Demand-oriented Supply Chain Strategies – A Review of the Literature


Chuda Basnet
University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand

Stefan Seuring
University of Kassel, Kassel, Germany


This paper presents a review of the research literature on supply chain strategies linked to product demand. Fisher (1997), in his seminal article, has argued that efficient supply chain (SC) strategies are appropriate for functional products and responsive strategies are needed for innovative products. The purpose of this article is to review articles which have been published after Fisher (1997), and which relate market demand for a product to the respective supply chain design, in an effort to synthesise these articles and suggest future research directions. A literature review is carried out using content analysis, following the qualitative research paradigm. Both deductive and inductive coding has been carried out, followed by a descriptive analysis and a synthesis of the literature. The contribution of the article is a critical review, a synthesis of the literature, and directions for future research.

Keywords: Supply chain strategy, Literature review, content analysis, Efficient / responsive, Lean / agile / leagile

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Supply chain management (SCM) emphasises holistic management of the network of organisations, often labelled supply chain (SC), which is involved in producing and delivering a product to the customer. SCM applies systems thinking to the provision of products recognising that multiple organisations are involved in this provision. Performance improvements can be achieved if these organisations work together. Understandably, much SCM research is focused on supply chain integration. Another stream of research is concerned with the strategic alignment of supply chains to the contingencies of products and markets.

The central argument in this research stream is that the requirements in the provision of products change across products and markets. Accordingly supply chains need to be configured on the basis of the products they produce and the markets they serve. A significant amount of research has been carried out in this stream, but the underlying criteria have not been assessed and structured for providing a systemisation of related arguments.

Thus the aim of this paper is to provide a systematic and critical review of this research stream and to contribute some propositions and a framework that would synthesise current research. We begin with a background to the literature, which is followed by a discussion of the research methodology followed in this paper. The findings are presented in two parts: a descriptive analysis and a thematic analysis. Finally, we discuss our findings and end with some conclusive remarks.

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Literature reviews, essentially being analyses of written communication, quite often adopt the technique of content analysis (Kassarjian, 1977). Accordingly, various researchers, such as Seuring & Gold (2012) have proposed the use of content analysis as an excellent tool to conduct rigorous, systematic, and reproducible literature reviews in SCM. Content analysis, as introduced by Berelson (1952), focusses on uncovering the “objective, systematic and quantitative description of the manifest content of communication”. Krippendorff (2012) defines content analysis as being “a research technique for making replicable and valid inferences from texts (or other meaningful matter) to the contexts of their use” (p. 24).

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In conclusion, the reviewed literature generally supports Fisher’s model of classifying products into functional and innovative and matching them to efficient and responsive strategies. Even though the authors in the lean-agile school have rephrased the strategies as lean and agile, the basic argument (and the presented evidence) lends support to Fisher’s model. In many respects current research in demandoriented supply chain strategies reflects its origin in manufacturing strategy. Following Skinner (1969 and 1974), discussions are anchored on cost vs. other objectives. Authors are still emulating Hayes and Wheelwright (1979) in mapping volume and variety into agile and efficient supply chains. Our review of the literature found that supply chain strategy needs more focus on the network aspect of strategy than the current focus on manufacturing aspects, which reflect the origin of this discourse. Research has also focused on strategy goals, such as agility, flexibility, responsiveness, and cost-efficiency rather than the supply chain design configurations and the trade-offs inherent in these configurations. These aspects of supply chain strategies warrant more study. It is also timely to identify the salient dimensions of contingency of product demand / market and map out the various configurations or management initiatives in the contingency space.

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About Author

Chuda Basnet is an Associate Professor at the Waikato Management School, New Zealand. His research interests are in the areas of manufacturing modelling, supply chain management and decision support systems.

Stefan Seuring is a full professor of supply chain management at the University of Kassel, Germany. Previously, he worked at the University of Waikato, Waikato Management School, New Zealand. Stefan has published various papers on sustainable supply chain management, but also on supply chain strategy and the application of management accounting tools across supply chains.