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Supply chain management: it's all about the journey, not the destination.


At times, practice has led academic research. The term "supply chain management" (SCM) is over 30 years old, first appearing in the practitioner literature in 1982 (Oliver & Weber, 1982). The earliest articles on supply chain management (SCM) were written primarily by consultants, who viewed supply chain management as a way to better manage resources and assets. It was not until several years later that academics began to adopt the term and explore its meaning and implementation. Even as academics began to use the term supply chain management, they realized it did not fully or accurately describe the complex web or network of relationships and processes moving in many directions and connecting companies to make products and services more effectively available to customers (El!ram, 1991).

This article explores the evolution of the concept and considers the current state of supply chain management. In doing so, the literature associated with the supply chain management concept is examined. This literature is viewed according to the way that SCM has been conceptualized and applied. An initial review of the literature suggests that there are several different streams of research regarding the way that SCM is perceived. This lack of commonality has made supply chain management a very broad area. However, numerous authors have noted that the breadth of views on the notion of supply chain management and that the inconsistency in the way that SCM is viewed has also possibly hampered the progression of SCM scholarly work and practitioner application, confusing the way that supply chain management is viewed in both research and practice.

'This paper is organized as follows. First, a brief review of the literature is provided. There are a number of excellent literature review articles available (e.g., Ballou, 2007; Bechtel & Jayaram, 1997; Burgess, Singh, & Koroglu, 2006; Chicksand, Watson, Walker, Radnor, & Johnston, 2012; Croom, Romano, & Giannakis, 2000; Frankel, Bolumole, Eltantawy, Paulraj, & Gundlach, 2008; Gibson, Mentzer, & Cook, 2005; Kache & Seuring, 2013; Larson & Halldorsson, 2002; Lummus & Vokurka, 1999; Power, 2005) that provide significantly more depth in that regard than this paper does. Next, selected, highly cited articles that focus on the concept of supply chain management are classified according to whether supply chain management is viewed as a process, a discipline, a philosophy, a governance structure, or a functional area, including a discussion of the merits of each approach, bringing us to where we are today. The paper concludes with an assessment of the current state of supply chain research and practice, and some suggestions on how to proceed as researchers in designing future studies.


This section begins with a definition of a supply chain, followed by an overview of the progression of the literature.

Definition of Supply Chain

Today, most people agree on the basic definition of a supply chain:

A supply chain is defined as a set of three or more entities (organizations or individuals) directly involved in the upstream and downstream flows of products, services, finances, and/or information from a to a customer, (and return), (Mentzer et al., 2001, p. 4.)

However, as Mentzer et at. (2001) point out, and what is still true today (Chicksand et al., 2012), is that there is not an agreed-upon definition for supply chain management. There is an ongoing theme in a number of articles (e.g., Bechtel & Jayaram, 1997; Lambert & Pohlen, 2001; Mentzer et al., 2001) that, "Without the adoption of a uniform agreed upon definition of supply chain management (SCM), researchers and practitioners will not be able to 'advance the theory and practice' of the discipline," (Stock & Boyer, 2009, p. 690). When parties do not like the way that they see others using or interpreting the term supply chain management, they have created their own names to describe what they see as supply chain management. This is probably part of the reason that so many names for supply chain management are still offered today. Yet do these names really add value, or simply add to the confusion about the term supply chain management? Most of these names are meant to be more "descriptive" than supply chain, and include supply networks, to emphasize that these chains are not just chains, but made up of a number of networks (Harland et al., 2006; Lamming, Johnsen, Zheng, & Harland, 2000); demand chain management, to emphasize the importance of the customer as central to the entire supply chain (Khmer, Christopher, & Baker, 2007; Khmer, Christopher, & Godsell, 2010); and seamless demand pipelines to emphasize the criticality of end users at all points in the chain (Bechtel & Jayaram, 1997). With this in mind, a brief review of the progression of the literature is provided below.

Early Literature on SCM

The term "supply chain management" is relatively new in the literature, appearing first in 1982 (Oliver & Weber, 1982) to describe connecting logistics with other functions, and by Houlihan (1985, 1988) to describe the connections between logistics and internal functions and external organizations. It was primarily written by consultants (Houlihan 1985, 1988; Stevens, 1989), although published in academic journals such as the International Journal of Physical Distribution and Materials Management. These consultants were interested in spreading knowledge about the concept of supply chain management and sharing its potential merits. Consultants wanted people to change their thinking to that of "...the concept that the supply chain is a single entity, rather than a set of linked segments and fragmented responsibility..." (Houlihan, 1985, p. 22) and that effective SCM could be a powerful competitive weapon in the marketplace (Jones & Riley, 1985; Stevens, 1989), reducing inventory and other costs while more effectively meeting customer demand.

Around 1990, academics first described SCM from a theoretical standpoint to clarify the difference from more traditional approaches to managing the flow of materials and the associated flow of information (Ellram & Cooper, 1990; Lambert, 1992; Lee & Billington, 1992; McKinnon, 1990). SCM academics described its complexity early on: "It is precisely the broad perspective and coverage of supply chain management that makes the concept so difficult to study"(Ellram, 1991, p. 21), and noted that these "chains" were really "networks" whose best practices could be informed by industrial organization theory. As the research began to evolve, the goals of the research expanded. For example, the Global Supply Chain Forum, a partnership between researchers and executives, established a goal of building theory and, "Developing a normative model that executives can use to capture the full potential of successful SCM" (Cooper, Lambert, & Pagh, 1997, p. 1). A practitioner initiative, the Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR) model, was also developed in the late 1990s as a guideline (Supply Chain Council, 2013). Several major professional organizations changed their names to appeal more to the supply chain concept: the Council of Logistics Management changed to The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals; the National Association of Purchasing Management changed to the Institute for Supply Management; and the American Production and Inventory Control Society became APICS: The Association for Operations Management. Departments and majors, such as the Purchasing and Logistics Management Department at Arizona State University, began to rename themselves as the Department of Supply Chain Management. Michigan State University combined marketing, purchasing, logistics, and operations management faculties and named the department Supply Chain Management. These changes illustrate and reinforce the cross-functional nature of SCM.

Despite all of these exciting changes, the debate in the academic world still continued regarding answers to such questions as: What is supply chain management? What should it be? Is supply chain management a fad, or here to stay? (e.g., Bechtel & Jayaram, 1997; Chen & Paulraj, 2004; Larson & Halldorsson, 2002). Frameworks continued to be developed under the assumption that, "Without a clear understanding of SCM, we cannot expect wide application of SCM in practice or research" (Mentzer et al., 2001, p. 19). Yet companies kept implementing SCM practices as they saw fit, despite the academic conundrum surrounding SCM. Fawcett and Magnan (2002) found that there was a great difference in understanding among practitioners in terms of both how they define and implement supply chain management. A survey of CSCMP membership conducted several years later indicated that the participants were indeed implementing SCM in different ways (Gibson et al., 2005), with some consensus that SCM entails collaboration, but very little agreement about new product development being part of SCM. More recently, Chicksand et al. (2012) questioned whether SCM meets the tests of an academic discipline and conduded that it does not. The relevance of this question is explored in more detail below.


Our research method follows the structured, systematic literature review methodology (see Carter and Easton 120111 and Tate, Ellram, and Dooley 120121 for recent applications of the systematic literature review methodology in the supply chain management discipline). The specific purpose of the literature review was to gain an understanding of the various ways that supply chain management has been conceptualized to better understand the current paradigm(s) for supply chain management. To include multiple disciplines, a search using Google Scholar was conducted for the most relevant (as defined by Google Scholar) and highly cited articles using the search term "supply chain management."

The initial search yielded 1,700,000 articles and books. The focus of this review is on the top 100 cited articles published in scholarly journals, although a few others are referenced in this invited paper for historical and/or explanatory reasons. Two researchers reviewed the research abstract for each of the articles to determine whether the articles included a review of the supply chain management literature that identified themes in the research, or whether the article specifically discussed the conceptualization and meaning of supply chain management beyond simply defining the term. This initial cut yielded 43 papers. If it was unclear as to whether the article contained either of these items based on the abstract, the article was read to assess whether it should be induded in the database. The same process was followed for the term supply chain. As this yielded largely similar articles, these searches are not included separately here.

Because the use of citation counts to determine influential articles is affected by the length of time that the article has been in publication, a second Google Scholar search was conducted. Following the exact same process, and same Google Scholar search parameters, limiting the dates from 2006 to 2013 identified 567,000 articles. The rationale behind selecting 2006 as a cut-off year for performing an additional search was that the number of articles included in the top 100 article search dropped dramatically from 2005 to 2006. There are 13 of the top 100 cited articles from 2005, while there are only two from 2006. The same procedure was followed in determining which of the articles from 2006 to 2013 to include in the database. In addition, we scanned the most recent three years of articles that were included as highly relevant to reduce the probability that there were no newer articles that had been excluded simply because they had not been available long enough to receive high citation counts. While this latter method did not ensure perfect results, several articles were included based on this manual review. The two searches initially yielded 57 articles for further investigation. Upon reading the selected articles beyond the abstract, and based on a focus on the conceptualization of supply chain management, 37 articles were analyzed and are induded in the thematic analysis in this paper. Many additional articles beyond the narrowly focused selection of these 37 articles are referenced in this paper to provide greater perspective. In addition, if a set of authors produced multiple papers expressing a largely similar view on their conceptualization of SCM, we included the paper that focused most dosely on SCM conceptualization. Because we did not exhaustively review the over 1,000,000 articles identified by the Google Scholar searches, it is possible that the authors missed some important work. We apologize to any authors whose work on SCM conceptualization is not included here.

To clarify the inclusion criteria, two researchers reviewed the papers to assess whether one of the primary purposes of the paper is to describe the domain or conceptualization of supply chain management. Thus, there are some seminal articles such as Lee, Padmanabhan, & Whang, 1997; that do not appear in this table, because their focus was outside of the scope of this research.


Previous authors have categorized various perspectives that can be taken when viewing an activity or a discipline, based on the nature of their research question(s). For example, La Londe and Zinzser (1976) categorized customer service as an activity, a performance measurement, and a philosophy. Giannakis et al. (2004) classify supply chain activities according to whether they focus on synthesis, synergy, or synchronization, and explore how this classification fits with various research themes and theories. Because this research explores how supply chains are conceptualized, we categorize the following perspectives of supply chain management that were observed in the literature: SCM as a process, a discipline, a philosophy, a governance structure, and a function.

The process perspective provides both managerial and theoretical insights by asking: how can supply chain activities be linked and integrated, generally for improved performance? It looks at activities or processes versus the relationships in supply chains. Supply chain management as a discipline is primarily theoretical and explores the question, "Is supply chain management truly a separate domain or area of study in its own right?." Supply chain management as a governance structure began in industrial economics theory and considers what are the boundaries between firms, what is the best type of ownership, and type of relationships which members of the supply chain should have with each other to achieve the best results? Supply chain management as philosophy has both theoretical and managerial implications, and is related to the firm's orientation, viewing the way that the firm integrates supply chain implications throughout the decisions that the organization makes. It asks the question, whether and how does the organization consider supply chain impacts when it makes decisions? Finally, supply chain management as a function is primarily managerially oriented and considers whether SCM is a functional area in its own right.

Table 1 indicates major thrusts of articles related to each of the five perspectives, based on the authors' review of the paper. These are illustrative and not meant to be comprehensive or exhaustive across all articles cited or considered. The literature review column indicates whether providing a literature review was either the purpose of the article or the article was perceived to contain a more detailed literature review relative to one or more of the five perspectives. Most of the articles contain multiple perspectives on supply chain management.

A large number of authors have taken a process orientation. As used here, process means, "supply chain as a means for linking structured activities designed to produce an output for a particular customer or market (Davenport, 1993); it can also be a means to improve/coordinate processes." This perspective is shared by Thomas and Griffin (1996), Fawcett, Magnan, and McCarter (2008), and Soosay, Hyland, and Ferrer (2008). Integration of activities is considered a process (e.g., Bowersox, Closs, & Stank, 2000; also Davis, 1993; Fawcett & Magnan, 2002; Gripsrud, Jahre, & Persson, 2006; Gundlach, Bolumole, Eltantawy, & Frankel, 2006; Power, 2005). This also includes specific perspectives, such as information technology as a means to facilitate coordination or integration. Some theories that take a process perspective of SCM include the resource-based view (Barney, 2012) or resource advantage theory (Hunt & Davis, 2012), which note that competitive advantage can be gained by aligning SCM processes. Gibson et al. (2005) find that the most common definition practitioners have of supply chain management is as a combination of strategy and activity, whereas Burgess et al. (2006) categorize processes and activities separately, with activities as a single element of a process. In this analysis, processes and activities are both placed under the process category. Exploring network structure (e.g., Chen & Paulraj, 2004), flows (Mentzer et al., 2001; Stock, Boyer, & Harmon, 2010), and a systems approach (Ellram & Cooper, 1990; Houlihan, 1985) also fit into a process perspective. Cooper et al. (1997) identify new processes and emphasize linking them and integrating them across functions and firms. Cooper and Ellram (1993) suggest how to move from traditional approaches to SCM as a process, as do HuIt, Ketchen, and Arrfelt (2007) and Cox, Sanderson, and Watson (2001). The focus on identifying what supply chain integration (SCI) looks like is a strong effort in the operations management area (e.g., Flynn, Huo, & Zhao, 2010). Giannakis and Croom (2004) suggest synchronizing operational activities. Li, Rao, Ragu-Nathan, and Ragu-Nathan (2005) develop and validate constructs for measuring supply chain processes. Chen, Daugherty, and Roath (2009) found a lack of consistency in the way that the literature has dealt with supply chain process integration, and operation-alize it around connectivity and simplification. Richey, Roath, Whipple, and Fawcett (2010) emphasize that integration occurs at three levels: internally and externally to the firm, and across the supply chain. From a theoretical standpoint, a process perspective can provide insights into the relevance of linking activities to best gain competitive advantage via the supply chain. From a practical standpoint, the primary contribution of a process perspective is that it adds to a greater understanding of which activities to link and how linking and coordinating activities can lead to improved results.

Some authors have evaluated whether SCM is becoming or has become a "discipline." The term discipline has been used in the general sense of being an area of academic study and in a more specific scientific sense. Ballou (2007) examined the evolution of SCM and refers to SCM as a discipline. Similarly, Gibson et al. (2005) note that, "SCM is a discipline in its early stages of evolution" (p. 17). Ellram and Cooper (1990) and Cooper and Ellram (1993) mentioned SCM early on as a discipline. Burgess et al. (2006) stated that, "If SCM were well developed in conceptual and research methodological terms, it would be reasonable to anticipate a 'clear line of sight' from definitions all the way through to theory and research methods. Overall, such a pattern was not found in the literature," but later state that, "The framework used to analyze the data would suggest SCM will become increasingly multidisciplinary in its nature" (p. 719). This is consistent with the views of Charvet, Cooper, and Gardner (2008), whose cocitation analysis found that the literature was still very much separated along traditional discipline lines of operations, logistics, and purchasing. Frankel et al. (2008) also described SCM as cross-disciplinary. Larson and Halldorsson (2002) explored different functions, in particular how supply management fit with SCM and how academics viewed SCM. Mentzer, Stank, and Esper (2008) present SCM as encircling other business processes. Storey, Ember-son, Godsell, and Harrison (2006) see SCM as merging into strategy. Chicksand et al. (2012) place SCM in its infancy and categorize it as a segregated discipline, meaning that there is no one accepted paradigm (p. 456, 468). They do not believe that SCM meets the test of a discipline at this time based on criteria put forth by Fabian (2000), Defee, Williams, Randall, and Thomas (2010), and Hunt (1991), as presented later in the paper. An earlier study by Harland et al. (2006) had similar findings, although the study presented more favorable conclusions that SCM had made great progress and was becoming a discipline. The contribution of this line of study is that it challenges SCM researchers to use consistent terminology, develop standardized constructs, and increase the level of rigor and replicability in their studies, so that future research can provide greater depth and breadth of insight and move the field further ahead.

Philosophy, as used here, considers the way that the activities within and across organizations come together to satisfy the customer's needs from a supply chain perspective or orientation. The centrality of understanding and meeting the customer's needs was highlighted by Levitt (1960) in his critique, Marketing Myopia. Lusch (2011) reminds us in his service-dominant logic (SDL) to focus first on the customer. This is a central aspect of the SCM philosophy. Jones and Riley (1985) and Houlihan (1988) extended the partnership concept to the supply chain, where organizations work together to achieve a higher, common goal. Ellram and Cooper (1990) viewed SCM as an integrative philosophy across firms. This view has matured over the decades to where most agree with this perspective. Chen and Paulraj (2004), p. 122) suggest that all SC members contribute and that, "Supply chain management seeks improved performance through better use of internal and external capabilities in order to create a seamlessly coordinated supply chain." Cooper et al. (1997) and subsequent writings propose a framework for the processes and advocate that SCM is an overarching philosophy that should permeate the firm and the supply chain. Supply chain orientation (SCO) as described by Mentzer and various co-authors (e.g., Mentzer et al., 2001; Gibson et al., 2004; Min, Mentzer, & Ladd, 2007) formalizes an interorganizational SCM focus, concurring that SCM happens across firms. The theoretical contribution of the perspective of SCM as a philosophy provides an understanding of how SCM integration with other disciplines can contribute to competitive advantage. From a managerial standpoint this perspective can provide insights into how to effectively integrate SCM issues into broader organizational decisions.

The governance perspective of SCM focuses on how the supply chain is managed, who controls it and how direction is set. It extends beyond the firm, to explore firm boundaries, in terms of who does what in the supply chain, including the make-buy decision and the nature of supply chain relationships or collaboration (Fawcett et al., 2008; Soosay et al., 2008). A great deal of the literature on supply chain relationships and collaboration falls into the general area of governance issues, drawing on the industrial organization literature (Ellram, 1991; Heide, 1994), conceptualization (Cox et al., 2001; Fawcett & Magnan, 2002), and theory building (Richey et al., 2010). Bowersox et al. (2000, p. 2) state that supply chain structure addresses, "How should a firm and its supportive supply chain be structured to create end-customer value as it moves into the 21st century?" Mentzer et al. (2001) also suggest that there will be a functional shifting of activities within the supply chain. Cooper et al. (1997) and subsequent writings indicate management components needed to oversee the supply chain and how to identify its structure. Cooper and Ellram (1993) and Harland (1996) identified important characteristics of effective SCM and how to improve supply chain performance, with a strong relationship and interaction focus. Cox et al. (2001) examined power issues, such as power regimes and who dominates in a buyer-supplier relationship. Ellram (1991) utilized transaction cost economics (TCE) and industrial organization theory relating to SC structures and when SCM applies (not vertical integration or transaction only). Giannakis and Croom (2004) also mention industrial organization and the need to synchronize activities. Fawcett and Magnan (2002) examined three levels of implementation of SCM. Later, Fawcett et al. (2008) explored benefits, barriers, and bridges to integrating the SC. Flynn et al. (2010, p. 59) investigated supply chain integration and performance and concluded that there is no one best way to organize a supply chain: "Contingency theory (Lawrence & Lorsch, 1967; Thompson, 1967) argues that no theory or method can be applied in all instances, in other words, that there is no one best way to design an organization (Scott & Cole, 2000)." Heide (1994, and subsequent writings) focused on governance and the nature of relationships in marketing channels utilizing resource dependence theory (RDT), TCE, and relationship contracting. Lusch and Brown (1996) also address types of contracts and dependence. Houlihan (1985) viewed the supply chain as a single entity, "rather than relegating fragmented responsibility for various segments in the supply chain." Ketchen and Huh (2007) suggested that organization theory be applied to yield the best value from a supply chain. Miles and Snow (2007) update their 1978 view of organizational theory and governance. They suggest that strategic choice, the RBV, and knowledge management (KBV) are all relevant theories for studying SCM, and note, "... Supply chain networks allow firms to make new strategic choices and then create new structural designs to implement them" (p. 460). Power (2005, p. 253) writes, "The integration of supply chain processes through investment in cooperative arrangement and technologies is difficult to separate from, or consider independently of, the strategic positioning of organizations." Richey et al. (2010) view effective SC governance as balancing the factors that facilitate integration with those that preserve independence. Stock et al. (2010) identify both managing supply chain networks and supply chain leadership as opportunities for future research. Storey et al. (2006) consider who should manage the SC and mention Frohlich and Westbrook's (2001) "arcs of integration." Thomas and Griffin (1996) remind us that the concept of coordination among organizations is not new, citing 1960s multi-echelon inventory models.

The governance perspective has been heavily grounded in both economic and relational theory, and contributes to an understanding of the firm's boundaries, and effectively spanning the boundaries of the organization to achieve improved results. From a practical standpoint, this research sheds light on the importance of having the right types of supply chain relationships. This research appears to shift over time based on changes in global practices, building theory and continually providing new managerial insights to address the overall research question, "What is the best type of ownership, and type of relationships that members of the supply chain should have with each other to achieve the best results?"

The final perspective reviewed, that of SCM as a functional area, is limited in this paper to viewing SCM as a separate function or series of functions within a company. This also fits with La Londe and Zinzer's (1976) view of customer service as an activity, as opposed to a measurement, or a philosophy. A function is a group of people in an organization that performs specific tasks or has a specific role. For example, the accounting function has a fiduciary duty to present the organization's financial standing accurately and meaningfully to its stakeholders. Ballou (2007) suggested that in the future, to be effective, SCM would encompass the logistics, operations, and purchasing functions. Gibson et al. (2005) raise the question of which business functions should be included in the domain of SCM, induding finance and product development. Bechtel and Jayaram (1997), Chen and Paulraj (2004), Gibson et al. (2004), Thomas and Griffin (1996) and others note the importance of coordination among these functional areas. Frankel et al. (2008) also include marketing channels. Thus, even when SCM is viewed as a function, there is emphasis on interorganizational and intra-organizational coordination, avoiding a functional silo mentality. The contribution of this perspective is primarily managerial, in that it helps organizations determine appropriate structures for supply chain management activities.


One of the observations that we made is that there is actually a high level of agreement on the overall concept of the supply chain, in line with Mentzer et al.'s (2001) definition above (Chen et al., 2009; Cooper et al., 1997; Esper, Defee, & Mentzer, 2010). Yet testing and studying the entire supply chain to apply the concept of supply chain management is very complex. Thus, as academics have moved from attempting to define the SC concept to trying to test SCM theory and applications, the tendency is to test one part or aspect of supply chain management. For example, Chen and Paulraj (2004) show the typical end-to-end supply chain model. They state that SCM "is a network of materials, information, and services processing links with the characteristics of supply, transformation, and demand" (p .119). However, the research framework of SCM that is developed and tested uses buyer--supplier relationships as the unit of analysis, with little emphasis on the customer, logistics, or manufacturing. This is not a criticism of their valuable study per se, as the notion of supply chain management is so complex it is difficult to capture all of the important aspects in a single study. However, this is one of the reasons that academics continue to argue that there is not a common definition or a paradigm for SCM. Many academics study part of the supply chain, but classify their study and findings under the name SCM. Perhaps, in the future, if we are very explicit that we are studying a problem within the supply chain domain, but studying only a specific part of that larger problem, it would reduce the criticism leveled against SCM research that the supply chain is framed very inconsistently.


As briefly summarized above, there has been a great deal of concern over what supply chain management is and whether it is really a discipline, nearly since the term SCM emerged three decades ago. Harland et al. (2006) concluded that while supply management was not yet a discipline, it is moving in the right direction. Their condusion was that supply management should be considered an emerging discipline, as evidenced in part by its appearance in journals with higher impact factors and a broader audience. Applying this today, most of the major supply chain journals are now included in the ISI and have above average to very high-impact factors versus other management journals. The most recent report from ISI indicates that supply chain management/operations management/logistics/purchasing journals are in the top half of the 172 management journals, with the Journal of Supply Chain Management ranked 21st across all 172 management journals and 2nd across supply chain and operations management journals, with an impact factor of 3.32 (Journal Citation Reports, 2013).

However, drawing on Fabian's notion of what constitutes a discipline, Chicksand et al. (2012) concluded that SCM was not a discipline on the following grounds:

* Lack of coherence: The field has not yet developed a rich and robust theoretical grounding.

* Breadth and depth is lacking, as evidenced by the low level of inductive research.

* Quality is lacking as evidenced by the lack of "dear research norms," (Chicksand et al., 2012, p. 468).

Chicksand et al. (2012) do note that they used three very specialized journals to draw their conclusions regarding how the journals were ranked. The authors also note that other scholars have indicated that operations management and organizational studies have not moved toward common paradigms (Amundson, 1998; Pfeffer, 1993; respectively). So perhaps a constantly evolving domain, such as the study of business, does not lend itself to these criteria. The discussion of SCM as a discipline above notes growing consensus that SCM is cross-disciplinary, rather than functionally oriented. Even the researchers who pres-em SCM as a function note that SCM is truly cross-functional and boundary spanning, not a narrow silo. In 2008, the Journal of Supply Chain Management stated its mission as "... be(ing) the journal of choice among supply chain management scholars across disciplines, by attracting high-quality, high-impact behavioral research focusing on theory building and empirical methodologies" (Carter, Ellram, Kaufmann, 2008). Thus, the cross-disciplinary nature of supply chain management is embraced by many researchers. Is using the standard metric of what constitutes a discipline appropriate for SCM research? The authors do not believe that it is, for the aforementioned reasons.

Indeed, if we consider disciplines such as economics, they continually develop theories, but there is little agreement across various kinds of economists, for example capitalists versus socialists. Even within each of these camps, there are conflicting viewpoints, such as neoliberalism versus Keynesianism. Marketing considers itself a discipline, a function, and an orientation or a philosophy. But there are some who believe that all marketing should be viewed from a service-dominant logic (e.g., Lusch, 2011). It appears that SCM is moving in the direction of friendly disagreement and schools of thought, such as many other disciplines. These schools of thought are still emerging and shifting. They combine the perspectives explored here in different ways. For example, while many authors emphasize the importance of a process perspective in SCM, some of those who view SCM from a process perspective appear to frame SCM as primarily a network issue/phenomenon (Harland, Lamming, Zheng, & Johnsen, 2001; Lamming et al., 2000), while others focus on the customer/demand management issue (Christopher, 1992; hittner et al., 2010; Lee et al., 1997). Some combine the process perspective and governance perspective and view supply chain management as a relational issue (Cooper et al., 1997; Fawcett et al., 2008; Richey et al., 2010). These researchers each emphasize different core issues in the supply chain based on their perspectives and framing of various problems.

In 1998, Lambert et at. raised the issue that academic development lags practice in SCM and stated the goal should be for academia to get ahead of that curve and contribute valuable theory to practice. By our own standards, we as academic researchers seem unable to get very far ahead of that curve and consistently contribute to cutting edge practice, yet businesses have continued to move ahead. Examples of companies that clearly understand the SCM concept and have successfully implemented it include McDonald's, LBrands (formerly The Limited), WalMart, Apple and, more recently, Amazon. Gartner has an annual Top 25 Supply Chain award, and it has clear criteria including: public financial data; supply management; supply chain execution; product innovation, launch and lifecycle management; demand shaping and sensing service management; information application for planning and performance management; and manufacturing (Gartner, 2012). It is a highly respected and sought after award, with Apple Computer placing first from 2008 through 2013. There is no academic research we have seen that is as extensive or multidimensional in the supply chain area as Gartner's Top 25 Award. It is highly likely that if academic researchers who frame supply chain very differently were to apply the Gartner criteria based on their own weighting of what is important in successful SCM, they would select different companies as the best.

In addition to the countless supply chain studies that borrow theory from different disciplines, such as industrial economics and strategy as mentioned above, theories related specifically to SCM are being tested and refined. For example, researchers at the University of Tennessee have undertaken a test of the Global Supply Chain Forum model, with strong initial results supporting the validity of the model (Autry, Rose, & Bell, 2013). Numerous authors have refined (Esper et al., 2010), have tested, and have even extended (Miocevic & Cmjak-Karanovic, 2012; Patel, Azadegan, & Ellram, 2013) Mentzer et al.'s (2001) model and associated theory of supply chain orientation. In an effort to build SCM theory, constructs describing several aspects of SCM have been developed and tested (e.g., Chen & Paulraj, 2004; Li, Rao, Ragu-Nathan, & Ragu-Nathan, 2005) and supply chain-wide studies involving multiple informants at various levels across the supply chain have been conducted (e.g., Harland et al., 2001). In the emerging triadic perspective of supply chain management, Wu and Choi (2005) and Mena, Humphries, and Choi (2013) use case studies to build supply chain management theory using triadic data. Progress is being made in terms of adding to the body of knowledge and theory specific to supply chain management, although progress is slower than many academics would like it to be.

If one looks more closely at what is being said about supply chain management and how it is being framed in research, there is much more commonality on substantive issues than there are differences. There is basic agreement about the definition of a supply chain, which has been fairly stable for over a decade. There is a common core of subjects taught in most supply chain management programs. There is a set of fairly well accepted standards by which a company's supply chains are judged. There is widespread agreement that supply chain management is a philosophy or orientation of the way that organizations conduct business and that it is multidisciplinary in nature.


There is every reason to be optimistic about the state of supply chain management research and practice, and the impact that supply chain management has had on the world. The favorable results achieved by companies, the growth of supply chain management as a major field of study across universities and its popularity among both students and employers supports that SCM works. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that more universities are adding SCM majors and increasing their programs as demand for SCM majors grows among employers (Korn, 2013).

There is some standardization developing in industry around both terminology and practice. For example, the Supply Chain Council's SCOR model is widely taught and applied in businesses to allow for comparison of common metrics within and between organizations and industries. Professional certifications exist and are increasing in number, such as those provided by the Supply Chain Council, the Institute for Supply Management, the Council for Supply Chain Management Professionals, APICS, SOLE and AST&L. A standard language and common meanings would help communication in both academia and practice. While comprehensive SCM frameworks such as the Global Supply Chain Forum and SCOR have been developed, the manner in which they are applied and their emphasis may vary signifi-candy by industry, by company, and even within industry. To be effective, SCM must adapt to support an organization's competitive advantage. There is a common set of principles that underlie supply chain management--issues such as information transparency, supplier segmentation, customer service, lean principles, quality, improved communication, segmentation, inventory management, and more. In reality, they apply differently in different industries and companies, based on their competitive strategies. This does not mean that people in SCM do not have focus or direction. A true discipline has many aspects that are applied differently in different situations. For example, industrial marketers apply their marketing mix very differently than consumer products firms to effectively serve their very different customer base.

It is unlikely that society or academia will move away from the term "supply chain management," as it has become very embedded in our language over the past 30 years. In presenting research, it is certainly acceptable and even helpful to clarify the aspect of the supply chain that is the focus. As mentioned above, there is fairly wide agreement that companies really have networks of suppliers rather than "chains," so if one is studying a network within a supply chain, versus a more "chain-like" dyad, that should be clarified in the research. There is widespread recognition that customers and their demands drive activities in effective supply chains, and using terminology like "demand driven supply chains" can help to clarify that position (Christopher, 2000). Because it is probably futile to continue to regret the choice of the inaccurately descriptive term "SCM," for SCM to continue to move ahead potentially as an academic discipline, researchers need to be more careful in positioning their work within the realm of supply chain management, rather than imply that they are studying the entire supply chain. For example, when studying a problem related to transportation and customer service, the authors should be dear that they do not draw sweeping conclusions about the whole supply chain, when they are really looking at one aspect of the downstream supply chain.

This paper examined five perspectives of supply chain management. Regarding the way that SCM is viewed as a discipline and as a function, the researchers conclude that while businesses increasingly view supply chain management as a cross-functional or multifunctional discipline, SCM probably does not yet meet the definition of a discipline in the stricter scientific sense. The other three perspectives, SCM as a process, philosophy, and governance structure all add value to the theoretical and practical understanding and execution of supply chain management. The process perspective of SCM is critical to supply chain efficiency, understanding and improving activities involved in SCM, cross-functional and interorganiza-tional linkages, sharing information, sustainability, and related issues. SCM as a philosophy is critical to understanding the value that SCM can add to competitive advantage, and critical to internal integration, focus, and cross-functional understanding. It embraces the concept of supply chain orientation. SCM as governance considers the fundamental nature of the organization in regard to what we do ourselves vs. outsource, how we treat others in the supply chain in terms of relationship issues, and who controls various aspects of SCM.

These various aspects of SCM come together to create the domain of SCM. Understanding and linking these various supply chain perspectives is essential for SCM to continue to grow and add value to organizations and society. While SCM will continue to evolve and improve in theory and practice, the fundamental notion of a supply chain as "a set of three or more entities (organizations or individuals) directly involved in the upstream and downstream flows of products, services, finances, and/or information from a source to a customer, (and return)" (Mentzer et al., 2001, p. 4.) is here to stay.


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LISA M. ELLRAM Miami University

MARTHA C. COOPER The Ohio State University

Lisa M. Ellram (Ph.D., The Ohio State University) is the Rees Distinguished Professor of Supply Chain Management in the Department of Marketing at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Her research interests include offshore outsourcing, services supply management, sustainable supply chain management, and all areas of supply chain cost management. Dr. Ellram has published in a wide variety of academic journals including California Management Review, Supply Chain Management Review, Journal of Operations Management, journal of Business Logistics, Journal of Supply Chain Management and Journal of Greener Production. She is currently co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Supply Chain Management.

Martha C. Cooper (Ph.D., The Ohio State University) is a professor emeritus of marketing and logistics at the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Her research interests include supply chain management, partnership and other inter-firm relationships, corporate strategy, international logistics, and women in logistics/supply chain. In addition to her academic work, Dr. Cooper has been a practitioner, working in brand management and in sales. She has co-authored three books and published over one hundred artides.
Authors                 Year    Review    Process  Discipline

Ballou                  2007      X          X         X

Bechtel & Jayaram       1997      X

Bowersox, Closs,        2000                 X
& Stank

Burgess, Singh,         2006      X          X
& Koroglu

Charvet, Cooper,        2008                             X
& Gardner

Chen & Paulraj          2004      X          X

Chicksand et al.        2012      X                      X

Cooper, Lambert,        1997                 X         X

Cooper & Ellram         1993                 X         X

Ellram & Cooper         1990                 X         X

Ellram                  1991

Fawcett, Magnun,        2008                 X
& McCarter

Flynn, Huo, & Zhao      2010

Frankel, Bolumole,      2008      X          X
Eltanawy, Paulraj,
& Gundlach

Giannakis & Croom       2004      X          X

Gibson, Mentzer,        2005                             X
& Cook

Gripsrud, Jahre,        2006      X          X
& Persson

Harland, Lamming,       2006                             X
Walker, Phillips,
Caldwell, Johnsen,
Knight, & Zheng

Heide                   1994

Houlihan               1985,                 X

Hult, Ketchen,          2007                 X
& Arrfelt

Jones & Riley           1985

Juttner, Christopher,   2007                 X         X
& Baker

Juttner, Christopher,   2010                             X
& Godsell

Ketchen & Hult          2007

Lambert & Cooper        2000                 X

Larson & Halldorsson    2002                             X

Li, Rao, Ragu-Nathan,   2005                 X
& Ragu-Nathan

Lusch                   2011

Lusch & Brown           1996      X

Mentzer, DeWitt,        2001      X          X
Kddbler, Min, Nix,
Smith, & Zacharia

Mentzer, Stank,         2008                             X
& Esper

Miles & Snow            2007

Min, Mentzer,           2007
& Ladd

Power                   2005      X
Richey, Roath,                    X          X
Whipple, & Fawcett

Stock, Boyer,           2010                 X
& Harmon

Storey, Emberson,       2006
Godsell, & Harrison

Thomas & Griffin        1996                 X

                                          Governance  Functional
Authors                 Year  Philosophy  Structure      Area

Ballou                  2007                  X           X

Bechtel & Jayaram       1997      X

Bowersox, Closs,        2000                  X
& Stank

Burgess, Singh,         2006                  X
& Koroglu

Charvet, Cooper,        2008
& Gardner

Chen & Paulraj          2004      X

Chicksand et al.        2012

Cooper, Lambert,        1997      X           X

Cooper & Ellram         1993                  X

Ellram & Cooper         1990      X

Ellram                  1991      X           X

Fawcett, Magnun,        2008                  X
& McCarter

Flynn, Huo, & Zhao      2010                  X

Frankel, Bolumole,      2008                  X
Eltanawy, Paulraj,
& Gundlach

Giannakis & Croom       2004                  X

Gibson, Mentzer,        2005      X                       X
& Cook

Gripsrud, Jahre,        2006
& Persson

Harland, Lamming,       2006
Walker, Phillips,
Caldwell, Johnsen,
Knight, & Zheng

Heide                   1994                  X

Houlihan               1985,      X           X

Hult, Ketchen,          2007                  X
& Arrfelt

Jones & Riley           1985      X

Juttner, Christopher,   2007
& Baker

Juttner, Christopher,   2010
& Godsell

Ketchen & Hult          2007                  X

Lambert & Cooper        2000      X           X

Larson & Halldorsson    2002

Li, Rao, Ragu-Nathan,   2005
& Ragu-Nathan

Lusch                   2011                  X

Lusch & Brown           1996                  X

Mentzer, DeWitt,        2001      X           X
Keebler, Min, Nix,
Smith, & Zacharia

Mentzer, Stank,         2008      X           X           X
& Esper

Miles & Snow            2007                  X

Min, Mentzer,           2007      X
& Ladd

Power                   2005                  X
Richey, Roath,                                X
Whipple, & Fawcett

Stock, Boyer,           2010                  X
& Harmon

Storey, Emberson,       2006                  X
Godsell, & Harrison

Thomas & Griffin        1996
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Author:Ellram, Lisa M.; Cooper, Martha C.
Publication:Journal of Supply Chain Management
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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