Supply Chain Configuration

Read this article, which examines the challenges western nation manufacturers currently face. Specifically, it covers firms in industrial products, toys, fast fashion, and designer furniture.


The increased scale and scope of global operations has called for a reconsideration of supply chain configuration. For instance, offshoring of operations has rendered the traditional separation of operations management and supply chain management obsolete.

As part of the configuration framework introduced, we have focused on network structures and strategic roles, the latter including interdependencies to other functions, such as product development, sales/marketing, and purchasing.

Four different industrial contextual situations were identified based on respectively low or high rates of change, and tight or loose coordination of operations. Four industrial case studies representing different situations were presented to illustrate configuration issues as they were addressed and managed over a number of years.

Combined with experience from other industrial cases and trends in the literature, the case studies gave rise to the formulation of implications for configuration of supply chains and global operations in the form of a number of propositions. They indicate that

  • Managing interdependencies between supply chains, operations, product development, sales/marketing, and purchasing will become increasingly important, all of which emphasize effective indirect strategic roles.
  • A shift of focus will take place from value chain to value web with multilayered relations and interdependencies.
  • As a consequence of these changes, configuration should be dealt with in a sequence of moves, similar to a multi-player game, as the traditional linear planning-based approach will fall short.
  • Building infrastructures in support of knowledge development and sharing will become key, and
  • Accessibility of and ability to appropriate external operations capabilities will become more important than ownership.