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The Coevolution Of The Firm And The Supply Network: A Complex Systems Perspective

By Liz Varga


A complex adaptive systems approach has been permeating organizational studies and the field of supply network management helping to describe and explain supply network dynamics and emergent inter-firm structures. This has improved our theoretical knowledge of the nature of supply networks transforming raw materials into products, within a constantly changing environment. From the early days of simple structures, describing bi-lateral, local arrangements between firms for the creation of relatively simple products, we are now in an environment of various supply network archetypes, describing different global sourcing regimes of highly integrated, sophisticated products within multi-tier networks. This thesis is a study of the coevolution of the firm and supply network in the commercial aerospace manufacturing sector producing jetliners of 100 or more seats. One of the contributions of this research is to demonstrate how the holistic approach of complexity science can be applied to describe, understand and gain new insight into the coevolution of the firm and the supply network. Based on the findings of multiple interviews and questionnaires in eight global aerospace firms across multiple supply chain tiers, this research finds high-performing clusters of inter-firm characteristics, plus the aspects of structure and integration which deliver the supply network performance. Practitioners can use these specific results to examine their own firms and the new coevolutionary conceptual framework developed in the thesis may aid future research studies of complex adaptive systems in practice. The simple survey design and analysis method used in the final research stage of this research, has the potential for use in other industries, markets and other complex adaptive systems generally to examine performance outcomes and the effects of having or adopting new inter-firm characteristics. Finally, implications for policy include the potential to legitimize supply networks in order to stimulate competition and innovation in the economy

Topics: Environment, Network Performance, Network Structure, Inter-Firm Characteristic
Publisher: Cranfield University
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Cranfield CERES

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