Rethinking supply chains - a special issue

By Dr Gary Graham

About the author

Dr Gary Graham is a member of the Technology and Innovation Group (TIGr) and the Centre for Operations and Supply Chain Research (COSCR). His research focuses on the impact of the internet and digital technologies on supply chains, logistics and distribution operations. The below article was written for, and first appeared, on Taylor & Francis Online. The original article was written by the guest editors: Dr Gary Graham (Leeds University Business School), Dr Jagjit Singh Srai (University of Cambridge), Professor Samuel Fosso Wamba (Toulouse Business School), Patrick Hennelly (University of Cambridge) and editor Dr Stephen Childe (Plymouth University).

Production Planning & Control: The Management of Operations

Contribute to the special issue on rethinking supply chains in the age of digitalisation

The combination of new technologies, IT infrastructures and data analytics holds out an alluring possibility of a world in which the end-to-end supply chain is transformed – highly connected, flexible, efficient, resilient and truly responsive to customer needs

Spotlight on Dr Gary Graham, guest editor of the special issue

Why did you want to get involved as a guest editor of this special issue?

It’s a research topic which is now - it’s current and happening and it will be research that will have an impact on the future of manufacturing and industrial policy in the UK. The last 40 years of manufacturing has been based on global production chains or multi-domestic industrial activity, focused on "time-cost" compression. With the emergence of new technologies such as 3D printing-enabled (3DP), re-distributed manufacturing (RDM), smart cities, the internet of things (IOT), the cloud, and robotics, we are at the beginning of the emergence of the "time-value" era. The making and execution of production in this era will be done within the city and urban boundary. For instance, in Detroit, car companies are freelancing production capacity to local, independent maker spaces. Additionally, in the car industry the big automobile manufacturers are evolving from being primarily designers and producers of motor vehicles, to a new era of electric mobility service providers, with a core capability being that of service innovation.

Who should submit their research to this special issue?

We are looking for cutting edge, experimental and speculative research that will influence industry as well as academic circles. The journal is ranked by the Association of Business Schools’ (ABS) as 3* with a strong editorial team. We intend to work with authors to help develop and improve their papers. The authors we are after should demonstrate fresh thinking that advances previous knowledge. Their style of communication should be clear and jargon-free.

Who makes their work compelling? Who can answer the “so what” and can show that their ideas benefit actual production managers in practice? 

What do you hope to achieve from this special issue?

This special issue aims to establish a new research agenda on rethinking supply chains in the age of digitalisation. For me, it could play a critical role in the debate of how we can achieve the economic regeneration of former industrial cities in the North.

Special issue summary

Using digital technologies and data-rich systems to make the supply chain much more efficient is one thing, but a more radical proposition is one in which such technologies lead to entirely new production, business and operating models. Downstream in the supply chain; in a world of increasing mass customisation, will the traditional models of made-to-stock be replaced by more responsive, late personalisation models? Whilst, upstream, we envisage new e-procurement sourcing models where suppliers respond to real-time demand signals from the market and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Therefore, e-commerce developments will present many challenges for manufacturers in developing systems that can support product delivery to multiple points of sale and ultimately direct to the end customer.

There is a wider question of a lack of digital skills and attitudes across the board – at senior and middle management levels as well as within day-to-day factory operations. Companies may be able to see the opportunity, acquire the technology and capture the data but a shortage of both skills and mindset presents a significant barrier to maximising the opportunities of operations and supply chain digitalisation. Are firms adequately equipped to implement digitalisation throughout their operations and supply chain?

It is clear that the effects of the digitalisation of production, operations and supply chains go well beyond the application of IT. New production technologies, together with the digitalisation of operations and supply chains suggest radically different manufacturing operations, for example, in pharmaceuticals, and provide opportunities for new business models. These digitalised operations will require new infrastructure (Internet of Things, the Cloud), big data analytics, new standards to support communication across multiple organisations in the supply network, and the development of new routes to market.

This special issue is focused on understanding the conditions facilitating supply chain and production digitalisation and its role in performance improvement. The goal of this Production Planning & Control special issue therefore is to stimulate research in operations and supply chain innovations that on the one hand help to advance our understanding of digitalisation and its capacity for providing both environmental and societal benefits, whilst on the other hand explore the risks, challenges and threats for the firm posed by digitalisation. 

What can I contribute?

The special issue is motivated by the need to engage with practice and build a greater body of empirical evidence on developing methods to integrate digitalisation into operations and supply chain management. This special PPC issue calls for contributions to:

  • New theory development to explain the adoption and use of digital technologies in operations at the organisational and inter-organisational levels
  • Technology disrupted supply chains - what new capabilities are required in terms of equipment, technology, systems, skills and attitudes?
  • Digital supply network design, reconfiguration, optimisation and visualisation
  • Challenges related to digitalisation of supply chain and production processes
  • Collaborative supply chain models, crowdsourcing, sharing economy and redistributed manufacturing

Papers concerning these and other related critical issues in operations and supply chain management challenges are encouraged. The special issue aims to sharpen the focus on, and raise the awareness of, these critical issues, especially those facing developing economies like China and India, as well as advanced industrial economies, and to promote research, both theoretical and empirical, on specific digitalisation related problems and innovative practices to address these problems.

Instructions for authors

Please prepare your papers to Production Planning & Control publication standards. Deadline: 1 June 2018.

All submissions should be made online at the Production Planning & Control Scholar One Manuscripts website. New users should first create an account. Once logged on to the site, submissions should be made via the Author Centre. Online user guides and access to a helpdesk are available on this website.

The original article was co-written by all the guest editors and editor-in-chief of the special issue. For more information, a list of indicative references and editorial information, see the original article.

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