A Roadmap for Joint Supply-Chain Improvement Projects Based on Real-Life Cases

  • Charles J. Corbett
  • Joseph D. Blackburn
  • Luk N. Van Wassenhove
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Economics and Mathematical Systems book series (LNE, volume 460)


Forming closer partnerships with suppliers or customers can yield substantial benefits, as a slew of examples in the business literature show. Though several characteristics of successful partnerships are brought up time and again - mutual trust, commitment to the partnership, open information exchange - the literature remains strangely silent on the detailed mechanics of the process involved in getting there. For a large and all-powerful customer this may not matter much, but what if the supplier is driving the process? And how can the supplier make sure to reap the commercial benefits from their efforts?

We describe how a supplier initiated two cases of such joint supply-chain improvement efforts, the first guided primarily by trial and (frequent) error, the second seemingly much more streamlined, but both eventually leading to a mixture of success and disappointment. By contrasting the two, we identify various critical factors for smooth project progress, including the need to have a clearly defined process, the composition of the joint project team, and the importance of supply-chain mapping. We pull together the key learnings into a simple framework which can be seen as a “roadmap” for joint supply-chain improvement projects, and offer guidelines on managing the overall process and the individual steps. We briefly describe the company training programme through which the framework was implemented and the type of coordination structure needed to support such projects. Finally, we analyze why the first case was eventually commercially more successful, even though the second case was more successful at the project level: successfully improving relations with suppliers or customers also requires corresponding realignment of internal relations between departments.


Supply Chain Design Team Plant Manager Coordination Structure Logistics Manager 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles J. Corbett
    • 1
  • Joseph D. Blackburn
    • 2
  • Luk N. Van Wassenhove
    • 3
  1. 1.Anderson Graduate School of ManagementUCLALos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Owen Graduate School of ManagementVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  3. 3.INSEADFontainebleau CedexFrance

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