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To eliminate or absorb supply chain complexity: A conceptual model and case study

Aitken, James, Bozarth, C and Garn, Wolfgang (2016) To eliminate or absorb supply chain complexity: A conceptual model and case study Supply Chain Management, 21 (6). pp. 759-774.

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Abstract

Existing works in the supply chain complexity area have either focused on the overall behavior of multi-firm complex adaptive systems (CAS) or on listing specific tools and techniques that business units (BUs) can use to manage supply chain complexity, but without providing a thorough discussion about when and why they should be deployed. This research seeks to address this gap by developing a conceptually sound model, based on the literature, regarding how an individual BU should reduce versus absorb supply chain complexity. This research synthesizes the supply chain complexity and organizational design literature to present a conceptual model of how a BU should respond to supply chain complexity. We illustrate the model through a longitudinal case study analysis of a packaged foods manufacturer. Regardless of its type or origin, supply chain complexity can arise due to the strategic business requirements of the BU (strategic) or due to suboptimal business practices (dysfunctional complexity). Consistent with the proposed conceptual model, the illustrative case study showed that a firm must first distinguish between strategic and dysfunctional drivers prior to choosing an organizational response. Furthermore, it was found that efforts to address supply chain complexity can reveal other system weaknesses that lie dormant until the system is stressed. The case study provides empirical support for the literature-derived conceptual model. Nevertheless, any findings derived from a single, in-depth case study require further research to produce generalizable results. The conceptual model presented here provides a more granular view of supply chain complexity, and how an individual BU should respond, than what can be found in the existing literature. The model recognizes that an individual BU can simultaneously face both strategic and dysfunctional complexity drivers, each requiring a different organizational response. We are aware of no other research works that have synthesized the supply chain complexity and organizational design literature to present a conceptual model of how an individual business unit (BU) should respond to supply chain complexity. As such, this paper furthers our understanding of supply chain complexity effects and provides a basis for future research, as well as guidance for BUs facing complexity challenges.

Item Type: Article
Subjects : Surrey Business School
Authors :
NameEmailORCID
Aitken, JamesJames.Aitken@surrey.ac.ukUNSPECIFIED
Bozarth, CUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Garn, WolfgangW.Garn@surrey.ac.ukUNSPECIFIED
Date : 2016
Identification Number : 10.1108/SCM-02-2016-0044
Copyright Disclaimer : © Emerald Group Publishing Limited 2016 Published by Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Licensed re-use rights only.
Uncontrolled Keywords : Strategic complexity, dysfunctional complexity, supply chain complexity
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 08 Nov 2016 14:36
Last Modified : 07 Jul 2017 13:15
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/812786

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