Supply chain resilience : a case study analysis of a supply network in a developing country context

Tukamuhabwa Rwakira, Benjamin and Busby, Jerry and Stevenson, Mark (2015) Supply chain resilience : a case study analysis of a supply network in a developing country context. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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In recent years, building Supply Chain Resilience (SCRES) has gained considerable interest as the best way firms can face up to disruptions and gain a competitive advantage. The need for more empirical work on SCRES is well expressed in the literature, but there are few prior empirical studies on SCRES to date; and their focus has been on the developed world, especially Western Europe and North America. Yet, developing countries constitute a significant part of the world population and global supply chains; and there is evidence to believe that developing countries have also faced disastrous effects of supply chain failures. And the current global interconnectedness suggests that such effects can propagate into the developed world. Further, while several potential strategies for improving SCRES have been proposed in the literature, the relationships between them remain ambiguous, with some researchers arguing they are independent and others considering them to be interrelated – meaning they could contradict or reinforce each other, potentially affecting SCRES. This thesis presents findings from the case study of a supply network of 20 manufacturing firms in the developing country of Uganda, to answer the following related questions: what do manufacturing firms in Uganda perceive to be the threats to their supply chains? What strategies do they adopt to build resilience? What are the outcomes of implementing these strategies? The thesis also investigates how the threats and strategies are interrelated, and what it means for SCRES. The findings reveal that the context of a developing country characterised, for example, by weak legal controls and social acceptance of certain customs and practices can produce threats to SCRES like corruption and dishonest employees that are less pronounced in the developed world. It is also found that the threats to SCRES are mainly chronic and endogenous events rather than the exogenous discrete, large-scale catastrophic events typically emphasised in the literature. This study initially applies Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) theory to interpret the data, which shows how environmental conditions, supply chain threats, and resilience strategies are inherently inter-related. This proves to be a useful theory frame – it emerges that the systemic nature of the threats to SCRES and of the strategies for dealing with these threats clearly produces non-linear and non-stationary outcomes. But it was also found that these systemic relationships among threats, strategies and their outcomes are explained by the context in which the supply chain is situated. Hence an embeddedness perspective was adopted to show that the political, cultural and territorial embeddedness of supply networks in a developing country can produce threats or render resilience strategies either ineffective or even counterproductive. This study therefore finds that both CAS and embeddedness perspectives are needed jointly to explain SCRES – it is embeddedness in a developing country that contributes to the phenomenon of “supply chain risk migration”, whereby an attempt to mitigate one threat produces another threat and/or shifts the threat to another point in the supply network. This portrays resilience as a continual process of supply network members responding to chronic and catastrophic events that may be endogenous and/or exogenous, and to the outcomes of their own previous responses – not to a specific set of structures or practices. These findings have implications for managers wishing to build SCRES. For example, managers are informed that supply chain events of continuous possibilities deserve attention. Managers are also reminded of the potential migration of threats – they should thus understand how threats, strategies and potential outcomes are interconnected. Further, managers should understand the contexts in which their supply chains are embedded.

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Thesis (PhD)
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12 Feb 2016 14:34
Last Modified:
01 May 2024 00:38