Can Your Supply Chain Avoid Extinction?

“Slicing and dicing the supply chain to service ever more diverse and demanding customers has become the core challenge for Chief Supply Chain Officers. But simply expanding the number of supply chain configurations and maintaining separate organizations to manage them—the approach followed by most organizations—is driving too much complexity and wasting potential synergies.” This is how a new report by Accenture starts. It is titled: Can Your Supply Chain Avoid Extinction? The authors recommend three strategies to move toward a differentiated supply chain: First, companies should focus on supply chain configurations that drive value, as this will serve customers best. Second, companies should choose the right digital technologies for each configuration, hereby applying only those capabilities that enable them to deliver the right supply chain response. Third, companies should find the right structure and governance; this includes embedding innovation thinking at the heart of the organization. Have a look at the full report.

Getting Starry-eyed about Journals (Guest Post by Alan McKinnon)

My guest post today comes from Alan McKinnon who for several years has been raising concerns about the academic obsession with journal rankings and low rating of logistics/SCM journals. He has just published a new paper updating his earlier arguments.

In a paper that I wrote five years ago I argued that the development of logistics/supply chain management (SCM) as a discipline was being impaired by the relatively low ranking of specialist journals in this field. I was surprised and heartened by the favourable response I received both from logistics/SCM researchers and academics in other disciplines experiencing a similar problem. I have now returned to the journal ranking debate with a sequel to my original article which reviews recent literature on the subject, analyses new data on the validity of the journal ranking as an indicator of research quality and discusses the recalibration of logistics/SCM journals since 2010/11. The literature challenging the principle, practice and application of journal ranking has been steadily expanding and becoming more critical. Regrettably this is not deterring university managers from basing many recruitment, promotional and resource allocation decisions on the rating of journals. Data generated by the UK government’s assessment of university research (REF) has confirmed that, in the field of business and management, the journal ranking is an unreliable predictor of the quality and impact of an individual journal paper. In this analysis, papers published in lower ranked journals tended to be under-valued, a finding of particular relevance to logistics/SCM journals as they tend to be on the 2nd or 3rd tiers of the major journal lists. Since 2010/11, there has been some overall improvement in the relative standing of these journals, though a couple have been downgraded in the widely-used ABS list. Fortunately the backlash against journal rank “fetishism” has begun with bottom-up campaigns such as DORA and top-down, government-led initiatives in countries such as the UK and Australia aiming to make research assessment fairer, more transparent and more rigorous.

Alan McKinnon is Professor of Logistics in Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg and Professor Emeritus at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. You can find out more about his research and publications at www.alanmckinnon.co.uk and follow him on Twitter @alancmckinnon.

McKinnon, A.C. (2017). Starry-eyed II: The Logistics Journal Ranking Debate Revisited. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, 47 (6). DOI: 10.1108/IJPDLM-02-2017-0097

The End of Supply Chain Theory?

It is among the common research practices in our field to build a statistical model with a limited set of variables in order to take the lens of a theory – often being alien to our field – on a supply chain phenomenon, and to test this model based on maybe 200 datasets. Other researchers collect data from three or four case companies to build or extend a research model that comprises a small set of propositions. So far so good. “So far so outdated”, I should say if I were to be malicious. Why? Researchers in fields like supply chain management might soon (or already?) be competing with “companies like Google, which have grown up in an era of massively abundant data, [that] don’t have to settle for wrong models”, as the editor in chief of Wired put it already back in 2008, proclaiming The End of Theory. So, is the data deluge about to make our research obsolete? If so, how should our community adapt to this new reality?

Purchasing & Supply Management: What We Should Teach (Guest Post by Lydia Bals)

Today’s guest post comes from Lydia Bals, who presents project PERFECT’s recent insights on competences in purchasing & supply management.

Project Perfect Logo

Professional purchasing & supply management (PSM) forms the link between a complex network of internal and external stakeholders with increasing international dependencies and performance requirements. As part of the PERFECT project (Purchasing Education and Research for European Competence Transfer) a group of researchers conducted case study research to identify individual buyer competences, knowledge and skills that are required to cope with such current requirements and prepare for future trends. In total, 46 interviews were conducted with representatives from 16 companies, standing for various industries in the European Union, and differing in their sizes and business models. The practitioners emphasized that PSM employees should possess both operational and basic PSM knowledge as well as competences related to communication and relationship management. In terms of specific future competences, “sustainability” and “digitization” stood out. Digitization is expected to particularly impact PSM operational tasks with regards to automation: Sub functions, especially taking care of the purchase-to-pay process, are expected to disappear. As a result, companies are advised to qualify personnel accordingly to facilitate their transfer to other, more strategic roles. Regarding the strategic PSM tasks, looking at the source-to-contract process, the critical question for the future is how technology will enable different ways of working, e.g. by application of big data analytics. As these are newer competence areas, the practitioners indicated that a breakdown of knowledge and competences for “sustainability” and “digitization” is needed to prepare employees as well as students adequately for such future developments. For more information, see the full Project PERFECT Intellectual Output 2 White Paper.

Lydia Bals is Professor of Supply Chain & Operations Management at the University of Applied Sciences Mainz and affiliated with the Department of Strategic Management & Globalization, Copenhagen Business School. She was the project lead for the PERFECT case study data collection and analysis.

Behavioral Supply Chain Management

I am pleased to announce that our new article, The Human Factor in SCM: Introducing a Meta-theory of Behavioral Supply Chain Management, which I co-authored with Timm Schorsch and Carl Marcus Wallenburg, has now been published by the International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management. Our article provides a comprehensive overview of the behavioral supply chain management (BSCM) research landscape. In addition, we present a meta-theory of BSCM that encompasses all central elements of the research field. We also formulate five promising future research opportunities: Research being conducted in this area could (1) integrate cognitive and social psychological research, (2) apply a holistic view to decision-making and problem solving, (3) strengthen the concept of emergence and apply meso-level theory approaches, (4) complement our meta-theory, and (5) broaden the scope of inventory and capacity decision-making. We are confident that the critical discussions in our article and the formulated research opportunities will help scholars in positioning their own research to enhance its contribution.

A copy of our article can be requested via ResearchGate.

Schorsch, T., Wallenburg, C.M., & Wieland, A. (2017). The Human Factor in SCM: Introducing a Meta-theory of Behavioral Supply Chain Management. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, 47 (4), 238-262 DOI: 10.1108/IJPDLM-10-2015-0268

Business vs. Economic Perspectives on the Supply Chain

I recently discovered an interesting overview, Supply Chain Perspectives and Issues: A Literature Review by Park, Nayyar & Low (2013), which has been published by the World Trade Organization. It explicitly distinguishes between the economic and business perspectives on supply chains. Indeed, many supply chain phenomena take place somewhere between these two worlds, as the “supply chain” system is broader than the “organization” system and also different from the “market” and “economy” systems. As the authors write, “[t]he economics perspective attempts to understand [supply chains] through trade theory, along with the motivations for specialisation and production location decisions. […] The focus in the business literature is more concerned with a firm-level perspective.” My impression is that SCM research has often covered the latter perspective but neglected the former one. The authors also link the supply chain management and global value chain literatures, which is a promising path to go, as I have also highlighted in a previous post.

Teaching Case – Zara: The World’s Largest Fashion Retailer

The Case Centre has recently selected the winners of their 2017 Awards and Competitions. This year’s winning case in the Production and Operations Management category is closely related to supply chain management: Zara: The World’s Largest Fashion Retailer, written by Kasra Ferdows, Jose A.D. Machuca & Michael Lewis. This case is an updated version of the 15th in the ranking of top 40 overall best selling Zara case. The new case “presents a detailed and updated description of Zara’s unique operating model and many of its best practices: its retailing, design, order administration, production, and distribution systems” and “also includes new sections about Zara’s on-line business and Inditex’ increased attention to ethical and sustainability issues in its extended supply chain”. The learning objectives cover several important aspects of global supply chain management, including the design and operations of global supply networks, making this teaching case particularly relevant for courses related to our discipline.

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