Purpose: The thesis focus is to generate a theory on supply chain integration (SCI) within the Maltese manufacturing SMEs. Due to the current literature gaps there is lack of scholarly work associated with the theory of how to achieve SCI across the supply chain (SC) (Zhao et al., 2008; Flynn et al., 2010) and on holistic SCI frameworks (Holmberg, 2000; Mentzer et al., 2001; Flynn et al., 2010; Garetti & Taisch, 2012). The thesis seeks to address these gaps by trying to establish two main objectives: the SCI substantive theory; and the SCI holistic conceptual framework, needed to be adopted both within focal firm and beyond the dyad relationships across the SC.
Method: The Straussian Grounded Theory methodology (GTM) was used to inductively derive the SCI theory. The research data collection and analysis was performed on 22 in-depth interviews from 17 firms within various manufacturing sector, using both primary and secondary data. The grounded theory data analysis was based on both Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS) and storyline narrative approaches to serve as data analytic triangulation tools so as to validate the emerged theory. Analytic intricacies and iterative sense-making was pivotal in all theorising stages to arrive at the final substantive theory with its conceptual framework.
Findings: The research findings inductively established that the substantive theory is based on a cross-disciplinary approach mainly consisting of the following disciplines: management, leadership, business, manufacturing and SC strategies respectively and technology, both within information systems and manufacturing automated processes. The research established a substantive theory for SMEs to achieve SCI, which revolves around the integrative management and leadership approach (IMLA). The IMLA is considered to be an original conceptual term within the SCI theory, and it is defined to be both a driver and a binding force of all SC actors, based on the integration of a dual concept of management and leadership. The management approach maintains all the necessary quality standards and sustainable measures in place and at the same time streamline and optimise all activities to meet competitively all operational and business targets. The leadership approach focuses ideally on a shared leadership style, to promote a decentralised management approach based on teamwork initiatives, but it is not excluded that firms may adopt an individual leadership style, based on a centralised management approach. The research also established a set of propositions to contribute to the discipline scholarly work, which may also be tested by quantitative future research to increase the research robustness.
Limitations: The findings are based on a relatively small sample of 17 firms involved in various positions within the SC.
Practical & Methodological implications: The conceptual model with its underpinning theory and the recommended road map are to serve as a guide for all managers across the command chain in various SC positions to deploy the right IMLA, as the core theme within the conceptual model, to achieve outstanding competitive performance. This research also extends the applicability of GTM within the management discipline.
Originality: This research outlines an original concept within SCI literature, which is a core driver, represented by the term IMLA. Such an IMLA is able to achieve a holistic SCI management approach beyond the SC dyadic relationship by adopting four leadership traits, situated within the strategic perspective of the firm based on the business, manufacturing and SC strategies with the role of technology as an enabler and even a driver to achieve competitive capabilities.
- Supply chain management
- management and grounded theory