Flexibility from a supply chain perspective: definition and review

Stevenson, M and Spring, M (2007) Flexibility from a supply chain perspective: definition and review. International Journal of Operations and Production Management, 27 (7). pp. 685-713. ISSN 0144-3577

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Purpose – A growing body of literature has begun to recognise that in the era of supply chain management it is important to look beyond the flexible factory to the flexible supply chain. This paper seeks to further our understanding of supply chain flexibility and provide a comprehensive review of the available literature. Design/methodology/approach – Published literature on supply chain flexibility has been considered. Where appropriate, additional insights have been obtained from related streams such as manufacturing flexibility, agility and supply chain responsiveness. Findings – Much of the existing research has a limited definition of supply chain flexibility and describes flexibility simply as a reactive means to cope with uncertainty. Supply chain flexibility has emerged from the manufacturing flexibility literature and hence to date is largely confined to a manufacturing context (neglecting the role of services). Empirical research often takes the form of a cross-sectional postal questionnaire conducted at the firm-level that fails to explore the inter-organisational components of supply chain flexibility. Originality/value – The paper presents a timely review of the available literature and provides a more complete definition of flexibility in the context of supply chains. It is argued that future empirical research should approach research design from a network perspective, treating the supply chain as the unit of analysis, in order to develop a more complete understanding of the effects of flexibility across the whole supply chain. The paper also explores combining a flexible supply chain strategy with proactive means of reducing unwanted supply chain uncertainty, focusing on the roles of supply chain design, supply chain collaboration and inter-organisational information systems.

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Journal Article
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International Journal of Operations and Production Management
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11 Jul 2011 18:22
Last Modified:
21 Nov 2022 21:16