Supply Chain


Definitional diversity, although a complicating factor in a synoptic literature review and academic taxonomy, is not entirely negative. Anderson (1983) claims that diversity within a field deepens the knowledge base; debate enhances a field’s status, as this signifies academic precociousness and industrial relevance. In the case of SCM, diversity illustrates its evolution succinctly. The 1990s and 1980s saw many theorists propose concepts analogous with SCM.

A Chronology of Terms/Concepts Analogous with “Supply Chain Management” (SCM)

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SCM reveals its historical and practical proximity with operations management by its borrowing of lean, agile, leagile, and other manufacturing tools. Some authors define SCM purely in operational terms, i.e. the flow of materials and products (Tyndall et al, 1998). Oliver and Webber (1982) use SCM to describe “the planning and control of the total materials flow”. Later, Houlihan (1984, 1985, 1987) uses “SCM” in reference to internal integration and material flow across organizational borders. To others (e.g. Ellram and Cooper, 1990), SCM is a philosophy of structure characterised by unity among elements. A minority consider the term to refer principally to management processes (e.g. La Londe, 1997).

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The issues of SC risk compel consideration of the correspondent notions of SC resilience and vulnerability (hereafter SCRES and SCV respectively). The study of SCRES and SCV is a developing territory within the topography of logistics and SC research. A report commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry in 2001 (Cranfield University School of Management) could now be regarded as the seed of a steadily broadening vine. The report (p. 2) defines SCV as “exposure to serious disturbances, arising from risks within the supply chain as well as risks external to the supply chain.” This definition indicates that its authors, like Mason-Jones and Towill (1999), split risk into two categories: internal and external. “Internal” concerns factors under direct management control (e.g. quality standards); “external” concerns events and conditions over which management has no control (e.g. natural disasters and sociopolitical events).

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To Jüttner and Maklan (2011), SCV is the managerial counterpart of SCRM. Similarly, to Blos et al (2009) and Christopher and Peck (2004), SCV is the susceptibility of the SC to the possibility and ramifications of disruption. Since anything at risk is vulnerable, SCRM declares the SC vulnerable. For this reason, SCV is commonly conceptualised as complementary to SCRM (Wagner and Bode, 2006).

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Social capital theorists such as Baker (1990), Coleman (1990), and Burt (1992), and Putnam (2000) claim that social capital, like physical and human capital, is a resource-generating force that can facilitate a firm's business activities. Furthermore, Yang and Wang (2011) and Wang et al (2014) claim guanxi is the Chinese cultural equivalent of social capital. Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998) identified three dimensions of social capital: structural, (information and resources) relational, (trust, relationships, and contracts), and cognitive (shared modes of behaviour that encourage cooperation). My research revealed some modest insights into the structural and relational dimensions of social capital, but only alluded to, so did not deeply explore, the cognitive dimension.

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Metaphors of the Organisation

Morgan (1986) defined eight (moderately famous) metaphors to describe different organisations:

  1. mechanistic,
  2. organismic,
  3. information processor/brain, culture,
  4. political/system,
  5. psychic prison,
  6. flux,
  7. transformation, and
  8. instrument of domination.

Of these, several were relevant to the findings of my PhD.

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