Physical Distribution and Channel Management: A Knowledge and Capabilities Perspective

By Frazier, Gary L. | Journal of Supply Chain Management, April 2009 | Go to article overview

Physical Distribution and Channel Management: A Knowledge and Capabilities Perspective


Frazier, Gary L., Journal of Supply Chain Management


INTRODUCTION

Research devoted to channel management has played an important role in the marketing discipline for over 40 years. Two main areas of channels research in marketing have evolved. First, how channels are organized or structured has been a focal point, centering on the level of channel integration, reliance on multiple channels, distribution intensity and organizational policies relating to centralization, formalization, standardization, and surveillance (cf. Dwyer and Oh 1988; John and Weitz 1988; Fein and Anderson 1997; Shervani, Frazier and Challagalla 2007). Second, how ongoing channel relationships are coordinated in a behavioral sense has been even more prominent, dealing with methods of channel governance, including the impact of contracts, the development and application of interfirm power, communication approaches, levels of control and conflict, and the attainment of trust and commitment (cf. Frazier 1983; Anderson and Weitz 1992; Boyle, Dwyer, Robich-eau and Simpson 1992; Morgan and Hunt 1994; Kumar, Scheer and Steenkamp 1995a,b; Lusch and Brown 1996).

Physical distribution has been acknowledged as being an important component of channel management (cf. Frazier, Spekman and O'Neal 1988; Coughlan, Anderson, Stern and El-ansary 2006). However, relatively little attention has been paid to physical distribution functions in channels research within the marketing literature. The general topic has received more emphasis in other literatures, such as in operations management, logistics, transportation, purchasing and information technology, with a general focus on how product orders can be efficiently and effectively processed, and then delivered to channel members and end-customers. Among the main areas of interest have been inventory management, the number, placement, and design of warehouses or distribution centers, the use of technology to aide in processing orders, delivery options to customers, and customer payment methods (cf. Innis and LaLonde 1994; Emerson and Grimm 1996; Giannakis and Groom 2004; Giunipero, Hooker, Joseph-Matthews, Yoo and Brudvig 2008). Just-in-time delivery systems and efficient consumer response, including supplier managed ordering and inventory systems, have received considerable focus (cf. Kumar 2006).

The lack of attention to physical distribution in channels research in marketing is unfortunate. Physical distribution functions will impact both channel organization and the manner in which channel relationships are coordinated over time. To promote future progress, a greater focus on the general topic is warranted in channels research. For this to happen, more clarity is necessary on the role of physical distribution functions within the general domain of channel management.

Research on "organizational knowledge and capabilities" within the disciplines of organizational behavior, strategy and international business has been growing in recent years. Within this stream of research, "knowledge" is seen as the key strategic resource of the firm; a knowledge-based theory of the firm has been evolving (cf. Grant 1996). How the explicit and tacit knowledge can be fostered, transferred and integrated within and across firms to improve decision making, organizational capabilities and performance has been emphasized (cf. Daft and Lengel 1986; Huber 1990; Grant and Baden-Fuller 1995; Wiklund and Shepard 2003; Simonin 2004; Dyer and Hatch 2006). The transfer of knowledge and its associated effects have been examined in a variety of contexts, including within the firm, across global units within the firm, across subsidiaries within multinational corporations, across strategic alliances, across buying (original equipment manufacturers) and selling organizations (suppliers) in business-to-business markets, and across international joint ventures.

Within marketing, the "organizational knowledge and capabilities" perspective has received little attention, a notable exception being De Luca and Atuahene-Gima (2007) in examining product innovation performance. …

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