Technology uncertainty in supply chains and supplier involvement: The role of resource dependence

Chengyong Xiao, Boyana Petkova, Eric Molleman, T. van der Vaart*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
248 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose – Technology uncertainty poses significant challenges to manufacturers, as rapid changes in product and/or process standards and
specifications can disrupt the smooth flow of materials in extended supply chains. Practitioners and researchers alike who take a relational
perspective widely regard supplier involvement as a potentially effective strategy to cope with technology uncertainty, as focal manufacturers can
tap into their upstream supply networks for complementary resources and capabilities. However, the literature lacks a nuanced understanding of the
supplier involvement processes. Specifically, the role of resource dependence for supplier involvement has yet to be systematically understood. To fill
this gap, this study aims to combine the relational perspective with the resource-dependence perspective to explore how buyer dependence, supplier
dependence and buyer–supplier interdependence influence buyers’ decision-making on tapping into upstream supply networks for coping with
technology uncertainty.
Design/methodology/approach – To test the hypotheses, a survey is conducted among Dutch firms with more than 50 employees in the discrete
manufacturing industries (ISIC 28-35), resulting in a sample of 125 manufacturers.
Findings – First, there is a significantly positive relationship between technology uncertainty and supplier involvement, giving support to
the expectation that buyers are indeed involving their key suppliers in the product/process design and improvement, as a response to
technology uncertainty. Second, buyer dependence and interdependence are found to be positively moderating the relationship between
technology uncertainty and supplier involvement. In contrast, supplier dependence has a negative moderating effect on the baseline
Research limitations/implications – The authors contribute to a relational view on buyer–supplier relationships by showing that the validity
of this view, in the context of technology uncertainty, is contingent on the resource dependence between buyers and suppliers, and the
authors contribute to the supply chain management literature more generally by combining a relational perspective with a resourcedependence perspective.
Practical implications – The findings provide several nuanced insights into the effect of resource dependence (buyer dependence, supplier
dependence and interdependence) on supplier involvement for coping with technology uncertainty.
Originality/value – This study contributes to the supply chain management research by going beyond the benefits of supplier involvement and
highlights the circumstances under which supplier involvement is likely to occur.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697-709
Number of pages13
JournalSupply Chain Management: an International Journal
Issue number6
Early online date7-Oct-2019
Publication statusPublished - 22-Oct-2019


  • uncertainty
  • supplier involvement
  • interdependence
  • buyer dependence
  • relational view
  • resource dependence theory
  • FIRM


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