Early Days: Developing the Literature (0)


The common term “supply chain” (hereafter “SC”) is seldom defined in clear separation from “supply chain management” (hereafter “SCM”), which entered the literature via Oliver and Webber in 1982. The appearance of SCM marked a major conceptual expansion. Logistics thereafter transcended the mechanics and metrics of physical distribution and attendant issues of efficiency – interests that preoccupied the “pipeline” era. With SCM came a philosophy of enterprise, only one element of which would be logistics in its traditional guise. SCM promotes a set of concepts and tools for reducing SC risk. Not thus far theorised however is risk in global SCs specifically. The prospect of addressing this absence, and by so doing developing a second major conceptual expansion (from SCM to Global SCM), motivates this research.

Frameworks: Theoretical, Conceptual, and Philosophical

A theory’s preponderance is detectable by intertextuality: evidence in the form of repetitive appearance of concepts and the recurrent citing of their proponents. A traceable maturation of the framework should also be visible. SCM satisfies both criteria. This research is situated in the theoretical framework that is “supply chain (management)”, the discussion that sustains and develops it, and the concepts it incorporates.

The conceptual framework of this research is compacted into the terms “supply chain” and “supply chain management”, specifically the underpinning concept of holism and synergy, a formula of advantage akin to that promoted by the literature on internationalization (Dyer, 1997). The research that this review informs seeks to test the justification of holism in the global SC context by case study investigation into factors impacting upon global SC risk and the efficacy of the tools of risk management promoted by SC theory. A fundamental assumption of the present research is that increased globalization incurs risks that are currently undertheorized.

Logistics research is overwhelmingly positivist in nature (Mentzer and Kahn, 1995; Näslund, 2002; Kotzab et al, 2005). The ontology of SC reflects the positivist preferences of its logistics forebear. SC researchers endorse conventional scientific thinking on matters of measurement and observation. In the sphere of social behaviours, the issue of fit arises. Does the positivist bias of SC research obstruct consideration of personal or social factors? Global SCs require global management: how is a positivistic discipline to incorporate cultural, interpersonal, and social variables within its theoretical scope? This research will illuminate such issues.

Research Questions

* How is risk in global supply chains managed?

Review Questions

1. What concepts are represented by the terms “supply chain”, “supply chain management”, and “risk” (in the context of SCs)?
2. What are the philosophies and tools of SC risk management?


This review analyses concepts deemed key according to three criteria:

1. Absence of disputation: implies academic consensus. The adoption and development of a concept in a body of peer-reviewed literature suggests conceptual support.

2. Seminal authorship: since high citation count is incomplete as an indicator of quality (Meho and Sonnenwald, 2000), this is preferable grounds for assigning worth. Concepts in articles by major authors can be considered representative.

3. Vernacular currency (this author’s term): refers to the extra-academic adoption of a term/concept; i.e., to the presence of a term/concept within relevant areas of industry and practice; in, for example, the non-academic literature of logistics.

This review is structured based on guidance from the author’s consultation panel, who recommended journals, authors, and specific articles that are rudimentary to the discipline. Thus, part 1 answers Review Question 1 by charting the development of “supply chain”, “supply chain management”, “risk” and related concepts. By reviewing lean, agile, and various other tools/philosophies, part 2 replies to Review Question 2. Both parts employ in-depth traditional review, to reveal the core concepts and seminal currents of their overlapping discourses.