The implementation of supply chain management theory in practice: an empirical investigation

Edward Sweeney*, David B. Grant, D. John Mangan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of the research described in this paper is to disentangle the rhetoric from the reality in relation to supply chain management (SCM) adoption in practice. There is significant evidence of a divergence between theory and practice in the field of SCM.

Design/methodology/approach: Based on a review of extant theory, the authors posit a new definitional construct for SCM – the Four Fundamentals – and investigated four research questions (RQs) that emerged from the theoretical review. The empirical work comprised three main phases: focussed interviews, focus groups and a questionnaire survey. Each phase used the authors’ definitional construct as its basis. While the context of the paper’s empirical work is Ireland, the insights and results are generalisable to other geographical contexts.

Findings: The data collected during the various stages of the empirical research supported the essence of the definitional construct and allowed it to be further developed and refined. In addition, the findings suggest that, while levels of SCM understanding are generally quite high, there is room for improvement in relation to how this understanding is translated into practice.

Research limitations/implications: Expansion of the research design to incorporate case studies, grounded theory and action research has the potential to generate new SCM theory that builds on the Four Fundamentals construct, thus facilitating a deeper and richer understanding of SCM phenomena. The use of longitudinal studies would enable a barometer of progress to be developed over time.

Practical implications: The authors’ definitional construct supports improvement in the cohesion of SCM practices, thereby promoting the effective implementation of supply chain strategies. A number of critical success factors and/or barriers to implementation of SCM theory in practice are identified, as are a number of practical measures that could be implemented at policy/supply chain/firm level to improve the level of effective SCM adoption.

Originality/value: The authors’ robust definitional construct supports a more cohesive approach to the development of a unified theory of SCM. In addition to a profile of SCM understanding and adoption by firms in Ireland, the related critical success factors and/or inhibitors to success, as well as possible interventions, are identified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-70
Number of pages15
JournalSupply Chain Management
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

This article is © Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/SCM-07-2014-0249. Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Keywords

  • implementation
  • practice
  • supply chain management
  • theory

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