bargaining power, visibility, and network complexity) inter-organizational robustness antecedents.

Durach, C., Wieland, A., & Machuca, J. (2015). Antecedents and Dimensions of Supply Chain Robustness: A Systematic Literature Review. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, 45 (1/2), 118-137 DOI: 10.1108/IJPDLM-05-2013-0133

Ranking SCM Journals: ABS Academic Journal Guide 2015

The UK-based Association of Business Schools (ABS) has published its Academic Journal Guide. It is the successor of the often criticized Academic Journal Quality Guide. And this is how the new Guide ranks supply chain management journals: The only grade 4* (“excellent”) journal is: Journal of Operations Management. Other “top journals” (grade 4) are: International Journal of Operations & Production Management and Production and Operations Management. Examples of “highly regarded” journals (grade 3) in the list are: Journal of Supply Chain Management and Supply Chain Management: An International Journal. Some other “well regarded” journals (grade 2) are: International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Journal of Business Logistics and Journal of Purchasing & Supply Management. Given the low grades of some journals with high impact factors and considering their reputation in our field, I am not fully convinced of the quality of this new ABS list. Another ranking, VHB-JOURQUAL, seems to reflect the theoretical and methodological breadth of our discipline much better. Qualitative rankings can be a good supplement to quantitative rankings based on impact factors. Always keep in mind that journal rankings have a downside and should not be the dominating criteria for judging the value of our research. I fear that the new ABS ranking will serve as exactly such a criterion in many business schools now.

Supply Chain 2015

Last week, a well-made special report by Raconteur, titled Supply Chain 2015 (pdf), was distributed in The Times of London. I very much enjoyed reading it. The authors make clear that “contracting has to be far more agile than a traditional long-term sourcing process and relationship” and they discover that “many companies are unprepared for increased complexity”. The report also discusses five megatrends, each having implications for supply chain management: (1) shift in global economic power; (2) demographic and social change; (3) technological breakthroughs; (4) climate change and resource scarcity; and (5) rapid urbanization. Other topics covered by the report are, among others, strategic procurement, top technologies, demand prediction, sustainable supply chains and cross-border delivery. The report also contains an analysis of three selected sectors (retail, construction and pharmaceutical) and additional case studies, including a case study on the 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh. More information can be found on the homepage of Raconteur’s Supply Chain 2015 report.

A Theory of the Supply Chain

In their very insightful essay, Toward the Theory of the Supply Chain, Carter, Rogers & Choi (2015) argue that “before we continue to build theories of supply chain management, we must first develop a theory of the supply chain – the phenomenon that we purport to manage”. I could not agree more with their argument. Indeed, without focusing on the supply chain before focusing on how to manage it, SCM research would not be more than fishing in murky waters. The authors present six foundational premises to characterize a supply chain. These provide “a holistic conceptualization of the supply chain – what it is and how it behaves”. Moreover, the authors present several future avenues for further developing their conceptualization of the supply chain. I can only recommend reading this important new paper and I am convinced that it will have a major influence on how future SCM research is being conducted.

Carter, C.R., Rogers, D.S., & Choi, T.Y. (2015). Toward the Theory of the Supply Chain. Journal of Supply Chain Management, forthcoming DOI: 10.1111/jscm.12073

More Complexity = More Disruptions?

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

Citations of Excellence Awards 2014

Like every year (see my previous post), Emerald rewards authors of exceptional papers covered in its extensive Emerald Management Reviews database with a Citation of Excellence Award (full list). I went through the latest list of the Citations of Excellence Top 50 papers. This time, the list contains at least two papers from related disciplines that could be useful to influence the way we are conducting research in our field. The first paper by Kim, Ferrin & Rao (2008) presents a trust-based consumer decision-making model in electronic commerce. The results of the study show “that Internet consumers’ trust and perceived risk have strong impacts on their purchasing decisions”. The second paper by Locke, Qin & Brause (2007) asks: “Does monitoring improve labor standards?” The authors find that monitoring alone “appears to have produced only limited results”, but, when “monitoring efforts were combined with other interventions […], working conditions seem to have improved considerably”.

Kim, D., Ferrin, D., & Rao, H. (2008). A Trust-based Consumer Decision-making Model in Electronic Commerce: The Role of Trust, Perceived Risk, and Their Antecedents. Decision Support Systems, 44 (2), 544-564 DOI: 10.1016/j.dss.2007.07.001

Locke, R., Qin, F., & Brause, A. (2007). Does Monitoring Improve Labor Standards? Lessons from Nike. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 61 (1), 3-31 digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/ilrreview/vol61/iss1/1/

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