Burden or blessing in disguise: Interactions in supply chain complexity

Hendryk Dittfeld, Kirstin Scholten, Dirk van Donk

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review

21 Citaten (Scopus)
157 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose While systems theory explicitly considers interactions as part of a system's complexity, supply chain complexity (SCC) is mostly conceptualized and measured as a linear summation of several aspects. The purpose of this paper is to challenge the general understanding by explicitly investigating interactions between and across different types (detail and dynamic) and levels (plant, supply chain, environment) of SCC.

Design/methodology/approach An exploratory multiple case study methodology is adopted drawing on in-depth semi-structured interviews with respondents from eight manufacturing plants in the food processing industry.

Findings On the one hand, it is found that different types add and increase overall SCC. On the other hand, the study also shows the opposite: interactions between detail and dynamic complexity can reduce the overall SCC experienced. Additionally, the findings highlight the specific food processing characteristics such as the variability of quality and quantity of raw materials that underlie interactions between types and levels of SCC.

Originality/value This study adds to theory by empirically showing that interactions across and between types and levels do not automatically increase, but might also reduce SCC. As such, the findings contribute new detail to the concept of SCC: aspects of complexity do not necessarily add up linearly. Additionally, this study is one of the first to demonstrate how specific contextual aspects from the food processing industry relate to SCC.
Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)314-332
TijdschriftInternational Journal of Operations & Production Management
Nummer van het tijdschrift2
StatusPublished - 2018


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