Preconditions of successful supply chain relationships : integrated processes and differentiated services

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School of Business | Doctoral thesis (article-based) | Defence date: 2006-12-18
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152 s.
Acta Universitatis oeconomicae Helsingiensis. A, 286
Traditionally, the concept of supply chain management (SCM) has emphasized recognition of the flow of goods and information all the way from raw material producers to end users and consumers and management of the various linkages among the organizations involved. In the 1990s, progress was made in integrating and controlling processes within the company. Hence, integration focused on companies’ internal processes. Later, companies started to outsource particular functions and whole operations to the market (e.g. logistics services, information systems, and component production) and the focus of integration shifted, however slowly, to the services and processes between companies. Today, supply chain management managers increasingly run into problems caused by too many integrative devices in play, and a lack of trust and conviction in implementing joint activities. However, managers operating in response to the demands of global markets really need to understand the big picture of which they are all a part, the supply chain, and how the ever-more complex operations within the supply chain should be managed for shared benefit. It is time to ask whether the preconditions for designing efficient supply chains are in place and the supply chain relationships in balance. We suggest that the task of integration translates into successful matching of the processes and services within supply chains. The question is what processes should be linked with each of the supply chain members and with what kind of links. The objective of this thesis is to study the linkages between the members of supply chains via the business processes designed and services offered. This is accomplished by illustrating the integration of processes and differentiation of services with conceptual frameworks and empirical analyses that focus, in turn, on process description, the alignment of logistic services with SC strategies, and the evolution of service relationships within intermodal transportation. These issues will be pulled together by the final paper, which describes some emerging trends that might influence supply chain management in coming years. The first paper, ”Developing a Framework for Supply Chain Management,” examines the question of whether a conceptual SCM framework developed in academia can serve a practical purpose. The goal is to test the usefulness of one of the broadest and best-known supply chain frameworks in a chosen case environment, a health care setting. The focus is on enhancing the applicability of the SCM framework for managerial purposes and on refining the framework further. The second paper, ”Relationships among TPL Providers and Members of Supply Chains – a Strategic Perspective,” looks at differentiation from the perspectives of supply chain strategies and logistics services and integration from the perspective of the relationship between supply chain strategies and logistics services. In the paper, a normative framework for organizing these relationships is developed and three alternative generic normative strategies are identified. The paper fills a gap in the understanding of how third-party logistics providers should offer their services more effectively and efficiently to different types of supply chains. The third paper, “Evolution of Services, Relationships and Technologies in Container Transport,” focuses on differentiation and integration within container transport supply chains. The paper focuses on the container transport business by giving three alternative types of intermodal services and outlines current trends and future prospects around three central elements: service offerings, transport chain management, and enabling technologies. The study attempts to create a general view of the evolution of intermodal transport chains by mixing available literature and the interview material to achieve this purpose. The goal of the fourth paper, ”Semi-integrated Supply Chains: Towards the New Era of Supply Chain Management,” is to draw on multiple streams of literature to describe the trends that will probably influence SCM in coming years. It concludes that emphasis should be directed to focused efforts instead of holistic overall integration, and the concept of semi-integrated supply chains is offered for collectively describing the phenomena in today’s supply chain management. In summary, these papers carry on a dialogue between managers and scholars of supply chains. First a framework from academia is tested and refined for managerial purposes in terms of process integration through management components in a single case environment. Second, a normative framework is defined for matching different types of logistics services and supply chain strategies. Third, an empirical study identifies two different types of intermodal transport services and suggests an evolutionary path that explains the changing roles of service offerings, transport chain management styles, and enabling technologies. Finally, the fourth paper describes in more speculative fashion six trends that both managers and scholars should observe, namely strategic polarisation, channel separation, process divergence, maturing relationships, organisational diversification, and differentiated measurement. The results indicate that it is increasingly important first to define what to differentiate and only thereafter to consider how to integrate.
Supervising professor
Vepsäläinen, Ari P.J., professor
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