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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Industrial Marketing Management, Volume 38, Issue 8, November 2009, Pages 925–936
Supplier integration is a tool to help organizations gain competitive advantage. Strategic supply management skills and the supply management function's perceived status are hypothesized as antecedents to supplier integration leading to supply management performance. The sample for this study includes 152 executive level supply management professionals. The empirical results suggest that strategic skills and perceived status are essential antecedents to supplier integration and subsequent performance. Further, the relationship between strategic skills and performance is mediated by supplier integration. Results of a dominance analysis also suggest which strategic skills are most likely to explain status integration, and performance. These findings have significant implications for supply management theory and practice.
The trend towards globalization has intensified business competition and resulted in shrinking profit margins in many industries. One strategy to restore profit margins is the shift from the firm level competition to the supply chain level competition (Ketchen & Giunipero, 2004). Successfully implementing this new strategy requires supply chain integration (e.g., cooperation among firms in the same supply chain) to realize enhanced performance (Hedaa & Ritter, 2005). Supply chain management (SCM) is typically regarded as the key operational perspective for achieving such integration among supply chain partners (Mentzer et al., 2001). Recent conceptualizations of SCM detail its role within and across organizations and identify it to include activities and corresponding skills specifically pertaining to integration (Gibson, Mentzer, & Cook, 2005). Supplier integration, however, requires a set of skills that extend beyond mere order placement to managing supply bases and combining resources with key suppliers (Wagner, 2003). Developing an optimal set of supply chain skills for effectively managing integration requires an identification of certain key skills. The focus of this research is therefore on strategic supply management skills and how they impact status and integration enabling a higher level of supply management performance. Previous literature documents a strong link between supplier integration and firm performance (Birou and Fawcett, 1994, Gundlach et al., 2006, Petersen et al., 2005a, Petersen et al., 2005b and Wagner, 2003). However, the study of supplier integration antecedents, such as skills and status, and their impact on supply management performance is largely overlooked. It is essential for marketing and supply management professionals to understand the practices and characteristics that contribute to improving the supply function's performance and enhancing its contribution to organizational success. This study fills a gap in both business to business and supply management literatures by examining the impacts of strategic supply management skills and the supply management function's perceived status on the level of supplier integration and performance. Though other strategic options, such as transactional approaches and disintegrated relationships, exist outside of integration (Jaspers & Van den Ende, 2006), emphasizing one specific option allows for a deeper assessment of antecedents and outcomes. Another reason for investigating these variables is that the majority of research pertaining to them is conceptual or case-based. Hence, empirical testing adds validity and generalizability to previous findings. This study uses the resource-based view as a theoretical underpinning to investigate potential antecedents to supplier integration and their relative importance in affecting supply management's performance. Understanding the relative importance of these antecedents in creating increased value by the supply management function will help managers in both marketing and supply areas rationalize their investments in various inter- and intra-departmental directives (e.g., developing appropriate types of supplier relationships, assessing and selecting the right skills in the supply management function, and gaining higher status internally). The research begins with the development of a conceptual model that builds from a review of relevant literature. A set of hypotheses inherent in the model is then developed and empirically tested. Additional tests of the importance of strategic supply management skills to supply management performance and its direct antecedents are then provided. The findings and managerial implications are then presented along with some potential limitations of the study and directions for future research.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Previous research examines the role of strategic sourcing and its contribution to the firm's value (e.g., Giunipero & Pearcy, 2000). Findings indicate that strategic sourcing could be taken to new levels and be applied in business to improve supply managements' competitive positions. While other research studies provide descriptive analyses for the skills required for achieving firm's success in (e.g., Giunipero et al., 2006), they do so without considering the contributions of each skill set category to performance. This study extends previous work and provides a linkage between specific skills (strategic supply management skills) and supply management performance via a two-pronged empirical analysis. The value and rarity of strategic supply management skills resulted in an initially hypothesized direct link to performance. This link was predicated on the notion that rare and valuable skills indicate opportunities for competitive advantage among buyers and suppliers (Miller, 2003). The results indicate that strategic supply management skills have a positive, though indirect, effect on supply management performance. Such a result likely stems from the difference between possessing the right skills and putting them into action. Possessing the right set of strategic skills is a necessary, but insufficient catalyst for supply management performance (Carr and Smeltzer, 2000 and Giunipero et al., 2006). As a result, blindly arming supply managers with strategic skills will not directly improve performance. Instead, they will see an improved perception of supply management inside the organization. In addition, these skills will also provide supply managers with the necessary tool kits to enhance supplier integration programs. In essence, there are certain conditions that need to be present in order for strategic supply management skills to affect performance. The perception that supply management is strategic should be reflected in the high status ascribed to the supply management function. Gaining and retaining the skills necessary to achieve status as vital strategic components requires increased resource allocation that should be reflected in higher training budgets. These additional resources should improve performance by allowing supply management to acquire higher-level skills to better manage supply chain risks and make better-informed decisions. Further, putting these skills into action allows supply management to formulate and maintain the types of supplier integration projects that directly affect supply management performance. A key challenges is demonstrating to upper management that the likely performance improvements justify investing resources in supplier integration. Achieving success in supplier integration programs requires a skill set that takes a strategic approach to supply base management. Strategic supply management involves the ability to manage complex projects that bring together internal and external resources over extended time periods. Part of this justification comes from the ability to gain competitive advantage, as these complex programs are difficult for competitors to imitate without the presence of equivalent strategic supply management skills. Successful supplier integration programs require a strategic approach to supply management. This approach involves developing relationships with key suppliers, internal functions within the focal firm, and customers. Another major finding is that strategic supply management skills have a significant positive impact on supply management perceived status. This finding supports the notion that strategic supply management functions, in contrast to non-strategic supply management functions, are perceived as important resource. When the supply management function is perceived to possess strategic skills, it is treated as equal to other major functions in the firm and, in turn, its perceived status is more likely to be elevated. It should be noted that other antecedents could influence supply management perceived status as well, such as managerial philosophy and top management support to functional strategies. The results indicate that supply management functions armed with the necessary strategic skills have the highest impact on performance. Realizing this, upper management should assign greater priorities to staffing, training, and developing the supply management function. Further this strategic skill base directly results in supply managers gaining greater status within their organizations. This enhanced status leads to a significant and positive direct effect on supplier integration in this sample. Though other more transactional and disintegrated approaches exist (Jaspers & Van den Ende, 2006), integration allows firms to gain more detailed understanding of key supply trends and customer activities. This more strategic approach involves gaining greater access to critical information required to drive supplier–focal firm–customer relationships. Continuously updating supply management training and gaining access to higher quality buyer–supplier information are prerequisites for supply managers to be able to interpret changes in supplier markets. In addition, improved comprehension of upstream supply chain activities ultimately leads to improved service of the focal firm's final customers. This process is expected to produce valuable supplier relationships that enhance competitive advantage, as competitors cannot easily imitate them. Further, supply management perceived status has a significant and positive indirect effect on supply management performance. Supply management professionals who believe they have high status and feel they are influencing how the company competes in the marketplace are more likely to perform at a high level. Alternatively, supply management professionals who view themselves as being “out of the loop” in terms of their strategic contributions are more likely to be viewed as transaction oriented and add less value. This research shows that supplier integration has a positive effect on supply management performance. Supply management organizations are being challenged to build superior supply chains and supplier integration represents one significant program in these efforts. Increasingly, firms are looking to supply management to establish greater integration with suppliers, both through systems integration and through ongoing programs directed toward making the focal firm, its customers, and its suppliers more competitive. The results also point to differential importance of the various strategic supply management skills. A synoptic chart of each skill's importance to status, integration, and performance is provided in Table 9. In order to efficiently and effectively translate human resource activities such as hiring and training into supply management performance, firms must emphasize the few critical skills among the cornucopia of possible skill sets. The research model provides evidence that status and integration lead to performance and that skills in general play a key role in this system. The dominance analysis then highlights which strategic skills are most/least important in determining status, integration, and performance. From the dominance assessment, project management and strategic thinking are the bottom two skills in terms of importance to status, integration, and performance. This finding suggests that practitioners limit their emphasis on these two skills. Several discrepancies across the constructs are also noteworthy, as some skills bolster status and integration, but do little to directly impact performance and vice versus. For example, analytical skills are shown to enhance status (#1 contributor) and integration (#2 contributor), but are the third worst predictor of supply management performance. In addition, planning is undervalued in status (#7 contributor) and integration (#4 contributor), yet is the second strongest contributor to supply management performance. These results likely indicate the importance placed on each skill set and where each skill adds value to performance. Specifically, analytical skills are highly valued in business education as they represent critical thinking and problem-solving ability (Hunton, 2002 and Schibrowsky et al., 2002). Thus, the learned importance of analytical skills transfers into the business world when former students themselves become evaluators. Such skills also allow for better reactions to dynamic situations such as integration, which often requires meshing of different technical systems and collaborative efforts among unfamiliar personnel (Osegowitsch, 2001, Schibrowsky et al., 2002 and Strang and Meyer, 1993). Planning, however, is viewed as a generic skill set involving organization and preparation (Green & James, 2003). It is not as highly regarded in business education as analytical skills and not as useful in dynamic situations (Green & James, 2003). However, once the initial dynamism of integration is complete, consistency likely becomes more valuable in maintaining integrated performance than dynamic change (Hill, McGowan, & Maclaran, 1998). The number one performance driving skill is structuring supplier relationships. This is consistent with a host of supply management literature (e.g., Eltantawy, 2008 and Lehtonen and Salonen, 2006). Structuring supplier relationships, however, is relatively less important in determining both status and integration. Such findings imply that an overemphasis on many of the skills that may enhance status of the supply management function may be wasteful when compared to skills that directly enhance supply management performance. The skills that enhance both integration and supply management performance are more consistent. From these practitioners are advised to focus primarily on structuring supplier relationships, planning, understanding general business conditions, and managing the supply base, while restricting emphasis on analytical skills, strategic thinking, and project management.