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International Journal of Operations & Production Management

A supply network configuration perspective on international supply chain development


Jagjit Singh Srai Mike Gregory

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Jagjit Singh Srai Mike Gregory, (2008),"A supply network configuration perspective on international supply
chain development", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 28 Iss 5 pp. 386 411
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Martin Christopher, Matthias Holweg, (2011),"Supply Chain 2.0: managing supply chains in the era of
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A supply network configuration


perspective on international
supply chain development

386

Jagjit Singh Srai and Mike Gregory


Department of Engineering, Institute for Manufacturing,
Centre for International Manufacturing, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
Abstract

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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore the impact of configuration on supply network
capability. It was believed that a configuration perspective might provide new insights on the
capability and performance of supply networks, a gap in the literature, and provide a basis for the
development of tools to aid their analysis and design.
Design/methodology/approach The methodology involved the development of a configuration
definition and mapping approach extending established strategic and firm level constructs to the
network operational level. The resulting tools were tested and refined in a series of case studies across
a range of sectors and value chain models. Supply network capability assessments, from the
perspective of the focal firm, were then compared with their configuration profiles.
Findings The configuration mapping tools were found to give new insights into the structure of
supply networks and allow comparisons to be made across sectors and business models through the
use of consistent and quantitative methods and common presentation. They provide the foundations
for linking configuration to capability and performance, and contribute to supply network design and
development by highlighting the intrinsic capabilities associated with different configurations.
Research limitations/implications Although multiple case networks have been investigated,
the configuration exemplars remain suggestive models. The research suggests that a re-evaluation of
operational process excellence models is needed, where the link between process maturity and
performance may require a configuration context.
Practical implications Advantages of particular configurations have been identified with
implications for supply network development and industrial policy.
Originality/value The paper seeks to develop established strategic management configuration
concepts to the analysis and design of supply networks by providing a robust operational definition of
supply network configuration and novel tools for their mapping and assessment.
Keywords Supply, Network operating systems, Configuration management, Supply chain management
Paper type Research paper

International Journal of Operations &


Production Management
Vol. 28 No. 5, 2008
pp. 386-411
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
0144-3577
DOI 10.1108/01443570810867178

Introduction
The traditional competing firms model (e.g. Porters Five Forces) has been
complemented in recent years by a competing supply networks perspective
(Cunningham, 1990; Harland, 1996; Lambert and Cooper, 2000; Poirer and Bauer, 2001).
This reflects the changing structure and dynamics of national and international
manufacturing systems and highlights the need for concepts and tools to assess
capability and performance of the supply network. The capturing of relevant
capability-influencing attributes of the supply network, or in basic terms its supply
network configuration, is the focus of this paper building on the established concepts of
configuration developed by authors in the strategic management field (Mintzberg,
1979; Miller, 1986; Mintzberg et al., 1998).

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Objective
The principal objective in this research was to assess the impact of configuration on
supply network capability and performance, taking an operational and focal firm
perspective, addressing a recognised gap in the supply network operations
management literature (Neher, 2005; Srai and Gregory, 2005; Srai et al., 2006).
The approach involved extending established firm-based configuration concepts
from the strategic management literature and integrating relevant elements from the
supply network and operations management fields. A key enabling goal in the research
was the development of an operational definition for supply network configuration, one
that captures key elements of network configuration (from a capability relevant
perspective) and lends itself to the creation of practical mapping tools to capture these
complex, dynamic, international structures. These tools were then utilised to capture
supply network configurations across a range of supply networks, and used to explore
their relationship with network capability and performance. (The assessment of the
capability dimension utilises existing tools previously developed by the authors (Srai
and Gregory, 2005) (using process-based maturity models), with performance captured
using metrics used by the focal firm).
Building on the principal objective, the paper also explores the capture and mapping
of supply network configuration profiles and whether particular configurations have
intrinsic capabilities. The potential implications of supply network configuration on
generic process-based improvement approaches widely used in industry (that largely
exclude the configuration context) are then discussed.
The paper is presented in the following sections, addressing each of the research
themes:
(1) Configuration concepts in the strategic management literature are discussed
and relevant contributions from operations management identified.
(2) An operational definition of supply network configuration is presented drawing
on these strategic management concepts and integrating operational attributes
of supply networks.
(3) Supply network configuration mapping techniques are developed that provide a
mechanism for their capture, visual representation and subsequent analysis.
(4) The fieldwork research approach is set out in order to assess the influence of
supply network configuration on capability and performance including:
.
the use of the multiple case study method;
.
the application of existing supply network capability assessment techniques;
and
.
comparing these with supply network performance measures used by the
focal-firm.
(5) Case studies are summarised in tabular form to facilitate cross-case comparison,
with example case studies included that illustrate the nature of data collection
and analysis.
This paper concludes with the results and findings emerging from the case studies, a
discussion on implications, key conclusions and future areas for research.

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Configuration concepts in the literature


The concept of configuration has received considerable attention at the firm strategy
level (e.g. mission, resources, markets, etc.) and in the organisation structure literature
(e.g. levels of centralisation, co-ordination mechanisms, matrix structures, etc.). These
configuration perspectives are predominantly static focal firm-based considerations
describing forms of organizational coherence.
However, as international manufacturing firms increasingly operate within diverse
and fragmented supply networks, the configuration of the supply network (rather than
the firm) becomes progressively more important with respect to future development
potential. In order to develop the supply network perspective we draw on the literature
on configuration from the established domains.
Within the firm-based strategic management literature, of particular interest has
been organisation structure and how types of configuration (often depicted as
organisational caricatures) are used in directing attitudes, attention, influence,
resources, motivations, and effort (Chandler, 1962; Khandwalla, 1970; Rumelt, 1974;
Miles and Snow, 1978; Miller, 1996, etc.). The development of configuration concepts in
the strategic management literature includes its application and relevance to firm
strategy, company mission, strategic resources, target markets, etc. (Kotter, 1995; Miller,
1996; Mintzberg et al., 1998, etc.). These viewpoints however remain predominantly firm
based, representing a firms organization (or system), its span of control, types of
normalization and decentralization, and planning systems (Mintzberg et al., 1998).
In this section, building from key authors in the field (Chandler, 1962; Khandwalla,
1970; Rumelt, 1974; Miller, 1986; Mintzberg et al., 1998) the literature is reviewed to
capture the progression of the configuration concept. It is perhaps useful to
differentiate between the role configuration plays in ongoing operations where it may
be considered as a state from the redesign concepts of configuration, sometimes
used in business transformation programmes.
Configuration as a state
The idea that structure follows strategy, and that there are basic stages of firm
evolution or stable states of organizations during their life-cycle was put forward in
the early 1960s by Chandler (1962, and as shown in Figure 1). The role of strategic
management was seen as being to maintain stable states whilst recognising the need
for periodic transformation. This approach later evolved to consider strategies as
plans, patterns, positions or perspectives. Subsequent stages in Chandlers framework
perhaps being the move to consolidation, outsourcing and the focus on core
competences (Mintzberg et al., 1998).
The link between planning capabilities and structure in a firm (Khandwalla, 1970)
focuses on the inter-correlations between several attributes in a complementary way.
Similarly, a study of the Fortune 500 firms between 1949 and 1969 also captured
changes in organisational structure (e.g. with conglomerates emerging and organised
(1)

Figure 1.
Chandlers life cycles: firm
evolution

(2)

(3)

(4)

resource acquisition

functional

new markets

divisionalisation

channel development

structures

related categories

vertical integration

Source: Chandler (1962)

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along product lines (Rumelt, 1974)). These studies identified the need to classify firm
configurations and understand their peculiarities with respect to their capability and
performance.
More recently, configuration was regarded as part of strategy formation and
perhaps may be seen as a state rather than a process of transformation. It provides
an integrating mechanism giving an organisation both coherence and stability.
The concept of configuration as a state is shown in Figure 2 (developed from concepts
put forward by Mintzberg et al., 1998).
In this way, configurations may be viewed as a state, and rather differently than
the complexities of managing the change processes involved in business
transformation which are discussed later.
In contrast to the strategic management literature, a comprehensive perspective of
supply network configuration has not been addressed in the operations management
field (Neher, 2005; Srai and Gregory, 2005; Srai et al., 2006). However, particular supply
network dimensions have been usefully considered that may contribute to the
development of supply network configuration theory. For example, the influence of
product characteristics on supply network dynamics is considered by several authors
covering aspects such as the functional or innovative nature of products (Fisher, 1997),
and the impact of product variety (Christopher, 2000) and product complexity
(Lamming et al., 2000). The influence on supply network operation of demand
characteristics and supply characteristics (e.g. decoupling point (Mason-Jones et al.,
2000), supply uncertainty (Lee, 2002), etc.) introduce the dimensions of upstream and
downstream network structure. The impact of product-price-stability (Srai and Mills,
2005) suggest product-life-cycle and the balance between supply-demand are relevant
supply network configuration dimensions. Fisher (1997), Lamming et al. (2000), Lee
(2002) and others (Klass, 2003; Srai and Mills, 2005) introduce supply network
management approaches that address these particular operational dimensions. These
contributions from the operations management field provide useful insights to some of
the dimensions to consider in the development of supply network configuration
concepts. The operations management approaches in particular point to the emergence
of particular supply network profiles (akin to the strategic management types) and
the need to capture coherent sets of supply network configuration attributes.
Related literature on operational configuration includes the work on manufacturing
strategy configurations (Bozarth and McDermott, 1998; Oltra et al., 2005) that also focus
partly on product type, but mainly plant processes and roles, and the configuration
item based literature described in ISO10007 that focuses on product specification
defining the product or service and then effectively controlling changes to the definition.
These operational inputs are considered later in the capture of analogous supply
network configuration attributes.
Configuration 1

Configuration 2

coherence

strategy making process

coherence

stability
a state

transformation and change process


a process

Source: Schematic developed from Mintzberg et al. (1998)

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stability
a new state

Figure 2.
Configuration as a state

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Types of configuration
Types of configurations in the strategic management literature have been represented
in various ways. For example, as ten archetypes, or standard forms of organizations
observed by Miller in the mid-1970s grouped as successful (dominant, entrepreneurial,
innovator, . . .) or failed (stagnant bureaucracy, headless giant, aftermath, . . .). In his
later work, Miller put forward the assertion that quantum changes were necessary in
any transition rather than incremental development (Miller, 1986).
Following a review of four industry sectors (publishing, electronics, food processing
and health-care), Miles and Snow (1978) identified four behaviour-based configurations
exhibiting contrasting characters as summarized in Table I.
An alternative taxonomy was presented by Mintzbergs (1979) work on
organisational structure, and later on the power relationships within organisations
(Mintzberg, 1983) describing seven forms of organisation, categorised as:
(1) entrepreneurial;
(2) machine;
(3) professional;
(4) diversified;
(5) adhocracy;
(6) missionary; and
(7) political (Mintzberg, 1979, 1983; Mintzberg et al., 1998).
Each of these forms could be analyzed by time period; development stages, stability,
adaptation, struggle, and revolution. Four patterns of change were observed; periodic
bumps, oscillating shifts, life-cycles, and regular progress, although there remains
much debate on whether change is incremental or revolutionary. Some of these
behaviour-based forms favourably compare with the caricatures in Table I (e.g.
machine with defender and adhocracy with prospector).
In the operations management literature, supply network profiles have emerged
based on alternative supply network management approaches. Key examples include
alternative approaches to; managing complexity by differentiating competitive
priorities (Lamming et al., 2000), managing supply uncertainty (Lee, 2002), enabling
logistics processes (Klass, 2003), and supply-demand dynamics (Srai and Mills,
2005), with each providing some elements of supply network configuration. The
emphasis is however on selective dimensions of interest rather than a comprehensive
configurational analysis linking strategy, context, structure and capability.

Table I.
Organisational
behaviour-based
configurations

Defender

Prospector

Analyser

Reactor

Efficiency
Cost/quality
Narrow segment
Tight organisation

Innovation
New products
New segments
Flexible organisation

Minimise risk
Profit
Balanced
Hybrid of D/P

Reactive
No strategy
(Residual)

Source: Miles and Snow (1978)

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Re-configuration as a route to organisational coherence


Ideas of coherence and fit are particularly relevant to the research on the linkage between
capability and network configuration. It has been observed, for example that matrix
structures suit ad hocracy type organisations whereas quality circles are found in
machine-type organisations. Indeed, in this school of thought, configuration is seen as the
essence of strategy as strategy requires pattern, coherence, and consistency (Miller, 1986).
Another example of coherence, taking a time and context perspective, describes how
excellence achieved though certain approaches may be the very route to future decline as the
organisation life-cycle moves forward requiring alternative approaches (the Icarus paradox,
Miller, 1990). The influence of political factors and leadership styles (e.g. the Cuban missile
crisis (Allison, 1971), ICIs transformation (Pettigrew, 1987) and the role of various actors
within a network (Hakansson and Snehota, 1995)) are discussed by authors from both an
organisational and operational perspective. Configuration as a route to organisational
coherence thus involves concepts of the alignment with organisation life-cycle, human and
leadership capabilities, and complementary types of network relationships.
The organisation eco-cycle of crisis and renewal takes the concept of change
beyond the firm with renewal requiring destruction with unconnected elements
becoming organisations (Hurst, 1995). Firm descriptors of helmsmen navigator
captain discoverer have been used to describe these network level stages and to
provide insights to inter-firm supply network development.
The concept of configuration as a strategic position is demonstrated in Mintzbergs
change cube and the nature of the change methods used (planned/programmatic,
driven/guided, evolved/organic) (Mintzberg et al., 1998). Within driven change
rationalising, the re words of restructuring, repositioning, reframing, revitalising,
renewing, rethinking, revisioning, reconfiguring, retrenching, reforming, rearranging and
reducing are often used to mean similar guided change programmes. These terms are
perhaps more common amongst management consultants but they touch on the operational
and cultural aspects that follow any strategic positional change (Mintzberg et al., 1998).
Changing the strategic, organisational and emotional contexts are ways in which
these macro and micro changes can be described (Doz and Thanheiser, 1996). The
direction and nature of the change process is covered by several authors as a series of
steps and stages:
(1) top-down, e.g. Kotters (1995) eight steps; establish sense of urgency, form
powerful coalition, create a vision, communicate vision, empower, plan and
create short-term, consolidate, institutionalise;
(2) bottom-up, e.g. Beer et al.s (1990) six steps; mobilize change, develop vision,
foster consensus, spread revitalisation, institutionalise revitalisation, monitor;
(3) reengineering, e.g. restructuring, bureaucracy bashing, employee empowerment,
cost improvement, strategic cultural change, sustained competitive advantage
(Beatty and Ulrich, 1991); and
(4) stages in transformational leadership; awakening, visioning, re-architecturing
(Tichy and Sherman, 1993).
The configuration concepts discussed in this section are largely firm-based strategic
and organisational perspectives. However, these can be extended to the operational
domain and to the inter-firm supply network context (Srai et al., 2006).

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Supply network configuration of global operations


Supply network context and boundaries
Critical to supply network research is establishing meaningful boundaries of the network.
The supply network as a unit of analysis encompasses the concept of an integrated
network of key supply units, operating throughout the length of the supply chain, be they
predominantly internal to a firm where there is a degree of vertical integration, or largely
external supply partners where there is significant outsourcing of components, parts,
technology or general supply. Indeed, in most instances a mixed approach is adopted
across the integrated supply network and represents its particular configuration.
For practical purposes, the boundaries of a supply network therefore are case
dependent, and depend on the criticality of processes, materials and information flows
rather than ownership or network tier position, and the degree of influence any
network node has on the firm, and what firms can exact on any element of the network.
Research approach
Using the strategic management and networks literature as a basis for attribute
identification, a number of exploratory case studies reflecting diverse network forms were
used to develop an operational supply network configuration definition and associated
prototype configuration mapping approaches (Figure 3). These configuration mapping
tools were then tested in full case studies, again across a diverse set of supply network
forms, to capture network configuration characteristics in a consistent and coherent way.
The exploration of configuration and its linkages with network capability was
achieved through the use of supply network maturity models; the latter have been
developed by the same authors (Srai et al., 2004, 2006; Srai and Gregory, 2005)
consistent in definition and scope with this research work.
Supply network configuration attributes emerging from the literature
The key configuration concepts emerging from the literature that have a direct supply
network dimension may be classified into those that reflect a particular state and
those that capture the transformation from a current state to some future state. These
configuration dimensions are set out using the classification as follows:
Supply Network configuration attributes
emerging from the literature
(Historical Business Cases, Futures studies)
Supply Network Configuration
Definition development
Exploratory Case studies
Prototype Mapping Approaches

Figure 3.
Configuration research
interrogation approach

Full Case Studies


Exploring linkage between Configuration, Process Maturity and Practice

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(1) Network configuration as a state:


.
network system structure, network shape, network flow/logic, co-ordination
and alignment;
.
levels of vertical and horizontal integration, geographical spread, spatial
perspectives;
.
relative cost, complexity, proportionality;
.
principal manufacturing process, processes, or unit operations;
.
replenishment processes, activities, dynamics, push-pull decoupling point,
component flow, directional flows;
.
product and information flows, necessary/unnecessary motion, optimum
sequence, flexibility;
.
organisation structure, form and ownership, firm/inter-firm co-ordination
and governance;
.
firm/inter-firm relationships, supplier roles, firm roles, leaders, relationship
types (hard/soft);
.
scope: product breadth, product and/or services, product complexity and
variety; and
.
through-life value management, product life cycle, design authority,
services.
(2) Re-configuration, transformation and re-design concepts:
.
structural change and step-change improvement programmes;
.
change of business scope (mergers and acquisitions, disposals, geographical
change);
.
change of product scope (new product categories, range, format); and
.
change of infrastructure (new IT systems, service providers).
The capturing and aggregation of configuration attributes into related clusters resulted
in four categories of information; the strategic network level capturing tier structure and
network performance, the flow of material and information through the main
manufacturing unit operations, the interactions and relationships of the focal firm
internally and with its network partners, and the product structure in terms of
modularity, variety and life-cycle.
Development of a supply network configuration definition
The development of a supply network configuration definition and potential mapping
approaches were based on parameters identified from supply chain and network literature
sources, network reconfiguration case histories of leading firms (focusing on those
discriminating factors that impact network design) and supply network futures studies.
The supply network perspective of configuration considered both internal and external
network members. The definition needs to capture network shape and structure,
ownership, levels of vertical and horizontal integration, relationships and
inter-dependencies between network partners, unit operations (manufacturing
processes, optimum sequence, platforms, sub-assembly, modularity, complexity,
flexibility, etc.), product offering (product, spares, through-life support and services),

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infrastructure (e.g. IT) and network dynamics (e.g. replenishment modes). Furthermore,
within a supply network, there may be more than one supply model dynamic. In these
cases, product segmentation is also considered in terms of how the various configuration
elements are orchestrated to consistently achieve specific capabilities or operational goals
for a particular product family.
Building and extending from the classical firm level configuration concepts
discussed earlier, and introducing the supply network and operational considerations
identified above, allows the development of a configuration definition suitable for the
research into exploring the influence of configuration form on supply network
capabilities.
Configuration in this supply network context may therefore be defined as:
[. . .] that particular arrangement or permutation, of the supply networks key elements
including, the network structure of the various operations within the supply network and
their integrating mechanisms, the flow of materials and information between and within key
unit operations the role, inter-relationships, and governance between key network
partners, and the value structure of the product or service delivered.

The aforementioned attributes, or key elements can be defined in terms of their main
dimensions:
.
Supply network structure; network tier structure and shape, composition,
ownership, levels of vertical and horizontal integration, location, co-ordination,
manufacturing processes, optimum sequence, complexity, flexibility, etc.
.
The flow of material and information between and within key unit operations;
value and non-value adding activities, process steps, optimum sequence, levels of
flexibility, network dynamics (e.g. replenishment modes), infrastructure, and
enabling IT systems.
.
The role, inter-relationships, and governance between key network partners; the
nature of these interactions or transactions, number, complexity, partner roles,
governance and trust.
.
Value-structure of the product or service; composition and product-structure
(including components, sub-assembly, platforms, modularity), product
replenishment mode (e.g. is the product make-to-stock, make-to-order,
configure-to-order?), SKUs, products as spares, and through-life support and
services.
The derivation of a supply network configuration definition also allows the
development of the concept of re-configurability.
Re-configurability in this supply network context then becomes the ability to
rearrange key elements of the supply network, as an alternative permutation from
the current state, to enable improvements in the supply or development (cost, quality,
flexibility, dependability, speed) of the product or service (e.g. alternative network
structures, changes to the flow of material and information between unit operations,
changes to the role, inter-relationships and governance (responsibilities) of partners,
and/or changes to the value structure or composition of the product or service).
The dynamic nature, enabling processes and technologies, the ease of, and the scope of
this change process determine the potential for re-configuration.

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Development of supply network configuration mapping protocols


The configuration mapping approach included careful selection of mapping criteria
focused on both strategic and operational dimensions, ensuring practical application in
a case study environment and avoiding information overload and scope creep.
Approaches from related literature sources were used to evolve the mapping approach
as described in Table II.
From a configuration mapping perspective (focused on capability relevant
parameters), emphasis on the strategic elements of the network, key attributes of
network structure and restricting the scope to product and process elements of the
replenishment and innovation process was necessary.
Network configuration mapping conventions
Following a review of specific supply chain mapping examples (Table II), and supply
chain mapping approaches in general (Gardner and Cooper, 2003), the potential
complexities involved in supply network configuration were significant. The design of
a configuration mapping toolset therefore requires focus, with careful selection
of points of emphasis that may be relevant to supply network capability. A summary
of the configuration mapping protocols and the criteria deployed for parameter
selection is shown below:
.
Emphasis: external orientation, low/moderate detail, strategic capability and
primary nodes and links.
.
Attributes: relevant tiers, upstream and downstream, aggregate where possible,
firm network centric.
.
Scope: product family/strategic business unit, supply network processes,
replenishment/innovation/product life cycles.
Similarly, from a practical implementation perspective, the design of the configuration
mapping tools needed to consider:
.
information density (the data requirements required to provide sufficient
network configuration definition rather than be an exhaustive data-set);
.
confidentiality (data that provides necessary configuration perspectives without
compromising confidentiality);
.
scope creep (ensuring data inputs are restricted to pre-defined configuration
attributes and do not extend beyond these requirements); and
.
scalability (future ability to update/refresh and add to the data-set easily as the
configuration mapping activity requires some significant resource effort).
These considerations, supported by the literature on supply chain mapping (Gardner
and Cooper, 2003) helped define the configuration mapping conventions used in this
research.
Network configuration mapping tools
The investigative approach as set out earlier (Figure 3) involved the development of a
number of key stages in the research. The identification of supply network capability
relevant configuration attributes from the literature supported the development of a
supply network configuration definition. This enabling stage of the research resulted

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Objective
Process mapping
Network structure
Supplier process map
Activities, mechanics
Network shape
Through life management
Value added/lost
Descriptive
Component flow
Directional flows
Strategy mapping
Network flow/logic
Organisation network
Geographical spread

Functional map
Tier 1 and 2 players
Tier 1/2 suppliers
Process flows
Product shape
Service
Value stream maps
Full-S-chain
Lean Mfg map
Reverse logs/service
Strategy charting
Geometry
Organisational
Geographic

Table II.
Related configuration
mapping approaches

Type

Generic SCM tools, e.g. SCOR, 2005/7


Lambert et al. (2000)
Choi and Hong (2002)
Generic OR fields
Slack et al. (2004)
Slack (2005)
Hines and Rich (1997)
New and Payne (1995) and Jagdev and Thobn (2001)
Rother and Shook (1999)
Blumberg (1999)
Mills et al. (1998)
Fine (1998)
Bartlett and Ghoshal (1998)
Porter (1986)

Examples

396

Product and information flows


Relationships, complexity
Supplier role, relationships (hard/soft)
Firm roles, leaders, push-pull point (s)
Classification
Life cycle, design authority, services scope
Relative cost, quality, waste. . .
Academic, conceptual
Lean/inventory reduction
Reverse logistics and repair
Firm and network objectives
Alternative routes/options
Co-ordination
Co-ordination

SC Configuration mapping tools


Emphasis

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in a definition of supply network configuration with four key elements emerging;


network-structure, unit-operations, network relationship-configuration and
product-configuration.
In support of cross-case comparison, a key stage in the research was to develop
visual representation of these four configuration elements; network-structure and
unit-operations lending themselves to schematic structural and flow-diagram
representation, respectively, and tabular summaries of network-relationship types
and product-structure attributes. Owing to the different and discrete nature of these
four configuration elements, separate mapping charts were appropriate. The design of
each of these mapping tools adopted the supply network mapping conventions
described above (emphasis, attributes, scope), taking note of practical considerations
(information density, confidentiality, scope-creep and scalability).
The four supply network configuration maps that make up the configuration
mapping tools are summarised below:
.
Map 1. Supply network structure.
.
Map 2. Flow of material and information between and within key unit operations.
.
Map 3. The role, inter-relationships and governance between key network partners.
.
Map 4. Value-structure of the product or service.
Collectively they provide a configuration profile of the supply network under study.
These visual representations of supply network configuration, as well as textual
(attribute-based) descriptions, facilitated the characterization of supply network
profiles across the various case studies.
Network configuration schematic representation
A schematic representation of the four supply network configuration maps is shown in
Figure 4, identifying the discrete nature of the four data-sets; the case studies themselves
are complemented by detailed case-specific qualitative and quantitative data, including
key performance indicators and more detailed supply network representations.
Fieldwork research and case studies
The investigative approach involved capturing supply network configuration and the
assessment of supply network capability of selected case study supply networks. The
approach is shown in Figure 5.
The approach adopted for assessing supply network capability utilizes the supply
network capability model previously developed by the authors (Srai and Gregory,
2005). This capability maturity model takes a holistic perspective of supply network
capabilities incorporating the key capability clusters of network design, connectivity,
performance, enabling processes and business and product innovation.
Capability assessment (existing methods) and prototype configuration mapping
tools (as developed in this research) were tested in ten exploratory case studies across a
range of supply networks (Table III), enabling the piloting of the tools in a broad range
of industry environments. These exploratory cases enabled testing of the investigative
method, the capture of capabilities and their enabling processes using supply network
maturity models, and supply network configuration dimension mapping. These cases
allowed minor refinements to the configuration mapping tools themselves in terms of
their practical application and developing unambiguous attribute definitions.

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Map 1: Supply network structure


Tier 3

Tier 2

RDCs

supply sites

Tier 1

25

398

>
500

>
300

a global %
b regional %
c local %

75

50
+
xx
minor

Multiregional

%COGS
p% raw
q% 1ry pack
r % 2rypack
s% others

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Tactical

Map 2 : Flow of material and information between and within key unit operations
buying
pre-blend

Raws
w/h
Process
ing

% Raw
Returns
% PKG
Returns
primary

Replenishment model
Fill

2ndry
packing

FG w/h

RDC

Pack
Mtls w/h

Map.3: The role, inter-relationships, and governance betweenkey network partners


Network governance
contracts / relationship type / network role
Intra-firm
factory network / S&OP process
network ownership / Supply-N and R&D co-ordination
Inter-firm
key suppliers / key customers / geographic dispersion /
satisfaction measures (customers & suppliers)
Map.4: Value-structure of the product or service
Product modularity
Shape of Product Structure
Product mix SKUs by SBU

None/ single unit/ sub-unit/ factory unit/w/h unit


A, T, V, X
Eur
30
60
3
30
1

P
D
S
H
Z
totals

Figure 4.
Schematics of the four
configuration mapping
tools

NA LA Afr Asia total


7 0 35 6
78
54 20 54 2 190
34 5 40 2
84
3 0 40 9
84
50 11 44 6 112
xxxx

Innovation churn

New variant/extension
New product form

2 3 yrs
4 5 yrs

Product life cycle

3-6 months trade, 1 wk customer; max: 2 years

Offering

Product only, mainly product,mainly service

Forecast accuracy and planning


horizon
Fulfilment process & lead time
customers / suppliers
Product Value Density vs. Transport
Cost
% SC Cost /sales

Aggregate level:
+ 10% ; 3 months out
SKU level (wt avg): + 20 -25% ; 3 months out
Supply to stock; 3 months rolling order
Supply to stock/forecast: 3 month rolling/call-off
10te/TEU
yy%

Euros/tonne /
Tonnes/TEU

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Project overview

Identify business units for assessment


simplified landscape mapping corporate & category focus

Supply Network
Configuration
Mapping

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Supply Network
Capability
Mapping
OUTPUTS
Capabilities profile
Gap analysis
Excellence models
Benchmarks
Opportunities
Trade-offs

399

OUTPUTS
Supply Network Map
Network configuration
discriminators
Benchmarks
Opportunities
Trade-offs

New Processes

Configuration facilitators

Company

Sector

Region

Market position

Medical Devices Division


of MNCa
Personal Care Division
of MNCa
Johnson Electric
Meters Bonwe
IKEA UK Retail Site
TCL
GP Electronics
China Detergents Operation
of MNCa
Poly Group
Hengdian Magnetics Co. Ltd

Medical device equipment

EU/NA/Aus

Top 3 global

FMCG/personal care global

Global

No. 1 global

Industrial motors
Textiles (fables manufacture)
Part-VI house-furnishings
Electrical goods/TV mfr
Cons electronics/batteries
FMCG/detergents and p-care

Global
China
Global
Global
Regional
Regional/China

Top 5 global
Top 1 China
Global top 3
Global No. 1
Major local
Top 3 China

Packaging/intl trading
Elecl components/magnets

West Africa
Global

Top s-region
Top 1 global

Note: aCompany names withheld for confidentiality reasons

The approach and tools (configuration mapping tools refined in terms of more effective
industry engagement through improved definition) were then applied in a further ten
cases in-depth (Table IV), to assess capability profile and dimension-maturity in detail,
and the extensive mapping of network configuration. Focal-firm discussions focused
on capturing process-maturity across the supply network capability dimensions, and
capturing supply network configuration attributes using the configuration mapping
tools. The in-depth cases allowed the exploration (with respondents from the
focal-firm) of any emerging linkages between configuration and supply network
capability and extending discussions to explore potential opportunities through
reconfiguration.

Figure 5.
Case study investigation
approach

Table III.
Exploratory studies (10)

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Table IV.
In-depth studies (10)

Company

Sector

Region

Market position

Beverages Division of MNCa


Regional Foods & C-Goods (MNC)a
Regional Supply Division of MNCa
New Products Division of MNCa
PepsiCo International (Reg. Divn)
Youngor Group

FMCG beverages
FMCG
Pharma
Pharma
FMCG
Textiles (vertically
integrated)
Market/retail
Telecoms
Home appliance mfr
Equipment/service
provider

Global
Africa M-East
Multi-regional
Global
Europe
China exports

No. 1 global
Top 3 region
Top 2 global
Top 2 global
Top 3 global
Top 5 global

Global
Global
China exports
UK/US

No. 1 trader
Top 5 global
No.1 global
Top 3 global

Yi Wu Trade City
ZTE
Midea
Aerospace & Defence
Conglomeratea

Note: aCompany names withheld for confidentiality reasons

The case study supply networks sectors included consumer goods, pharmaceuticals,
textiles, electronics, telecoms, home appliance, equipment and component manufacturers.
The businesses were of global scale (volume and turnover) and included both established
(mainly western) based organisations and examples from the developing world. This
allowed the tools to be assessed across a wide range of application environments.
The cases reflect alternative value chain models (traditional OEMs, contract
manufacturing service providers, vertically integrated manufacturers, fabless
manufacturing, a manufacturing and retail cluster, and an equipment manufacturer
and through life service provider). The geographical spread of these businesses reflected
different network evolutions (e.g. multi-domestic, regional, and centralised global scale
players).
Exploratory case studies allowed testing of the configuration mapping prototype
tools, their further development, and overall refinement of the case-study industry
engagement process. In all cases, studies involved senior supply chain management
(SCM) of the corporations in reviewing their firm/inter-firm supply network processes,
and process maturity as part of capability assessment (a process that involved the
capture of enabling operational processes across a set of pre-defined dimensions in the
capability assessment tool), the capture of quantitative supply chain performance data,
and the detailed mapping of supply network configuration using the tools developed in
this research. However, some limitations on time, site visits and data triangulation
restricted the application of these exploratory studies to prototyping although, through
their variety and contribution to the research, these cases add to the robustness of the
findings and are not solely in support of tool development activities.
For each of the full case studies, the configuration mapping tools were used to
capture detailed configuration maps; an in-depth process involving the senior
management of the focal firm, site visits, discussions with the most senior supply chain
role in the organization, and covering the full set of attributes identified in the literature
review. The configuration mapping tools benefited from the refinements made to them
in the exploratory studies in terms of attribute definition, and more effective industry
engagement mechanisms. The in-depth cases conducted were, all global scale
(in volume and turnover) whether single or multi-country source operations or MNCs.

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Individually the cases were suitable test sites, and collectively they met the criteria set
out by the research methodology (i.e. collectively they span a range of products, cover
different international geographies, and utilise alternative supply network structures).
Likewise, SCM processes were captured using the process-based maturity model
tools previously developed. This involved the assessment of individual capability
dimensions (against a set maturity statements identifying increasing levels of process
evolution and formality) with senior management involved in the management of
operations. The performance dimensions critical to supporting the various business
models were readily available, being a preoccupation of these management teams,
although some exploration in terms of choice of measure and its supply network
context was required. The capability assessments and performance data, that adopt a
focal firm perspective of the supply network, were used in the analysis with the
outputs from the configuration mapping tools.
Four specific cases, two exploratory and two in-depth are presented in summary
form below (Table V) to demonstrate the nature of the data-collection. In these four
examples, the five stage engagement method, the nature of the data collected and
analysis approach are set out, namely:
.
The company (or product category) supply network under study, is briefly
described.
.
Key informants that participated in the supply network configuration analysis
(Stage 1).
.
The strategic priorities of the OEM are identified against which subsequent
capability and performance assessments are made (Stage 2).
.
A summary of supply network process maturity from the perspective of the
OEM is made, supported by commentary on the five main capability clusters
(Srai and Gregory, 2005) that are included in the capability assessment (Stage 3).
.
The capture of key elements of configuration, in summary text form, by
extracting data from the configuration mapping process (as depicted in the
schematic charts, Figure 4) (Stage 4).
.
Finally, the capture of key performance dimensions used by the OEM to support
their strategic priorities (Stage 5).
The four case-study examples set out in Table V illustrates the fieldwork approach
used across the different supply networks studied. These illustrative cases correlate
with Table VI which sets out the findings at a summary level and across the full case
study set.
Results summary
The results and examples set out above demonstrate that the new supply network
configuration mapping and maturity methods proposed can offer new insights to both
practitioners and researchers. Practitioners can observe with much greater clarity the
architecture and operational effectiveness of their systems. Researchers have a rich tool to
support comparative study of networks. More work is needed to provide reliable means of
measuring and assessing performance but some preliminary findings are worth
highlighting. They are concerned with the characteristics of different configurations and

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Order placement involves


high levels of customer
connectivity through
electronic data exchange

Network connectivity

Network design

Strategic priorities
capture

Stage 2

Process maturity summary


Stage 3

Introduction of h. quality
product enhancements with
rapid cross-regional roll-out.
Ability to supply within 48
hours mass-customised
products

Network Leadership
through product design and
mfr, key component mfr,
centralised distribution, and
brand

Engagement

Stage 1

European-based
manufacturer of h. value,
mass-customised
make-to-order medical
device products supplied to
individual consumers
within 48 hours of order
placement
Principal informants
include global CEO, supply
chain VP/director,

Company description

Table V.
Example case studies
engagement approach,
tool deployment and
findings
Medical devices
Medical equipment

Review undertaken with


SVP supply chain services
of their operations in Hong
Kong and their main facility
in Shenzen
Low-cost responsive scale
manufacture through
sourcing of local
components and main
assembly from single
low-cost location

Focus on Collaborative
capability (supply side) and
Network Integration. Low
inventory reduces risk of
price variance and
obsolescence
Impressive levels of supplier
integration
Centralised base provides
internal integration

World leader in the


manufacturing of industrial
motors based in Shenzen
City, China with
international markets
supplying automotive and
white goods OEM sectors

Highly networked supply


network; both upstream at
various tiers and
downstream sales

Vertically Integrated
business model focused on
network integration
through part-ownership of
multiple tiers with focus on
garment design

Advanced Network Design


capabilities with selective
investments throughout the
SN based on make-buy and
Innovation considerations

Vice-gen. manager
responsible for operations
and vice-director
informations systems

Part-vertically integrated
manufacturer of h. value
male garments based in
China; includes base
material and garment mfr
and own retain outlets

Youngor
Textiles

(continued)

Upstream supply side integration


provides for low cost local supply

22
Network design is simple and
effective based on single site
assembly operations and supply
side local cluster

Low cost supply with a focus on


scale production and ability to
supply huge international contracts
for OEM brands

Site operations management at their


main site and manufacturing R&D
director

Global supplier of home-appliances


with global scale in several product
categories; product category under
study is their Microwave Division

In-depth
Midea
Home-appliances

402

Company
Sector

Exploratory
Johnson Electric
Electric motors

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Stage 5

Product structure

Network relationships

Principal unit operations

Stage 4
Network structure

Company
Sector
Rapid product supply
routines robust quality
systems cycle-time
compression
Manufacturing core
processes supply core
components and final
products

Quality systems are


over-reliant on QC
inspections rather than
robust QA practices
Advanced kanban
processes

Exploratory
Johnson Electric
Electric motors

Network role
Leader
Network relationships Strong, integrated
Network governance
Leadership
Product demand
Innovation and customisn
characteristic
led
Product SKU
Mass customisation
variety/profile
Product SKU SC driver V. high value
Analysis against performance
Key performance
Product technology and
discriminator
innovation, supply
responsiveness

Medium value

Controlled and modular

Principal supplier
Strong supply side, transactional
Closely coupled upstr
Consignment orders

Single site supply cluster


S-cluster to international
Assembly line scale operations
Make-to-stock/make-to-consignment

Product innovation, product Low-cost products


quality and low-cost

Prod. specific

Speed, make-to-spec, cost


Responsiveness and
low-cost

100 product lines policy

Vertically integrated cluster


S-cluster to international
Multi-stage
Product specific; make to
stock, make to order, make
to consignment models
Leader
Strong
Closely coupled
Volatile and seasonal

Limited capabilities in new product


development

Limited investment in process


capabilities with reliance on manual
operations, and 100 per cent quality
control checks

Advanced R&D processes


supported by robust
manufacturing core
processes

Innovation focus in design


and materials targeted at
male garments only

Low cost focus through semi skilled


labour with modest operational
capabilities

In-depth
Midea
Home-appliances

Focus is on quality and


yield and timely innovation
roll-out

Youngor
Textiles

Customised

Leader
Strong, transactional
Supply cluster
Make-to-spec

Integrated manufacturing
facilities
New product development
Responsiveness to late
Product/service
enhancement
and rapid roll-out capability product specification
changes; prototyping
capabilities
Configuration capture key discriminators
Upstream/downstream Few focused sites
Single-site mfg cluster
Geographical spread
Multi-regional
Global supply
Type of unit ops
Unique-item production
Supply cluster; cellular mfg
Process flow dynamic Make-to-order
Make-to-order

SC processes

Network efficiency

Medical devices
Medical equipment

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Table V.

Table VI.
Configuration,
performance
discriminators and
network capability

Exploratory case
Medical Devices
Personal Care
Johnson Electric
Meters Bonwe
IKEA
TCL
GP Electronics
China Detergents
Poly Group
H-Magnetics
Full case
Beverages Global
Foods/Consumables
Regional Pharma
New Prod Pharma
PepsiCo lntl
Youngor Group
Yi Wu Trade City
ZTE Telecoms
Midea Microwave
Aerospace Defence

Case
NPD/responsiveness
New product introduction
Responsiveness, low cost
Innovation/supply cost
Low-cost product supply
Cost/quality
None/balanced
OTIF supply
Local service/lead-time
Low cost

OTIF service/innovation
Responsiveness
OTIF service/balanced
New product introduction
Franchised third party supply
Innovation/quality/cost
Volume/SKU flex/cost
Responsiveness
Low cost
Prod. design/service cost

Multi-regional network supplying international markets


Sub-regional production network supplying local markets
Regional scale multi-tier supply network third party mfr
A few mega-scale multi-tier sites supporting and R&D
Mixed sourcing model with outsourcing in mature markets
Vertically integrated multi-tier (harvest to market) model
Regional supply hub supporting global scale international retail
Network cluster (shared risk) supporting agile telecoms mfr.
Contract manufacturer services in local network cluster
Conglomerate migrating from equipment to services

Performance discriminator

High-value products supporting multi-regional supply network


Global scale focused factory production network OEM
Network cluster operating effective and simple kanban
Network integrator managing multiple-tiers fabless model
Part-vertically integrated right through to domestic retail
Global scale manufacturing with multi-domestic footprint
Local OEM and contract manufacturer
Supply network cluster supporting regional production
Multi-domestic mfr and supply of packaging to fmcg MNCs
Global scale manufacturer on a single integrated site

Configuration descriptor

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22
/

2
22
2
/

Practice maturity

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the relationship between configuration and process maturity the latter being a popular
focus for supply chain improvement initiatives.
From sector to sector, findings from the case studies and configuration maps, suggest
that these network configurations vary greatly between form, structure and capability.
Table VI outlines the key configuration discriminators and the capability focus of the
network and to what extent they are supported by advanced SCM practices.
In Table VI, for the specific capabilities identified as critical to the performance of
the supply model, the evaluation of SCM practices utilises the maturity model
definitions developed previously. For simplicity these are summarised in the Table in
terms of the following, where:
.
denotes advanced SCM practices ( denoting leading edge processes).
.
/ denotes mid-point SCM practices observed.
.
2 denotes SCM practices are regressed ( most basic level processes).
Findings
The key findings from the case study results and research are:
(1) Network configurations are very different from firm to firm with four key
elements of supply network configuration identified:
.
tier structure, shape and location (including key information/material flows);
.
principal unit operations and their internal manufacturing processes;
.
roles and relationships between key network partners; and
.
product structure, complexity and composition.
(2) Supply network configurations require mapping to understand potential
transferability of processes and meaningful cross-sector peer review; the
configuration context appears to be significant in process capability
development and performance terms.
(3) The supply network configuration mapping tools developed can be practically
applied and provide a necessary context (and consistent language) for both
process and performance review. The tools were found to give new insights into
the structure of supply networks and allow comparisons to be made across
sectors and business models through the use of consistent and quantitative
methods and common presentation.
(4) Configuration profiles observed have specific intrinsic capabilities and require
different levels of operational maturity; network configuration is a key enabler
of supply chain capability and may impact the operational process maturity
required to achieve target performance levels.
(5) Supply network re-configurability concepts emerging from the research provide
potential routes to network transformation; beyond the strategic and
organisational concepts of previous work and with particular elements of
configuration having different reconfiguration potential.
(6) Advanced performance does not always correlate with advanced SCM
processes. In many cases, simpler processes (i.e. less advanced in a maturity
model sense) appear to be more effective benefiting from the network
configuration they use.

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Network configuration profiles have been mapped and show the diversity of network
tier structure, production processes (unit operations), and relationship modalities
across the supply network together with the complexities of very different product
structures. The tools provide the foundations for linking configuration to capability
and performance, and contribute to supply network design and development by
highlighting the intrinsic capabilities associated with these different configurations.
Illustrating the impact of configuration and its various elements (as captured in
Table VI in textual summary form) is the apparent disconnect between operational
process maturity and performance when considering a broad range of a supply
network configuration profiles. Key examples that demonstrate the point include:
.
The medical devices case generates outstanding responsiveness and supply of
innovative products with mature rather than exceptional supply chain processes
in this area. This mass customisation configuration model benefits from digital
codification of customer specific requirements, complex in-house key component
supply, but supported by very basic final assembly and modest operational
management processes. Nevertheless, the operation supports an impressive
industry leading customer specific order to delivery cycle.
.
Similarly, the J-Electric case is an example of exceptional make-to-order
responsiveness and cost performance; its manufacturing operations are mature
but performance is essentially based around a very effective supply-side cluster
operation affording kanban operation without requiring advanced planning
systems.
.
Highly networked systems can be achieved through alternative means, through
vertical integration (Youngor), or through the systems integrator role as in the
case of the fabless operation case (Meters Bonwe). In each case their network
capabilities are similar suggesting rather than single route prescriptive
solutions, that in the case of highly networked systems, multiple solutions are
possible. This finding is consistent with the principal of equifinality.
.
The ZTE case provides a supply responsiveness that is perhaps unmatched in its
sector but has modest capabilities in supply planning and manufacturing; its
ability to support this capability is largely achieved through its supplier base in
supporting contract bids through effective risk pooling.
.
Midea excels in low-cost supply but practice maturity in manufacturing core
processes, and supply management are below what might be expected by the
number 2 global volume producer. This contract manufacturer supply network
model exhibits a highly responsive, low cost supply model enabling competitive
international product supply, despite the absence of advanced planning systems
or advanced operations management practice.
The implications for the design of supply network improvement initiatives are
substantial, suggesting that configuration may be at least as important as process
maturity and that major investments in process maturity without full consideration of
configuration may prove disappointing.
In several cases the hybrid concept of a supply network cluster has emerged, a
single product-category specific cluster of unit operations that is geographically
concentrated and forms part of an interconnected supply network. The operational

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benefits appear significant and have enabled competitive performance internationally,


and in many cases despite the lack of operational process maturity in these relatively
new businesses.
There are of course, examples where process excellence and performance are aligned as
in the case of the innovation driven networks of new-products-pharma and personal-care,
lean manufacturing-based networks, e.g. H-Magnetics, and the scale driven cost leaders,
e.g. TCL. The balanced capability profiles of the multi-domestic MNCs also provide
competitive cost, quality and service. However, in these cases the network configurations
also support capability delivery and do not hinder supply model priorities.
Discussion
The identification of supply network configuration dimensions and mapping
approaches may lead to a more robust peer-to-peer capability comparison, taking
account of the supply network configuration context in which performance is achieved.
The dimensions themselves may also provide for alternative routes to supply network
development.
The configuration of the supply network itself may determine boundary
conditions on what is possible from a supply network capability perspective. The
impact of configuration on performance requires a re-evaluation of maturity models
where the link between process maturity and performance will require a configuration
context.
The research has identified particular advantages of different network
configurations and their impact on operational process maturity requirements, e.g.
the competitive advantages that emerge from some of the case studies where highly
concentrated, close proximity, global scale upstream supply networks appear to
compensate for relatively weak firm level processes. This has potential policy
implications for developing nations.
The conceptual linkages evident from the configuration mapping studies between
alternative network approaches such as industry structures, industrial clusters, and
supply networks, suggest the approaches are similar and that hybrid forms exist that
can contribute to the understanding of competitive advantage.
A key question that emerges is the linkage between the supply networks concept
and the industrial cluster concept. Previous works on industrial clusters do not
generally refer to the SCM field whereas the key operational advantages we have
observed in some of our case studies have been in supply chain operations. Although
the industrial cluster literature refers to close linkages with buyers and suppliers their
focus is on innovation (productivity growth) rather than operational excellence. The
industrial cluster literature notes that models exist in developing countries but in the
main the emphasis is on advanced nations and innovative sectors and not developing
nations and mature product sectors. Furthermore, the focus (by definition) of industrial
clusters is on multiple product categories in related industries.
This perhaps leads us to consider the hybrid concept, that of supply network
clusters, i.e. a supply network involving a series of integrated upstream unit
operations, geographically concentrated at the city/district level, supporting a single
product-category final assembly operation of global scale operating highly effective
supply chain routines through simple non-complex processes and management
structures. This configuration of the supply network, its scale and its high degree of

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geographic concentration, provides developing and emerging operations the critical


order winning capabilities on key operational performance measures of cost,
responsiveness and supply security to global market place demands and the effective
management of risk.
Conclusions
This paper demonstrates new approaches to the mapping, analysis and visualisation of
complex supply networks in the context of configuration. Configuration is an
established perspective in the strategic management literature but has not previously
been extended to supply networks operations.
The application of the mapping and configuration ideas to a diverse range of sectors
has shown the applicability of the methods and also their ability to provide new
insights into supply network design. Practitioners can observe with much greater
clarity the architecture and operational effectiveness of their systems. Researchers
have a rich tool to support comparative study of networks.
The approaches proposed provide a major step towards understanding the
capabilities of different supply network profiles while highlighting the diversity of
feasible solutions and the importance of context. Specifically, the research highlights
the potential dangers of pursuing a process development approach to performance
improvement without proper consideration of configuration.
Further work is needed to explore the links between configuration and performance
more closely and to pursue the emerging relationship between supply networks and
the concept of industrial clusters from the economic development literature.
Future work
The fieldwork elements of the research whilst addressing many alternative supply
network models can benefit from further application across a wider set of operational
environments to determine a broader set of supply network configuration profiles and
further test the robustness of the tools.
The research has been of an exploratory nature and some suggestive configuration
models have emerged that appear to support advanced outcomes (or meta-capabilities)
but are not reliant on advanced operational process maturity. The development of a
hierarchy of process-based capabilities may be a possible extension of this research in
order to capture and connect complex but transferable and standardised operational
routines from those that integrate them into a unique, non-imitable set of strategic
capabilities that are outcome focused. This approach may usefully benefit from the
emerging work on performance hierarchies where basic sub-process metrics support
integrated strategic goals.
The definition of supply network configuration into four discrete elements, each
having different reconfiguration potential is of particular interest for future research.
The very nature of fragmented supply networks, where reconfiguration is more
feasible than firm-level considerations which are more static in nature, suggests that
exploring reconfiguration potential of the constituent elements (as defined in this
research) may lead to new approaches to performance improvement.
The linkages between dyadic supply chains, complex supply networks, and
industrial clusters suggest the potential for developing and integrating these concepts
as part of a broader framework on industrial structures. This approach may allow

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identification of hybrid structures that utilise different elements of these related


concepts.
Finally, supply network research is complicated by the difficulty in defining system
boundaries and further work in network definition may contribute to the development
of supply network theory.
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Corresponding author
Jagjit Singh Srai can be contacted at: jss46@cam.ac.uk

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