Reverse resource exchanges in service supply chains: the case of returnable transport packaging

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to understand how reverse resource exchanges and resource dependencies are managed in the service supply chain (SSC) of returnable transport packaging (RTP). Design/methodology/approach: A single case study was conducted in the context of automotive logistics focusing on the RTP SSC. Data were collected through 16 interviews, primarily with managers of a logistics service provider (LSP) and document analysis of contractual agreements with key customers of the packaging service. Findings: Resource dependencies among actors in the SSC result from the importance of the RTP for the customer’s production processes, the competition among users for RTP and the negative implications of the temporary unavailability of RTP for customers and the LSP (in terms of service performance). Amongst other things, the LSP is dependent on its customers and third-party users (e.g. the customer’s suppliers) for the timely return of package resources. The role of inter-firm integration and collaboration, formal contracts as well as customers’ power and influence over third-party RTP users are stressed as key mechanisms for managing LSP’s resource dependencies. Research limitations/implications: A resource dependence theory (RDT) lens is used to analyse how reverse resource exchanges and associated resource dependencies in SSCs are managed, thus complementing the existing SSC literature emphasising the bi-directionality of resource flows. The study also extends the recent SSC literature stressing the role of contracting by empirically demonstrating how formal contracts can be mobilised to explicate resource dependencies and to specify, and regulate, reverse exchanges in the SSC. Practical implications: The research suggests that logistics providers can effectively manage their resource dependencies and regulate reverse exchanges in the SSC by deploying contractual governance mechanisms and leveraging their customers’ influence over third-party RTP users. Originality/value: The study is novel in its application of RDT, which enhances our understanding of the management of reverse exchanges and resource dependencies in SSCs.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-397
Number of pages17
JournalSupply Chain Management
Volume21
Issue number3
Early online dateMar 2016
DOIs
StatePublished - 9 May 2016

    Keywords

  • case studies, logistic service providers, packaging, service supply chain

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