Academic journal article Journal of Supply Chain Management

Supply Chain Management: It's All about the Journey, Not the Destination

Academic journal article Journal of Supply Chain Management

Supply Chain Management: It's All about the Journey, Not the Destination

Article excerpt


At times, practice has led academic research. The term "supply chain management" (SCM) is over 30 years old, first appearing in the practitioner literature in 1982 (Oliver & Weber, 1982). The earliest articles on supply chain management (SCM) were written primarily by consultants, who viewed supply chain management as a way to better manage resources and assets. It was not until several years later that academics began to adopt the term and explore its meaning and implementation. Even as academics began to use the term supply chain management, they realized it did not fully or accurately describe the complex web or network of relationships and processes moving in many directions and connecting companies to make products and services more effectively available to customers (El!ram, 1991).

This article explores the evolution of the concept and considers the current state of supply chain management. In doing so, the literature associated with the supply chain management concept is examined. This literature is viewed according to the way that SCM has been conceptualized and applied. An initial review of the literature suggests that there are several different streams of research regarding the way that SCM is perceived. This lack of commonality has made supply chain management a very broad area. However, numerous authors have noted that the breadth of views on the notion of supply chain management and that the inconsistency in the way that SCM is viewed has also possibly hampered the progression of SCM scholarly work and practitioner application, confusing the way that supply chain management is viewed in both research and practice.

'This paper is organized as follows. First, a brief review of the literature is provided. There are a number of excellent literature review articles available (e.g., Ballou, 2007; Bechtel & Jayaram, 1997; Burgess, Singh, & Koroglu, 2006; Chicksand, Watson, Walker, Radnor, & Johnston, 2012; Croom, Romano, & Giannakis, 2000; Frankel, Bolumole, Eltantawy, Paulraj, & Gundlach, 2008; Gibson, Mentzer, & Cook, 2005; Kache & Seuring, 2013; Larson & Halldorsson, 2002; Lummus & Vokurka, 1999; Power, 2005) that provide significantly more depth in that regard than this paper does. Next, selected, highly cited articles that focus on the concept of supply chain management are classified according to whether supply chain management is viewed as a process, a discipline, a philosophy, a governance structure, or a functional area, including a discussion of the merits of each approach, bringing us to where we are today. The paper concludes with an assessment of the current state of supply chain research and practice, and some suggestions on how to proceed as researchers in designing future studies.


This section begins with a definition of a supply chain, followed by an overview of the progression of the literature.

Definition of Supply Chain

Today, most people agree on the basic definition of a supply chain:

A supply chain is defined as a set of three or more entities (organizations or individuals) directly involved in the upstream and downstream flows of products, services, finances, and/or information from a to a customer, (and return), (Mentzer et al., 2001, p. 4.)

However, as Mentzer et at. (2001) point out, and what is still true today (Chicksand et al., 2012), is that there is not an agreed-upon definition for supply chain management. There is an ongoing theme in a number of articles (e.g., Bechtel & Jayaram, 1997; Lambert & Pohlen, 2001; Mentzer et al., 2001) that, "Without the adoption of a uniform agreed upon definition of supply chain management (SCM), researchers and practitioners will not be able to 'advance the theory and practice' of the discipline," (Stock & Boyer, 2009, p. 690). When parties do not like the way that they see others using or interpreting the term supply chain management, they have created their own names to describe what they see as supply chain management. …

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