Eight Technologies Redefining the Future of Supply Chains

The 2015 MHI Annual Industry Report is out now. It was published by MHI, a U.S. material handling, logistics and supply chain association, in collaboration with Deloitte. The authors argue that “companies that continue to rely on traditional supply chain models will likely find it increasingly difficult to stay competitive and meet customer expectations for orders that are complete, accurate and on-time”. Based on survey data, the study, thus, analyzes technologies and innovations that are transforming supply chains around the world. Particularly, the following sets of technologies are covered by the study: (1) maturing technologies (inventory and network optimization, sensors and automatic identification, cloud computing and storage, robotics and automation), (2) growth technologies (predictive analytics, wearable and mobile technology), and (3) emerging technologies (3D printing, driverless vehicles and drones). The authors believe that “the innovations and technologies highlighted in this report have the potential to provide step-change improvements in both cost and service”.

Are We Betraying Humboldt’s Ideals?

Some people argue that the ultimate goal of university teaching should be vocational qualification. Similarly, in the Bologna Declaration (1999), the European Ministers of Education agreed that undergraduate studies shall “be relevant to the European labour market as an appropriate level of qualification”. These arguments are certainly opposed to the Humboldtian model. About 200 years ago, Wilhelm von Humboldt wrote: “There are undeniably certain kinds of knowledge that must be of a general nature and, more importantly, a certain cultivation of the mind and character that nobody can afford to be without. People obviously cannot be good craftworkers, merchants, soldiers or businessmen unless, regardless of their occupation, they are good, upstanding and – according to their condition – well-informed human beings and citizens. If this basis is laid through schooling, vocational skills are easily acquired later on, and a person is always free to move from one occupation to another, as so often happens in life.” Universities have to decide between two perspectives of academic education: between – as the philosopher Nida-Rümelin boldly put it – “McKinsey” and “Humboldt”.

Sustainability: Do Supply Management and Global Sourcing Matter? (Guest Post by Jury Gualandris, UCD)

Is it possible to achieve high environmental and social performance in global supply chains? I am happy to share the following guest post by Dr. Jury Gualandris, shedding some light on this problem. Thank you for contributing to my blog.

Increasing demand from a variety of stakeholders has pushed firms to improve environmental and social sustainability in their supply chains. Over the last decades, however, supply chains have been undergoing a process of increasing globalization, which has created the need for differentiated sustainability approaches for firms sourcing globally rather than regionally. Based on our recent publication in Supply Chain Management: An International Journal (doi:10.1108/SCM-11-2013-0430), we argue that firms leveraging higher levels of global sourcing can manage to reach equivalent environmental and social performance relative to who is sourcing locally. However, such firms must combine traditional supply management with practices having a more specific focus on the society and the environment. On the one hand, traditional supply management based on supply base reduction and coordination will compensate global sourcing’s drawbacks, such as longer distances and socio-economic, cultural differences. On the other, sustainability-oriented monitoring and collaboration will allow to leverage resources and knowledge that are potentially valuable and are not available locally, thus fostering final sustainability performance.

Jury is a Lecturer at UCD Smurfit Graduate Business School in Dublin, Ireland. His studies focus on the management of sustainability, risk and innovation under different supply chain structures. His research has received awards from IPSERA and POMS and has appeared in leading journals of our field.

Gualandris, J., Golini, R., & Kalchschmidt, M. (2014). Do Supply Management and Global Sourcing Matter for Firm Sustainability Performance? Supply Chain Management: An International Journal, 19 (3), 258-274 DOI: 10.1108/SCM-11-2013-0430

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.

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