Supply Chain Management Literature Review

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It’s not that there are no articles on supply chain risk management anymore. But after writing on current research in the last weeks (like the one on system failure here) I have been wondering more about the foundations of supply chain management in general. So I decided to review an article today on general supply chain management research, in this case a literature review by Sachan and Datta (2005).
The complete article can be found here.


The analysis is pretty straight forward, Sachan and Datta start with showing the different research designs used: empirical/descriptive and quantitative/qualitative. In supply chain management the research methods range from surveys, interviews and case studies, to more quantitative approaches like mathematical modeling or simulation. Using these categories the authors reviewed 440 supply chain management articles from 1999 to 2003.

Authors’ Conclusions

The authors themselves draw the following conclusions from the data at hand:
Conclusion 1:

If academicians today do not expand the approaches to research, managers will continue to perceive them as irrelevant academicians, which address fictitious problems and are not interested in the real world.

Conclusion 2:

Simulation is often performed to check for validity of the models developed in an paper, or to examine the efficiency of heuristics, or to assess model solution times.

Conclusion 3:

It is remarkable that not more papers have an inter-organizational level (dyad, chain and network) of analysis despite the increasing attention toward these level had started at the beginning of the 1980s.

Furthermore they identify the following gaps in the research:

  • Theories of other discipline are applied in very few papers
  • Secondary data sources are used in many papers, but not in an innovative way
  • The research at inter-organizational level is very less.


There are two major conclusions drawn in the article: Academicians make themselves irrelevant, because they only use a specific set of methods, to solve problems which are not rooted within business problems.
Secondly, only few papers focus on a supply chain network, most of them only view single relationships between one or two elements of the chain, ignoring most network effects.

The conclusions drawn are both very intriguing, but they are really missing some more explanations. So, for example, why are they sure that the choice of methods is the reason for the great gap between research and business?
Anyone reading papers on supply chain management realized the gap between the title of the field and much of the research done there. Still, it would be more interesting to know why most research is only done on sub systems.


Sachan, A., & Datta, S. (2005). Review of supply chain management and logistics research International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, 35 (9), 664-705 DOI: 10.1108/09600030510632032

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