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Operations Management Research

, Volume 5, Issue 1–2, pp 57–68 | Cite as

Using the social system of a supply chain to improve a focal organization’s operating performance

  • Kevin Burgess
  • Prakash J. SinghEmail author
Article

Abstract

In this paper, we explore how a large organization, operating in a mature, asset-intensive industry, used the social system of a key supply chain to generate significant improvement in operating performance (e.g., inventory turnover ratio improved from 0.8 to 3.2 in 5 years). A case study approach was used to study a steel rail supply chain involving an Australian railway company as the focal company. This supply chain consisted of two other companies: a steel manufacturer and a bulk transporter. Multiple forms of data were collected and analyzed, including models and process maps of the supply chain, published and internal documents, Enterprise Resource Planning system reports, and in-depth interviews of 31 key personnel involved in the supply chain. We found that the organizations had invested heavily in formal systems, such as governance processes and information technology systems. However, it was the informal mechanisms across and within the social system which made the greatest contribution to the resulting improvements. This suggests that organizations may be able to achieve significant operating performance outcomes at far lower cost and in shorter time frames by working through the existing social systems instead of focusing excessively on formal governance and IT systems.

Keywords

Supply chain management Social factors Informal factors Operating performance 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Defence Acquisition, Defence Academy of the United KingdomCranfield UniversityShrivenhamUK
  2. 2.Department of Management & MarketingThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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