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International Business Research

Vol. 4, No. 1; January 2011

A Theory of the Competing Supply Chain: Alternatives for Development Imoh Antai Department of Supply Chain Management & Corporate Geography Hanken School of Economics Arkadiankatu 22, 00101, Helsinki, Finland Tel: 358-(0)40-352-1283 Abstract

E-mail: antai@hanken.fi

Development of a coherent methodology for supply chain vs. supply chain competition remains elusive in literature in terms of purpose, approaches and theoretical foundations. The purpose of this paper is to identify suitable theories of competition from which supply chain vs. supply chain competition may be further developed. Paper explores literature on competition theories, competition and its correlates and also considers the dichotomy between competitiveness and competition in relation to achievement of a competitive advantage in supply chains. An argument is made for the identification and development of theory that reflects the multidimensional, process-based and emergent properties of supply chains. Three competition theories from which supply chain vs. supply chain competition may begin to be conceptualized and possibly operationalized are identified. A chronological conceptualization of competition, competitiveness and competitive advantage, which is intuitive to the realization of competitive advantage in inter-supply chain competition, is also proposed. Keywords: Competition, Competitiveness, Competitive advantage, Competition theory, Dimensionality, Niche theory 1. Introduction A supply chain is the network of organizations involved, through upstream and downstream linkages, in the different processes and activities that produce value in the form of goods and services for end-customers (Christopher, 1992). Most definitions of supply chain management succinctly divide the discipline into several parts. And the multi-disciplinary, multi-dimensional nature of supply chains and its management imply that there is hardly a single focus for supply chain management, which is essential for developing theory for supply chain vs. supply chain competition. That is to say, for the development of a supply chain competition theory, a clear explanatory purpose of competition between supply chains is needed. Determining an explanatory purpose for competition is complex mainly because supply chain management is seen both as a management discipline and as an operational subject. While reconciling these two views within supply chain management present significant challenges, it is the development of an (single) explanatory purpose of competition between supply chains that promises much fierce debates.

Hence, the purpose of this paper is to identify possible competition theories within which supply chain vs. supply chain competition may be properly conceptualized and perhaps subsequently operationalized. It also seeks to develop an understanding of competitive advantage in relation to competition and competitiveness given its importance to the notion of competition as a whole, and supply chain vs. supply chain competition in particular. A theory is regarded as a set of concepts used to define and/ or explain some phenomenon (Silverman, 2000). In general, it postulates structural relationships between key constructs (Trochim, 1989). Theory consists of plausible relationships produced among concepts and sets of concepts. And as Silverman (2000) puts it, without theory phenomena cannot be understood, hence without theory, there is nothing to research. If it is agreed that there is even a remote need to consider competition between supply chains, then it is also given that a purpose of such a competition is necessary. Thus, the identification of theories for possible modification and adoption in supply chain vs. supply chain competition represent first, albeit small, contribution towards this goal. In the apparent absence of a suitable theoretical basis for supply chain vs....
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