Tag Archive | Supply Chain Management

Using Supply Chain Databases in Academic Research

In recent years, academic articles that use supply chain databases have become more and more common in SCM-related journals. Such databases (e.g., Bloomberg SPLC, FactSet Supply Chain Relationships, and Mergent Supply Chain) were originally not developed for use in academic research, but for use in business practice. However, they offer great potential for a better understanding of supply chains (or more precisely supply networks) and supply chain management and are therefore also very interesting for researchers. A recent article by Culot and her coauthors (2023) discusses these potentials and points out pitfalls for using supply chain databases in SCM research. The article is entitled Using Supply Chain Databases in Academic Research: A Methodological Critique and based on a review of previous studies using such databases, publicly available materials, interviews with information service providers, and the direct experience of the authors. I am sure this long-awaited article will serve as a reference for quantitative research relying on such databases for years to come.

Culot, G., Podrecca, M., Nassimbeni, G., Orzes, G., & Sartor, M. (2023). Using Supply Chain Databases in Academic Research: A Methodological Critique. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 59(_), _–_. https://doi.org/10.1111/jscm.12294

The Threat to Supply Chains from Rising Gas Prices

Due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the European Union is currently experiencing a massive increase in gas prices. This threatens the resilience of many supply chains. An analysis by the Halle Institute for Economic Research (IWH) now shows that a small group of just 300 products causes a large part of almost 90% of the gas consumption of German industry during their manufacture. The five products with the highest gas consumption per euro of sales belong to the basic chemical industry. The analysis also shows that rising gas prices mainly lead to production cutbacks in gas-intensive products that can easily be replaced by imports. Therefore, despite domestic production outages, no significant disruptions to the supply chains are to be expected. “German industry can save a lot of gas with a small drop in sales if gas-intensive products are no longer manufactured in-house but imported,” says Steffen Müller, one of the authors of the analysis.

The Most Popular Supply Chain Class Readings

Have you ever wondered what supply chain literature is most commonly used in the classroom? Open Syllabus, a non-profit research organization, currently has a corpus of nine million English-language syllabi from 140 countries and data on class readings is available for a large proportion of these syllabi. I checked which readings with the term “supply chain” in the title are used the most in the “Business” category. Here are the top 15 readings (from highest to lowest appearance count; only first authors/editors): Chopra (1,380 appearances), Christopher (1,361), Jacobs (1,246), Simchi-Levi (1,148), Chopra (608), Bowersox (595), Lysons (503), Lalwani (484), Cousins (463), Russell (447), Coyle (387), van Weele (372), Monczka (365), and Krajewski (359), Cachon (329). These books are great, otherwise they wouldn’t be so popular. It is noteworthy though that Western and male perspectives on supply chains clearly dominate, despite calls for more diverse perspectives. I could also have imagined at least a few more critical and sustainability-focused books in the list. Of course, my simple approach has limitations due to the search for only one term and, therefore, some books may have been overlooked. Also, I have not cleaned the data, which may be why Chopra appears twice.

Sensemaking in Supply Chains

Something that is long-established in other management disciplines but sadly almost completely neglected in the SCM discipline is research related to sensemaking. In short, sensemaking “involves turning circumstances into a situation that is comprehended explicitly in words and that serves as a springboard into action” (Weick et al., p. 409). Such research is concerned with subjective interpretations rather than objective truth and is therefore better suited to the study of social science phenomena than much of the positivist research we see in contemporary SCM research. Sensemaking is closely associated with the name of Karl E. Weick and his way of analyzing phenomena. Among Weick’s most famous studies is The Collapse of Sensemaking in Organizations: The Mann Gulch Disaster (1993). It could serve as a blueprint for analyzing SCM phenomena. Anyone considering a sensemaking study should read the book Sensemaking in Organizations (Weick, 1995). The article Organizing and the Process of Sensemaking (Weick et al., 2005) gives a very good overview of sensemaking.

Weick, K.E. (1993). The Collapse of Sensemaking in Organizations: The Mann Gulch Disaster. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38(4), 628–652. https://doi.org/10.2307/2393339

Weick, K.E. (1995). Sensemaking in Organizations. SAGE. ISBN 080397177X

Weick, K.E., Sutcliffe, K.M., & Obstfeld, D. (2005). Organizing and the Process of Sensemaking. Organization Science, 16(4), 409–421. https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.1050.0133

A War in the Middle of Europe

The world is shocked by the Putin regime’s war of aggression against Ukraine – a war in the middle of Europe. It almost seems to me that our species has climbed back into the trees. This war already has many impacts on supply chains, and further implications will only become apparent with a time lag. Instead of taking the long necessary step to expand renewable energies, many EU countries have relied on cheap oil and gas supplies from Russia for too many years. This omission is now taking its revenge by restricting the scope for sanctioning the aggressor. High-tech products also depend on raw materials (e.g., palladium and neon) from Russia and Ukraine. This certainly adds to the current shortage of chips. The effects of this war on food supply chains could be particularly dramatic. Russia supplies important potash fertilizers and many countries around the world are urgently dependent on wheat harvests from Ukraine. But the fields will remain fallow this year.

Personal Predictions for Supply Chain Management in 2022

The year 2022 has been going on for quite a while. I see the following topics at the top of the agenda in both academia and business: First, the last few months have been characterized by a large number of supply chain hiccups. Missing chips in the automotive industry have become a symbol of this development. Therefore, supply chain resilience is more important than ever. Second, a lot is currently happening in the European Union in terms of supply chain laws. Stricter rules on supply chain liability are expected shortly, and several EU countries have recently pushed their legislation forward. Third, many companies are transforming their linear into circular supply chains, see the new DHL report entitled Delivering on Circularity. Finally, many companies are also concerned with net-zero goals – and more importantly with action plans for these goals. Many of these plans explicitly involve the supply chain. Although I am a bit late, I wish you a good supply chain year 2022.

The Map Is Not the Territory

One of the most interesting articles I have read recently is The Map Is Not the Territory: A Boundary Objects Perspective on Supply Chain Mapping by Fabbe-Costes and her coauthors (IJOPM, 2020). The authors argue: “Most past conceptions of SC mapping have involved identifying one map of a supply chain as a common reference point for all actors concerned. As such, a supply chain map, like a geographical map, is supposed to represent the SC ‘territory’.” They then show that no map can actually include everything, that is, “the map is not the territory”. The authors compare three paradigmatic positions: In positivism, a supply chain map is simply a representation of what the supply chain is (i.e., the territory). In interpretivism, a map is a mental individual representation of the supply chain. In constructivism, a map is what is needed to work and reach the shared goal – it is what is “at stake” for each “social world”.

Fabbe-Costes, N., Lechaptois, L., & Spring, M. (2020), “The Map Is Not the Territory”: A Boundary Objects Perspective on Supply Chain Mapping. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 40 (9), 1475–1497. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOPM-12-2019-0828

Global Supply-Chain Effects of COVID-19 Control Measures

Among the numerous SCM articles that appeared in 2020, one was particularly popular: Global Supply-Chain Effects of COVID-19 Control Measures by Guan et al. (2020). The authors “analyse the supply-chain effects of a set of idealized lockdown scenarios, using the latest global trade modelling framework”. This model is an extension of the so-called ARIO model, which is often used in the literature to simulate how negative shocks propagate throughout the economy. The findings can be summarized as follows: “Short, sharp shock: stricter COVID-19 lockdowns imposed earlier have a smaller economic impact than moderate lockdowns that last longer, according to an analysis of global supply chains. The researchers suggest a cautious approach to easing restrictions could also prevent subsequent lockdowns.” The article is part of the 2020 Altmetric Top 100, which lists the most discussed articles across 20 disciplines. It was published in the journal Nature Human Behavior.

Guan, D., Wang, D., Hallegatte, S. et al. (2020). Global Supply-Chain Effects of COVID-19 Control Measures. Nature Human Behavior, 4, 577–587. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-0896-8

Net-Zero Challenge: The Supply Chain Opportunity

A new World Economic Forum report, entitled Net-Zero Challenge: The Supply Chain Opportunity and co-authored with Boston Consulting Group, showcases “the opportunity that all companies have for huge climate impact through action to decarbonize global supply chains”. This report argues that addressing supply-chain emissions enables many companies to impact “a volume of emissions several times higher than they could if they were to focus on decarbonizing their own direct operations and power consumption alone”. Among the major findings of the report: (1) Many companies can multiply their climate impact by decarbonizing supply chains; (2) Eight supply chains account for more than 50% of global emissions; (3) Net-zero supply chains would hardly increase end-consumer costs; (4) But: decarbonizing supply chains is hard. The report contains a step-by-step guide, which shows nine major initiatives every company can undertake. These initiatives were identified through interviews with a large number of global companies that, according to the authors, lead the way in reducing supply-chain emissions.

Personal Predictions for Supply Chain Management in 2021

The pandemic has caused a great deal of suffering to many people. More than ever, the crisis made the general public aware of the importance of supply chain management. In the beginning, many realized that supply chain disruptions can create problems with supplies of food, face masks, and medicine. Later, many recognized the importance of functioning SCM for vaccine distribution. Most importantly, the crisis teaches us that we have to leave outdated narratives behind. Much has been questioned, many new ideas have emerged. This crisis could therefore turn into an opportunity for the necessary societal transformation. It might just be a foretaste of the much more existential crises that lie ahead. If lockdowns and vaccinations are answers to the pandemic, then the answers to the climate and biodiversity crises are what? Many of these answers might be found in our global supply chains. Identifying them could be an important leadership opportunity for SCM in 2021. Now is the time for the SCM community to positively shape the future!