The barriers to customer-responsive supply chain management

Storey, John; Emberson, Caroline and Reade, David (2005). The barriers to customer-responsive supply chain management. International Journal of Operations and Production Management, 25(3) pp. 242–260.



Purpose – It has been suggested that “customer responsive supply-chain management” and “agile supply-chain management” are necessary for the new competitive conditions. However, there is an enormous gap between the idealised prescription and actual practice. The aim of this paper is to examine, in some detail, the factors that can help to explain this mismatch between rhetoric and reality.
Design/methodology/approach – To do so, it focuses on a “best-case” situation – the retailer Marks and Spencer and its relations with its clothing suppliers. This company has traditionally been renowned, among other things, for the sophistication of its supply-chain activities. The research reported here is based on detailed interviews with suppliers and buyers.
Findings – The research reveals that the tenets of the customer responsive supply-chain management model are technically feasible. But, the study also finds that even under circumstances where there is evidence that it works well, and produces valued outcomes, it remains vulnerable to erosion because of a number of institutional factors.
Research limitations/implications – The research presents a number of challenges to conventional thinking about collaborative relationships. The paper suggests the need for further work on the competing priorities between collaborative inter-organisational working on the one hand, and competing corporate strategies and ingrained routines on the other.
Practical implications – Practitioners can derive many lessons from this research – most notably it identifies the nature of the barriers and forearms supply-chain innovators with details of the dynamics that can so easily thwart their best efforts.
Originality/value – The paper explains the mismatch between rhetonic and reality in buyer-seller relationships.

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