Academic journal article Journal of Supply Chain Management

Service Supply Chains: Introducing the Special Topic Forum

Academic journal article Journal of Supply Chain Management

Service Supply Chains: Introducing the Special Topic Forum

Article excerpt


We are excited to present this Special Topic Forum (STF) on Service Supply Chains (SSCs). The field of supply chain management and the field of services management have each experienced notable progress over the past few decades. Services represent the vast majority of economic activity in developed economies, yet the study of SSCs has rarely been addressed in an academic and rigorous way (Seng-upta, Heiser and Cook 2006; Niranjan and Weaver 2011). Ellram, Tate and Billington (2004, p. 29) observe that "services have been largely ignored in supply chain research." This STF is intended to help fill that gap.

A fundamental research question asks what, if anything, is distinctive about SSCs. In the words of Ellram et al. (2004, p. 21), we have been looking for research that "examines the fundamental similarities and difference in the services versus manufacturing supply chain and what that means in terms of managing these [service] supply chains." In achieving this, we required all submissions to have a solid conceptual foundation, as described by this excerpt from our call for papers:

"We are not interested in studies centered on the provision of goods in service sectors, e.g. the supply of pharmaceuticals in the healthcare sector, but in settings focused on the provision of services between organizations--which might, indeed, be in what would routinely be classified as manufacturing sectors. Submissions must set out their theoretical assumptions, particularly regarding the definition of services. Contributions may draw on theory from outside of operations and supply, but must make a clear contribution to supply chain management theory development."

The fundamental purpose of this STF is to provide some solid basis for conceptualizing SSCs and explore corresponding managerial issues. We were delighted to receive some insightful submissions in support of this purpose. As one might imagine, perspectives on SSCs vary. In particular, we observed three general SSC perspectives: (1) services sourcing, (2) making services and (3) employing services to facilitate the delivery of products to customers. Note that these three SSC perspectives correspond to primary management processes depicted in the supply chain opera-dons reference (SCOR) model: source, make and deliver (Huan, Sheoran and Wang 2004).

The idea is that SSCs are not wholly separate from traditional supply chains, but rather are seen as supply chains that contain important service elements. The use of the phrase "service supply chain" may imply a false dichotomy with traditional supply chains. It might be more appropriate to refer to service elements of supply chains."

This STF happens to contain articles for each of the three perspectives, plus one taking a fourth perspective that we believe breaks new ground in the SSC literature. The following describes these SSC perspectives and cites examples of each, including articles in this STF.


This first perspective on SSCs considers firms of any type that purchase something identified as "services." For example, an auto manufacturer may purchase tires (or other "goods") through a traditional purchasing process that is not considered an SSC process. However, if that auto manufacturer retains a law firm for legal work, it would be purchasing a service, as depicted in Figure 1. This distinction is a product-level distinction, namely, identifying if the "thing" being purchased is a good or a service. It assumes a B2B relationship, where the firm doing the sourcing is not an end consumer.


The Eltram et al. (2004) article cited previously took this service-sourcing perspective. In a subsequent article, the same authors reviewed empirical data showing that "purchasing services is viewed as more difficult than purchasing goods," and enumerate ways purchasing services is perceived as being more difficult (Ellram, Tate and Billington 2007, p. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.