1.9. Research scope
1.9.1. Delimitation with respect to the problem formulation process
dissertation is to neither create a niche for supply chain management as a promising field, a distinct discipline, nor is it to examine or test its manifest foundations. Whether supply chains really exist (Mentzer et al., 2001), are contractually created entities (Halldorsson et al, 2007), or whether SCM is a discipline (Harland et al, 2006), are all honourable and valid questions, but not within the scope of this dissertation. The scope of this dissertation, instead, is
delimited by the consequences of a (widely accepted) definition of “supply chain”, on business operations. It thereby presupposes the existence of a supply chain organisation in order to problematise consequences for management. In other words, assuming a “supply
chain” perspective on an organisation has consequences for managerial strategy, decision-making and choice.
Second, and related to the first, the dissertation presumes the supply chain to be an
organisational form. Indeed, only such an assumption can allow for a deeper investigation into supply chain environments. Interesting questions like - is the supply chain an
organizational form; can it be treated as one? - could require more in-depth treatment of aspects like a) the focus of supply chain decision-making e.g. joint decision-making between supply chain members; b) possession of (joint) supply chain assets; 3) common supply chain cultures etc. However, these shall remain beyond the scope of the present dissertation as these relate to those research endeavours that primarily aim for establishment of the supply chain as an organisational format, based on characteristics other than (only) governance structures that are employed in the present dissertation.
Third, the terms supply chains, extended supply chains and global supply chains tend to be interchangeably used in this study. Because the study adopted a generic definition of the supply chain, one of the objectives itself related to the illustration and demonstration of the consequences of environmental uncertainty/complexity, that are embedded within this definition, as the author’s who provide this generic definition (Mentzer et al., 2001)
themselves remain unclear about these differences. Similarly, as the original authors of the definition state that all supply chains operate in a global environment, the same goes for supply chain environments i.e. does environmental complexity then arise in supply chain environments or does it happen in global supply chain environments? The author
acknowledges that the reader may have to bear this ambiguity until Chapter 4, where it becomes clear that global and extended are purely environmental and structural scope related issues that supply chains have to contend when adopting this generic definition. In this way, this is an issue that was supposed to get clarified through the study, or at its conclusion.
Fourth, in referring to the term ‘environment’, this dissertation refers to how (modernist) organisational theorists and economists have used the term in order to understand the (external) business environment surrounding organisational functioning and operations (see Hatch, 1997). In this sense, the term should not be confused with the ‘green’ environment issues that currently preoccupy the domain, as this dissertation has very little direct relevance to such issues. Similarly, each time the terms supply chain environmental complexity and supply chain (logistics) environmental complexity are used in this dissertation, the former
refers to the state of uncertainty, whereas the latter refers to the construct. From this point of view, it is important to note environmental complexity is a state, and the first research question (RQ1) seeks to conclude on this state, and the relevance of this state for supply chain management/operations. Whereas RQ2 seeks to conclude on a (decisional) construct.
Because of the (AHP) methodological orientation, the many links (in the model) of the construct are not conceived as being cause-effect driven, the decision factors and their measures will always only seek to provide a description (and not the causes) of the state of the complexity. Any confusion caused by jumping between these two aspects, and by
interchangeability in the use of terms (e.g. cause/describe) therefore needs to be seen in light of the discussion provided here.
Fifth, in referring to the term operations, this study does not seek to study operations areas (e.g. vehicle routing, replenishment quantities, order expedition etc.). Logistics is understood as one type of supply chain organisational operation (Slack et al., 2007; Mentzer et al., 2008) that provides time and place utility (Chikan, 2001). The key decision-making areas that affect this operation may then be characterised at the strategic, tactical and operational levels. Since inventory strategy, transport strategy and location strategy, also known as “logistical drivers”, are long-range strategic supply chain management areas that affect the logistics operation (Chopra and Meindl, 2007), the term supply chain (logistics) operations refers to a (secondary) stakeholder of this research study, not the object of analysis per se. From this viewpoint, key supply chain strategic decision-making areas, that affect operations, include problem areas like facility location, transport mode selection. It is these types of strategy and design issues (problem domain) that formed a point of departure (primary stakeholder) in this dissertation. Supply chain management (disciplinary domain) then, amongst other things, involves the design, management and implementation of supply chain strategy and operations.
Sixth and related to the above, the term “Logistics”, as understood with reference to the domain of business logistics, quite often invokes interrelationship and connotation to SCM.
Frankel et al. (2008) acknowledge this interchangeability and note that:
“A review of the supply chain management literature's development during the late 1980s and the early 1990s reveals a lack of definitional consensus illustrated by the interchangeable use of neologisms: logistics management (Lambert and Stock 1993), network sourcing (Wijnstra and van Stekelenborg 1996), supplier-base reduction (Balsmeier and Voisin 1996), and inter-organizational integration (Cooper, Lambert, and Pagh 1997)”, (p. 4).
Whereas Stock et al. (1999) present the connection between logistics and supply chain management in terms of inter-enterprise integration of logistics activities, which they term as integrated logistics. Following Rudberg & Olhager (2003), this interchangeability is mainly because the field of studying supply chains as a whole originates in the Logistics
Management domain, a view that is widely shared in the community (see for e.g. Metz, 1998;
Hesse & Rodrigue, 2004). Whether or not SCM is just a new name for logistics (Cooper et al., 1997), or for instance falls within the purview of logistics (Cooper et al., 1997; Larson et al., 2007), is a different matter as this relates to the scope of each. But from the point of view of its origin, “that there is no connection between logistics and SCM, seems indefensible”, (Larson et al., 2007).
Since this (connection) may be confusing from the perspective of the present study, especially in terms of supply chain environments and the place of logistics therein, it therefore needs a little clarifying and delimiting here. Because logistics as an operation has transformational nature, and falls within the purview of supply chain management (Frankel et al., 2008), it may be said that the present study adopts a unionist perspective in relation to Larson et al.’s (2007) typology. In other words, as pointed out in the previous delimitation, logistics is seen as an operation within supply chain operations, which consists of the typical activities of warehousing and storage, inventory, transportation, packaging and materials handling (Bowersox et al., 2002; Stock and Lambert, 2001), and decision–making areas related to these at different levels (Chopra & Meindl, 2007). This way of viewing logistics is similar to Mentzer et al. (2001) and Mentzer et al. (2008), and is unlike the traditionalist perspective that Stock et al. (1999) cover in their literature reviews on enterprise logistics integration, to which e.g. Stock and Lambert (2001) subscribe. Given this approach, logistics environments signify the task of the broader supply chain environments, of which they are a part. Moreover, since environmental complexity is conceptualised as arising out of
differences in general environments, or macro environments, macro logistics systems and differences across countries in these systems, are of particular interest to the present study.
Lastly, in order to problematise and argue for a supply chain environmental complexity construct, especially given the extended (global) scope of supply chain operations and activities, the dissertation assumes the standpoint of ‘countries and borders do matter’ (e.g.
Mentzer et al., op. cit.; Closs & Mollenkopf, op. cit.). This may be refuted by competing viewpoints, especially in developing theory and practice that supports the management of
extended, global supply chain operations. For example, Kotzab (2000) notes how the German logistics literature views logistics and SCM in the same vein in order to connect resource and consumption bases. Similarly Stock (2007), although stressing globalization as an important consideration, states that organizations should focus on optimizing their logistics and supply chain processes irrespective of location. As they seek to underline that the primary task of logistics is to connect, these viewpoints open up an interesting discussion for the field. In this instance, locations should not matter from the point of view of country peculiarities.
However, given the international business and operations starting point (e.g. Ghemawat, 2001; Guisinger, 2001) adopted here, which is in contrast to these traditional logistics starting points, ‘countries and borders do matter’ and the author acknowledges this ideological bias in problem formulation.
Perspectives on Logistics vs. Supply Chain Management (adapted from Larson et al., 2007)
1.9.2. Delimitation with respect to the methodological approach and