Title: Supply chain knowledge work: should we restructure the workforce for improved agility?

Authors: Tim Butcher

Addresses: Centre for Logistics Research, University of Hull Logistics Institute, Business School, University of Hull, Hull HU6 7RX, UK

Abstract: Responsive supply networks must shift from traditional hierarchies to more holistic supply chain-spanning management systems to remain competitive. Knowledge work is fundamental to this transition, but little is written about the roles of knowledge workers in logistics and supply chain management and their influence on agility. Adopting a Socio-Technical Systems approach, this research analyses empirical case study data to identify and evaluate supply chain knowledge workers. We find that supply chain knowledge workers maintain supply chain performance and improve it by compensating for inherent operational instabilities and changes in supply and demand. Hence, knowledge workers contribute to the adaptability, responsiveness, agility and resilience of supply chains. We propose that, given the opportunity, supply chain knowledge workers could enable transition to the emerging sense and respond paradigm through improved utilisation of their expertise. This research has implications for supply chain design, practice and education. Thus, further research is recommended to develop work systems that encourage greater scope for supply chain knowledge work.

Keywords: agility; knowledge workers; sense and respond; sociotechnical systems; supply chain management; SCM; agile supply chains; agile systems; logistics; supply chain performance.

DOI: 10.1504/IJASM.2007.015838

International Journal of Agile Systems and Management, 2007 Vol.2 No.4, pp.376 - 392

Published online: 24 Nov 2007 *

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