Journal of Business Logistics

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  • Sustainable Supply Chains in the Age of AI and Digitization: Research Challenges and Opportunities

    Sustainability has become a global corporate mandate with implementation impacted by two key trends. The first is recognition that global supply chains have a profound impact on sustainability which requires “greening” the entire supply chain. The second is technology—digitization, artificial intelligence (AI), and “big data”—which have become ubiquitous. These technologies are impacting every aspect of how companies organize and manage their supply chains and have a powerful impact on sustainability. In this essay, we synthesize current dominant themes in research on sustainable supply chains in the age of digitization. We also highlight potential new research opportunities and challenges and showcase the papers in our STF.

  • Supply Chain Plasticity: Redesigning Supply Chains to Meet Major Environmental Change

    Supply chain plasticity refers to the capability of rapidly making major changes to a supply chain in order to accommodate significant shifts in the business environment. We call for research in supply chain plasticity, as the need to adapt to environmental change has never been greater. Further, a distinction between supply chain plasticity and flexibility is provided. We also introduce the articles appearing in this issue of the Journal of Business Logistics, including three papers dedicated to the Special Topic Forum titled “Sustainable Supply Chains in a Digital Inter‐connected World.”

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  • Unintended Consequences: How Suppliers Compensate for Price Concessions and the Role of Organizational Justice in Buyer‐Supplier Relations

    “You get what you pay for” is one of life's lessons that predominates in purchasing decisions individuals make in their personal lives. The results of this study suggest this lesson should also prevail among management when price‐related purchasing decisions in businesses are being made. An evaluation of over 1,700 purchasing instances across seven years of a longitudinal panel data set collected from Tier 1 production suppliers to the six major North American automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota, found that suppliers compensate for price concessions and price reduction pressure from the OEM in the year following the concession, by reducing product quality, service support, and R&D expenditures associated with goods provided to the OEM. This industry is particularly relevant because it is highly adversarial, yet at the same time reliant on interdependence. The results show that supplier price concessions granted to an OEM led to compensatory supplier behaviors of reduced quality and R&D expenditures toward that OEM. Further, the results suggest that the organizational justice dimensions of distributive justice, procedural justice, interpersonal justice, and informational justice can ameliorate negative supplier compensatory activities. A buyer–supplier relational environment that engenders organizational justice tactics such as open and honest communication with suppliers provides suppliers the expectation of an acceptable return on business over the long term, provides help to suppliers to reduce costs, and builds supplier trust of the OEM had generally positive effects on quality, service, and R&D expenditures. From a management perspective, these results indicate there is a very real risk versus reward issue associated with pressuring suppliers for price reductions.

  • Logistics Innovation and Social Sustainability: How to Prevent an Artificial Divide in Human–Computer Interaction

    Human–computer interaction (HCI) is a cornerstone for the success of technical innovation in the logistics and supply chain sector. As a major part of social sustainability, this interaction is changing as artificial intelligence applications (Internet of Things, autonomous transport, Physical Internet) are implemented, leading to larger machine autonomy, and hence the transition from a primary executive to a supervisory role of human operators. A fundamental question concerns the level of control transferred to machines, such as autonomous vehicles and automatic materials handling devices. Problems include a lack of human trust toward automatic decision making or an inclination to override the system in case automated decisions are misperceived. This paper outlines a theoretical framework, describing different levels of acceptance and trust as a key HCI element of technology innovation, and points to the possible danger of an artificial divide at both the individual and firm level. Based upon the findings of four benchmark cases, a classification of the roles of human employees in adopting innovations is developed. Measures at operational, tactical, and strategic level are discussed to improve HCI, more in particular the capacity of individuals and firms to apply state‐of‐the‐art techniques and to prevent an artificial divide, thereby increasing social sustainability.

  • Using Country Sustainability Risk to Inform Sustainable Supply Chain Management: A Design Science Study

    The sustainability of our global supply chains is an essential concern in strategic supply chain management research. Modern information and communication technologies enable stakeholders to punish buying firms for any sustainability‐related grievances at their suppliers, even in remote locations. This study investigates how the notion of country sustainability risk can inform sustainable supply chain management, in particular with respect to sustainability risk assessment at the individual supplier level. Drawing on institutional theory, we provide insights surrounding the emergence of environmental, social, and governance‐related country‐level sustainability risks and show their implications for and application in sustainable supply chain management. The study employs a design science methodology, based on cooperation with a multidivisional German technology firm, to develop a supply chain sustainability risk (SCSR) map as technological solution design. This article contributes to the study of SCSR by reconciling the scholarly SCSR discourse with the buying firms’ pursuit of efficiency. Moreover, it elucidates the augmentation of a research agenda through a design science approach. In practical terms, the technological solution design can directly inform managers about SCSR at the country level and serves as a decision basis for the management of individual suppliers.

  • Strategic Purity and Efficiency in the Motor Carrier Industry: A Multiyear Panel Investigation

    Two questions facing motor carrier managers are (1) whether carriers should specialize in providing full truckload (TL) or less‐than‐truckload (LTL) services vis‐à‐vis offering mix of both and (2) whether this decision is contingent on carrier size. Yet, the literature provides little guidance because research to date has offered contradictory theoretical predictions and inconsistent empirical findings. Drawing on the theory of strategic purity and information processing theory, we explain why service specialization is likely to increase carriers' technical efficiency and why size will have a more pronounced effect on technical efficiency for carriers specializing in LTL services versus TL services. To test our theory, we assemble a panel data set from archival government sources regarding general freight motor carriers' provision of LTL and TL services. We measure carriers' technical efficiency using data envelopment analysis and test our hypotheses by fitting a series of panel data mixed‐effects models. Our results indicate that carriers are most technically efficient when they specialize in one service type. We also find that size positively affects technical efficiency but only for carriers specializing in LTL services; no returns to scale with regard to technical efficiency exist for carriers specializing in TL services.

  • Alignment in the Base of the Pyramid Producer Supply Chains: The Case of the Handloom Sector in Odisha, India

    This investigation seeks to explore the effectiveness of alternative approaches to supply chain management for developing the base of the pyramid (BoP) community. Using case research methodology, we investigate the issue of supply chain alignment when the supply base consists of BoP producers. We consider the handloom supply chains in Odisha, India, as the context of our analysis. The study analyzes the supply chains of four handloom retailers. The retailers represent cooperative and private organizational systems with varied levels of operational integration. In light of the insights from these case studies, we theorize factors contributing to operational cost‐effectiveness and conceptualize approaches and considerations for improving the BoP community. Specifically, we clarify the usefulness of alternative supply chain alignment practices in promoting efficiency, innovation, and equitability among the BoP constituents and advance a set of propositions linking the motivations, strategies, practices, and performance in handloom supply chains. Limitations, theoretical and managerial contributions, and future research directions are discussed.

  • Identifying Key Success Factors for Social Enterprises Serving Base‐of‐Pyramid Markets through Analysis of Value Chain Complexities

    There are people in this world who have little or no access to basic needs and they struggle financially, living on less than a handful of dollars a day. A better understanding of how to supply/serve the world's poor is needed. In this paper, through the lens of Porter's value chain framework we investigate the challenges and opportunities social enterprises face in base‐of‐pyramid (BoP) markets based on secondary data on 23 organizations. Our contribution is twofold: First, we analyze value chain complexities for the social enterprise based on the value creation role (consumer, coproducer) and income level (poverty, extreme poverty) of the local population. We find that nature of customers’ requirements varies across customer segments in the BoP markets and social enterprises face unique challenges in fulfilling such differentiated demand patterns. Second, we develop an affordability–accessibility framework that helps to identify the situations that may be favorable/unfavorable for social enterprises to meet the challenges in BoP markets. We make four propositions that social enterprises may use to cope with difficulties in affordability and accessibility. Our findings will be useful for such organizations to understand and design better supply chains for the base of pyramid.

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