Supply Chain

Topics: Supply chain management, Supply chain, Management Pages: 35 (9440 words) Published: April 16, 2013


STRATEGIC SUPPLY CHAIN MAPPING APPROACHES by John T. Gardner SUNY Brockport and Martha C. Cooper The Ohio State University Visualizing, tracking, and managing supply chains all become more complicated as firms pursue outsourcing strategies and as firms’ supply and delivery systems become increasingly global. The authors suggest that not only is there a need to visualize the supply chain, there needs to be a well-established process for building the map so that knowledge is easily transferable and exchangeable among managers and organizations as appropriate. Further, the map should link to the strategic planning process of the firm to facilitate evaluation of supply chain membership and structure. Before an effective supply chain mapping process can be developed, it is important to understand the nature of maps, the importance of supply chain mapping, the role of supply chain mapping in strategy, and characteristics of supply chain maps. The latter will be the focus of this paper. In a more general vein, physical mapping conventions have achieved broad agreement, although changes are incorporated from time to time. The meaning of narrow black lines, wider black lines, red lines, and double red lines are generally recognized as ways of representing different kinds of roads, regardless of continent. The railroad symbol is similarly universally recognizable. In another context, the red circle with a line through it for signage was adopted a few decades ago as the international symbol for prohibited actions. These conventions make it possible for foreign visitors to read maps and know basic traffic requirements. Universal symbols for restrooms provide an additional example of conventions. Most are easily recognizable even to those who do not read the local language. A major purpose of this article is to call attention to the fact that there is not yet a universal set of mapping conventions to represent a supply chain and to launch a discussion of the alternative approaches possible. Progress on depicting supply chains may hasten a convergence in definition of what a supply chain is. There have been prior conventions proposed for various related purposes, as will be described later but not for the strategic supply chain mapping purposes envisioned here. Additionally, a framework of map attributes will help in understanding the profusion of map styles and offer a jumping-off point for the conventions debate.



Cisco, currently the world’s largest supplier of routers for the Internet, grew rapidly during the 1990s. To be able to supply the demand, Cisco’s supply chain strategy focused on outsourcing and leveraging assets (Anonymous – Purchasing 1999). The firm owns few of the manufacturing facilities. Instead, it relies heavily on contract manufacturers for assembly and sometimes testing of products prior to shipment to customers. Distributors of electronic components are responsible for maintaining component inventories at the assembly locations. The Cisco and Dell practices of minimizing asset ownership have rightly or wrongly become models for other firms in the computer industry that have traditionally owned larger fractions of their manufacturing infrastructure. Managing a virtual supply chain is critical for these models to succeed and these efforts would be assisted by visualization approaches such as mapping. A map from the consumer back through suppliers could encourage forecasting based on consumer behavior rather than network manager behavior. What is a supply chain? The current definitions cover multiple functions or processes across multiple firms and call for an integrated approach that adds value for stakeholders (Lambert, Cooper, and Pagh 1998; Mentzer et al. 2001). But how can a firm know who is or should be part of its supply chain or of whose supply chain it is a part? How many tiers out should the firm manage and for what...
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