Supply chain resilience: definition, review and theoretical foundations for further study

Tukamuhabwa, Benjamin R., Stevenson, Mark, Busby, Jerry and Bell, Marta (2015) Supply chain resilience: definition, review and theoretical foundations for further study. International Journal of Production Research, 53 (18). pp. 5592-5623. ISSN 0020-7543

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There has been considerable academic interest in recent years in supply chain resilience (SCRES). This paper presents a timely review of the available literature on SCRES based on a three-stage systematic search that identified 91 articles/sources. We provide a comprehensive definition of SCRES before strategies proposed for improving resilience are identified and the contributions to the literature are critiqued, e.g. in terms of research method and use of theory. We take stock of the field and identify the most important future research directions. A wide range of strategies for improving resilience are identified, but most attention has been on increasing flexibility, creating redundancy, forming collaborative supply chain relationships and improving supply chain agility. We also find that only limited research has been conducted into choosing and implementing an appropriate set of strategies for improving SCRES. Much of the literature is conceptual, theoretical and normative; the few available empirical studies are mainly cross-sectional and confined to a large firm, developed country context; and, there has been limited use of theory frames to improve understanding. We propose Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) theory as an appropriate lens for studying SCRES. We demonstrate that SCRES mirrors many characteristics of a CAS – including adaptation and coevolution, non-linearity, self-organisation and emergence – with implications for the direction of both future research and practice.

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