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Service supply chains: introducing the special topic forum.


We are excited to present this Special Topic Forum (STF) on Service Supply Chains (SSCs). The field of supply chain management and the field of services management have each experienced notable progress over the past few decades. Services represent the vast majority of economic activity in developed economies, yet the study of SSCs has rarely been addressed in an academic and rigorous way (Seng-upta, Heiser and Cook 2006; Niranjan and Weaver 2011). Ellram, Tate and Billington (2004, p. 29) observe that "services have been largely ignored in supply chain research." This STF is intended to help fill that gap.

A fundamental research question asks what, if anything, is distinctive about SSCs. In the words of Ellram et al. (2004, p. 21), we have been looking for research that "examines the fundamental similarities and difference in the services versus manufacturing supply chain and what that means in terms of managing these [service] supply chains." In achieving this, we required all submissions to have a solid conceptual foundation, as described by this excerpt from our call for papers:

"We are not interested in studies centered on the provision of goods in service sectors, e.g. the supply of pharmaceuticals in the healthcare sector, but in settings focused on the provision of services between organizations--which might, indeed, be in what would routinely be classified as manufacturing sectors. Submissions must set out their theoretical assumptions, particularly regarding the definition of services. Contributions may draw on theory from outside of operations and supply, but must make a clear contribution to supply chain management theory development."

The fundamental purpose of this STF is to provide some solid basis for conceptualizing SSCs and explore corresponding managerial issues. We were delighted to receive some insightful submissions in support of this purpose. As one might imagine, perspectives on SSCs vary. In particular, we observed three general SSC perspectives: (1) services sourcing, (2) making services and (3) employing services to facilitate the delivery of products to customers. Note that these three SSC perspectives correspond to primary management processes depicted in the supply chain opera-dons reference (SCOR) model: source, make and deliver (Huan, Sheoran and Wang 2004).

The idea is that SSCs are not wholly separate from traditional supply chains, but rather are seen as supply chains that contain important service elements. The use of the phrase "service supply chain" may imply a false dichotomy with traditional supply chains. It might be more appropriate to refer to service elements of supply chains."

This STF happens to contain articles for each of the three perspectives, plus one taking a fourth perspective that we believe breaks new ground in the SSC literature. The following describes these SSC perspectives and cites examples of each, including articles in this STF.


This first perspective on SSCs considers firms of any type that purchase something identified as "services." For example, an auto manufacturer may purchase tires (or other "goods") through a traditional purchasing process that is not considered an SSC process. However, if that auto manufacturer retains a law firm for legal work, it would be purchasing a service, as depicted in Figure 1. This distinction is a product-level distinction, namely, identifying if the "thing" being purchased is a good or a service. It assumes a B2B relationship, where the firm doing the sourcing is not an end consumer.


The Eltram et al. (2004) article cited previously took this service-sourcing perspective. In a subsequent article, the same authors reviewed empirical data showing that "purchasing services is viewed as more difficult than purchasing goods," and enumerate ways purchasing services is perceived as being more difficult (Ellram, Tate and Billington 2007, p. 44).

Our literature search revealed four other major studies taking this service-sourcing perspective. Baltacioglu, Ada, Kaplan, Yurt and Kaplan (2007) developed a model in which a "service provider" firm sources services from service suppliers on behalf of customers. Vandaele and Gemmel (2007) studied the impact of services sourcing on downstream customers by surveying those downstream customers. Van Der Valk and Rozemeijer (2009) recounted a survey of Dutch purchasing managers involved in service sourcing, with the results emphasizing the importance of clear specification of the required service delivery.

Agndal, Axelsson, Lindberg and Nordin (2007) studied the purchasing practices of 18 large industrial and service firms located in Sweden, considering 12 major trends in services sourcing. They observed that practices for services sourcing are influenced by practices that have been used for goods sourcing, even though there is reason to believe those practices are inappropriately applied. They posit that perhaps "these sourcing practices reflect a lack of understanding of the characteristics of services," which they say is a topic for future study (2007, p. 205).

A fundamental research question coming from this perspective is:

* How does the structure of services sourcing differ from the structure that is appropriate for sourcing nonservice goods?

An article in this STF that addresses this research question is "Service Supply Management Structure in Offshore Outsourcing" by Tate and Ellram (2012). We were fortunate to have these authors continue a major stream in services sourcing. (Their study, like the other STF studies, was subjected to blind review, even blind to the STF Editors who accepted the study.) Through case studies, they demonstrate distinctive structural features of offshore service sourcing pertaining to centralization of decisions, formalization of purchasing processes and complexity.


This second perspective focuses on distinctive ways that services are produced, and how the service production involves interactions across a supply chain. One of the earliest published articles on this perspective was Sampson's (2000) "Customer-supplier duality and bidirectional supply chains in service organizations." The duality issue implies that in all services, customers provide essential inputs into the service production process, thus acting both as a supplier and a customer to the service process (Sampson and Froehle 2006). This duality is depicted in the bottom portion of Figure 2 (from Sampson and Spring 2012) (also see Fitzsimmons and Fitzsimmons 2006, p. 482).


Researchers have explored managerial implications coming from the nature of service production. Akkermans and Vos (2003) studied implications that the nature of service production has on the bullwhip effect, including a case study from the telecommunications industry. Spring and Araujo (2009) described how supply strategy and supply chain networks can be designed around customer-driven service offerings. Niranjan and Weaver (2011) reviewed distinctions of service production and discussed managerial implications pertaining to forecasting, lead-time management, capacity management, the bullwhip effect, risk pooling, order batching and postponement. They proposed that SSC management faces similar issues as traditional SCM, but with very different management approaches.

A fundamental research question assuming this perspective is:

* How do supply chains with bidirectional product flows differ in configuration and performance from supply chains with unidirectional product flows?

An article in this STF that addresses this research question is the invited article, "Customer Roles in SSCs and Opportunities for Innovation" by Sampson and Spring (2012) (as would be expected, they did not participate in the double-blind review of their article or the acceptance decision). They contrast roles involved in making physical goods with customer roles manifested in making services and show how a primarily distinguishing characteristic of SSCs is enhanced customer involvement in supply chain processes. They conduct an empirical survey to validate the salience of eight customer roles. They then demonstrate how the customer roles can be used as means for identifying innovations in an SSC design.


This third perspective on SSCs recognizes that the delivery of products in any supply chain usually involves essential services (Sampson 2001, P. 332). For example, manufacturing firms often employ logistics services to deliver parts to customers, as depicted in Figure 3.


Roth and Menor (2003) identified the study of services within manufacturing supply chains as important research topics. Published examples often pertain to product availability and delivery concepts, such as customer service (Ellram, La Londe and Weber 1999; Tan, Lyman and Wisner 2002), service levels (Sabri and Beamon 2000; Chopra and Meindl 2001, p. 222) and logistics service (Bienstock 2002; Fawcett and Magnan 2002). Youngdahl and Loomba (2000) discussed other service roles that can occur within traditional supply chains, including product development, consultant, customer guide and information dispatcher.

A fundamental research question assuming this perspective is:

* What roles do services play in the delivery of products and how can those roles be managed and improved?

An article in this STF that addresses this research question is "An Attribution Approach to Consumer Evaluations in Logistics Customer Service Failure Situations" by Sullivan and Oflac (2012). They consider a context where a manufacturer utilizes a logistics service provider to deliver products to customers and consider customer responses when the delivery fails. They use a scenario method to identify how customers attribute the delivery failure across the supply chain either to the logistics service provider, the manufacturer, or both.


The SCOR model places the focal firm at the center of analysis; this firm is considered to be a producer of some sort and not an end consumer. Supply chain management traditionally takes this producer perspective, and the customer perspective is often relegated to the marketing function. The SSC customer perspective places the end consumer, that is, the ultimate beneficiary, at the center of analysis, as depicted in Figure 4. The idea is that the customer is at the hub of a network of service providers that are jointly able to respond to and fill the customer's needs.


This is similar to what Normann and Ramirez (1993) called a "value constellation," which is a network of providers that "work together to co-produce value." The goal is for customers to interact with a coordinated network of providers, not just a set of individually operating providers. In a related area, the service management literature has recently included a stream of research on customer experience design and customer journey mapping (Zomerdijk and Voss 2010). What has been missing is using this as the basis of a perspective for an SSC management.

That alternate perspective is articulated in the final study of our STF, "Service Supply Chains: A Customer Perspective," by Maull, Geraldi and Johnston (2012). They contrast the typical producer perspectives of SSC with a customer perspective and show new and interesting insights. They take a systems theory approach and identify six distinctive features of the customer perspective and four related research questions. This is a unique and valuable contribution that we hope will lead to further exploration.


We are delighted to have tremendous studies included in this STF. We received other studies that have great publication potential but were not included because of our strict requirement for being precise in conceptualizing SSCs. We hope that this STF will be a springboard for future research in SSCs and appeal to future authors to be similarly precise in conceptualizing SSCs.


Agndal, FL, B. Axelsson, N. Lindberg and F. Nordin. "Trends in Service Sourcing Practices," Journal. of Business Market Management, (1:3), 2007, pp. 187208.

Aldcermans, H., and B. Vos. "Amplification in Service Supply Chains: An Exploratory Case Study from the Telecom Industry," Production .and Operations Management, (12:2), Summer 2003, pp. 204-223.

Baltacioglu, T., E. Ada, M.D. Kaplan, 0. Yurt and Y.C. Kaplan. "A New Framework for Service Supply Chains," The Service Industries Journal, (27:2), 2007, pp. 105-124.

Bienstock, C.C. "Understanding Buyer Information Acquisition for the Purchase of Logistics Services," International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, (32:8), 2002, p. 636.

Chopra, S. and P. Meindl. Supply Chain Management: Strategy, Planning and Operations, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2001.

Ellram, L.M., B.J. La Londe and M.M. Weber. "Retail Logistics," International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, (29:7/8), 1999, p. 477.

Ellram, .L.M., W.L. Tate, and C. Billington. "Understanding and Managing the Services Supply Chain," Journal of Supply Chain Management (40:4), Fall 2004, pp. 17-32.

Ellram, LM., W.L. Tate, and C. Billington. "Services Supply Management: The Next Frontier for Improved Organizational Performance," Sloan Management Review (49:4), Summer 2007, pp. 4466.

Fawcett, S.E. and G.M. Magnan. "The Rhetoric and Reality of Supply Chain Integration," International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, (32:5), 2002, pp. 339-361.

Fitzsimmons, J.A. and M.J. Fitzsimmons. Service Management: Operations, Strategy, and Information Technology, 5th ed., Irwin/McGraw-Hill, New York, 2006.

Huan, S.H., S.K. Sheoran and G. Wang. "A Review and Analysis of Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR) Model," Supply Chain Management: An International Journal, (9:1), 2004, pp. 23-29.

Maull, R.S., J. Geraldi and R. Johnston. "Service Supply Chains: A Customer Perspective," journal of Supply Chain Management, (48:4), 2012, pp. 72-86.

Niranjan, T.T., and M. Weaver. "A Unifying View of Goods and Services Supply Chain Management," The Service Industries Journal, (31:14), November 2011, pp. 2391-2410.

Normann, R., and R. Ramirez. "From Value Chain to Value Constellation: Designing Interactive Strategy," Harvard Business Review, (71:4), July/August 1993, pp. 65-77.

Oflac, B.S., Sullivan, U.Y. and T. Baltacioglu. "An Attribution Approach to Consumer Evaluations in Logistics Customer Service Failure Situations," Journal of Supply Chain Management, (48:4), 2012, pp. 51-71.

Roth, A.V., and L.J. Menor. "Insights into Service Operations Management: A Research Agenda," Production and Operations Management, (12:2), Summer 2003, p. 145.

Sabri, E.H., and B.M. Beamon. "A Multi-objective Approach to Simultaneous Strategic and Operational Planning in Supply Chain Design," Omega, (28:5), October 2000, pp. 581-598.

Sampson, S.E. "Customer-supplier Duality and Bidirectional Supply Chains in Service Organizations," International Journal of Service Industry Management, (11:4), 2000, pp. 348-364.

Sampson, S.E. Understanding Service Businesses: Applying Principles of the Unified Services Theory, 2nd ed., John Wiley & Sons, New York, 2001.

Sampson, S.E., and C.M. Froehle. "Foundations and Implications of a Proposed Unified Services Theory," Production and Operations Management, (15:2), Summer 2006, pp. 329-343.

Sampson, S.E. and M. Spring. "Customer Roles in Service Supply Chains and Opportunities for Innovation," Journal of Supply Chain Management, (48:4), 2012, p. 30-50.

Sengupta, K., D.R. Heiser and L.S. Cook. "Manufacturing and Service Supply Chain Performance: A Comparative Analysis," Journal of Supply Chain Management, (42:4), 2006, pp. 4-15.

Spring, M. and L. Araujo. "Service, Services and Products: Rethinking Operations Strategy," International Journal of Operations & Production Management, (29:5), 2009, pp. 444-467.

Tan, K.C., S.B. Lyman and J.D. Wisner. "Supply Chain Management: A Strategic Perspective," International Journal of Operations & Production Management, (22:5/6), 2002, p. 614.

Tate, W.L. and L.M. Ellram. "Service Supply Management Structure in Offshore Outsourcing," Journal of Supply Chain Management, (48:4), 2012, pp. 829.

Van Der Valk, W. and F. Rozemeijer. "Buying Business Services: Towards a Structured Service Purchasing Process," Journal of Services Marketing, (23:1), 2009, pp. 3-10.

Vandaele, D. and P. Gemmel. "Purchased Business Services Influence Downstream Supply Chain Members," International Journal of Service Industry Management, (18:3), 2007, pp. 307-321.

Youngdahl, W.E. and A.P.S. Loomba. "Service-driven Global Supply Chains," International Journal of Service Industry Management, (11:4), 2000, pp. 329-347.

Zomerdijk, L.G., and C.A. Voss. "Service Design for Experience-Centric Services," Journal of Service Research, (13:1), February 2010, pp. 67-82.


Brigham Young University


Lancaster University

Scott E. Sampson (Ph.D., University of Virginia) is the James M. Passey Professor in the Department of Business Management at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. His research focuses on system design, optimization and innovation in service businesses. Dr. Sampson's current projects include developing a methodology for studying service supply chains known as PCN Analysis. He has published the results of his work in a variety of prestigious academic journals including the Journal of Operations Management, Management Science, and Operations Research. Dr. Sampson has published books on the Unified Service Theory (Understanding Service Business) and PCN Analysis (Essentials of Service Design), both of which draw on his pioneering research in service supply chains.

Martin Spring (Ph.D., University of Stirling) is a senior lecturer in the Department of Management Science at the Lancaster University Management School at Lancaster University in Lancaster, England (UK). His research interests include the operational and supply aspects of business-to-business services, modularity in manufacturing and services, business models and operations strategy, power in supply networks, and research methods in operations and supply management. Currently, Dr. Spring holds an AIM Fellowship in Business Models for Business-to-Business Services, and this has led him to focus on business model innovation, service definition in third-party logistics, service supply chains, and modularity in business-to-business services. His work has been published in many academic journals that include the Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management, the International Journal of Operations and Production Management, and the Journal of Knowledge and Process Management.
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Author:Sampson, Scott E.; Spring, Martin
Publication:Journal of Supply Chain Management
Article Type:Report
Date:Oct 1, 2012
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