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The research focus will be on the study of the integration of Supply Chain Management (SCM) based on companies present in Singapore, catering to international market. It will include global companies like Wal-Mart, Dell and DHL. A descriptive model relating to the key factors to integration of Supply Chain Management will be developed.
This choice has been made based on the following reasons:
All these companies are present in Singapore and are fairly concentrated in selected geographies of the country
At the same time it will make the data collection process easier
Singapore has a huge presence in Retailing, Computer Hardware and Logistics Industries.
As the chosen research topic is fairly technical, an elaborate introduction to the topic has been given to make sure things are put in proper perspective.
Information Technology began with the advent of computers in 1980's when IBM and Apple came out with computers which could be used to both people and organizations. It was adopted at a fast pace with the organizations which used it for various purposes like automation of mundane processes, storage of information, fast processing of information, communication link with other locations, digitization of data so that it could be easily shared etc. As a result by mid 1980-1990 decade every big company like General Electric (GE), Wall Mart, and General Motors (GM) had huge Information Technology infrastructure like Computers, Printers, Networking equipments, Servers etc. At the same time they also had few applications which were running on the top of operating systems like Disk Operating System (DOS)/Linux/UNIX. Sometimes these applications were custom made to suit the special needs of the organization.
By end of 1980-1990 decade every big company had a big Information Technology Department to manage machines and software. This department was responsible for making sure computers; printers and software are working all the time. By this time application development to suit the special needs to the company was becoming a major activity for every Information Technology department and hence size and budget of the department was increasing. Soon the budget of several Information Technology departments ran into millions of dollars and hundreds of employees.
Supply Chain Management
The Supply Chain Market (SCM) in Asia is poised for a robust growth. The Supply Chain Management is the set of frameworks and processes helping organizations in development and delivery of products. The supply chain represents the complex relationships of an organization with its trading partners through whom it sources materials, manufactures products and delivers products or services to the customers. The supply chain links all the activities in the procurement, transformation and storage of raw materials and intermediate products, and sale of finished goods.
Figure 1: Generic Configuration of Supply Chain in Manufacturing
The entire Supply Chain (Figure 1) is looked across my Supply chain management, rather than a single entity or level. The SCM aims to increase alignment and transparency of supply chain's configuration and coordination, regardless of corporate or functional boundaries.
The growing competition among the manufacturers to retain and attract customers has compelled manufacturers to serve customers effectively by maintaining long-term relationships with the customers.
In the late 1980's, organizations were looking for ways and means to improve their process efficiency, and for this purpose they revamped their internal processes. After they succeeded in making their internal processes efficient, businesses needed to make their external processes efficient so that they could reduce the time and money needed to market and distribute. For this, they had to redefine their relationship with their suppliers, retailers, distributers, and customers. An effective relationship with these entities increased the need for information sharing and made them mutually dependent. This caused a paradigm shift in competition from manufacturer VS manufacturer to supply chain VS supply chain.
Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) systems, developed in early 1990's works on the principal of relating information to different entities in a supply chain- manufacturers, suppliers, business partners and retailers- and making it available to all entities. These applications are aimed to reduce the inventory levels of a company through accurate forecasting, reduced cycle times and near perfect scheduling. Customer levels are increased as the goods are delivered on time due to efficiency in the distribution process.
Developed by Voluntary Commerce Standards organization (VICS), collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment (CPFR) is the sharing of business information such as promotional planning and merchandising planning among the business chain partners for errorless forecasting and automatic replenishment of goods. CPFR aimed to improve the flow of goods from the suppliers to the manufacturers and finally to the retailer. In the 1990s, the global communications leader Motorola faced problems in meeting customer demand during year-end shopping seasons. Distributers regularly over-ordered for the shopping season, and therefore Motorola had to maintain huge inventories, just to handle these large orders. This left Motorola with a lot of inventory after the season. To avoid this, Motorola deployed a CPFR system in its personal communications division in August 2003. The system was developed by Manugistics Group Inc., an SCM specialist. The system helped Motorola to collaborate with its suppliers and customers to improve the efficiency of the forecasts, reduce excess inventory and improve customer service. The collaboration was further extended to other areas like designing and managing sales promotions and developing new products.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is another technology adding to the effectiveness of SCM. It is a technology by which the stored data can be remotely retrieved. The use of RFID technology to track the movement of goods started in 1980s and quickly became popular. RFID technology used a small device called a tag which contains a microchip and an antenna. The microchip is an integrated circuit that stores and processes the data using a given unique product code. The antenna detects and responds to the radio signals. The tag contains data relating to the product such as the price, colour or data relating to the movements of goods, as they move from supplier to the distribution centres.
Aims and Objectives of the Research
The purpose of my research is to find an empirical study of the integration of Supply Chain Management (SCM) in the company's of Singapore and catering to international market.
It will be an exploratory analysis with the following objectives:
Development of a descriptive model relating to the key factors to the integration of Supply Chain Management.
Derivation of Hypothesis based on the descriptive model and tested using data from questionnaire surveys in the selected companies in Singapore.
Findings on the Hypothesis of which three are positively associated with the perception of integration of Supply Chain Management.
These objectives are based on the following questions:
How do companies in different industries and sectors manage their Supply Chains?
What types of systems are currently used by the companies to support supply and what are the benefits arising out of these systems?
How important are the different future measures for supporting the company's efforts in SCM and IT.
What are the impacts of the integration of Supply Chain Management?
It has been discussed that the technical nature of the topic would need much more emphasis on setting the context in the form of elaborate Introduction and critical analysis of the text. At the same time term Successful Integration which is used as the aim of the research will also be discussed to set a benchmark above which we can say that any firm has successfully integrated into Supply Chain Management. Only secondary research will be used to set this benchmark.
Recipients of Research
The research will be useful for the top management of upcoming companies in different sectors which are planning to integrate SCM. The research study does not focus on the companies from any particular sector.
Nature of the research makes literature review imperative for the successful completion of the study. It will form the basis of my research and will help in getting more clarity on the topic. Technical natures of the research topic chosen also require extensive literature survey. I have taken technical papers written by analyst and researchers of leading management colleges. Three such articles have been critically analyzed.
Critical Analysis of Text
Article 1: Warwick Business School (2004), Supply Chain Management: An analytical framework for critical literature review.
The review analysis on the nature of research in the Supply Chain Management. The research gives specific reference to domains constituting supply chain as management discipline. The review aimed at presenting a basis for debate and development around the field of supply chain management by attempting to identify possible gaps, consolidate current learning and pose possible future directions for development.
The paper classified a two-dimensional approach to the literature content analysis to address both the level of analysis and the processes of Supply Chain Management. The review also developed a two dimensional content analysis matrix by combining the two dimensions i.e. level of analysis and element of change.
According to the review, "there has been relative lack of theoretical work in the field compared to the empirical based studies. The author argues on the fact that theoretical development of is critical to the establishment and development of Supply Chain Management. Also according to the author, from the micro perspective, increasing number of organizations is finding it profitable to adopt strategies that require the development of closer 'partnership' relationships with their major suppliers. This is leading to an attitudinal shift in behaviour towards the suppliers also defined as the lean supply". Other important variables influencing relationships as described by the review are:
The sourcing strategy (single sourcing, sole sourcing, dual sourcing, partnering sources, multi sourcing etc)
The commitment and attitude to collaborative improvement programmes
The positioning of focal firm within the total network
The extent of dependence on the network measured as the proportion of a supplier's business which is dedicated to the supply network to question.
Article 2: Copenhagen Business School (2003), Electronic Marketplaces: A literature review and a call for Supply Chain Management research.
The review defines an electronic marketplace as a historically evolved institution that allows customers and suppliers to meet at a certain place and at a certain time in order to communicate and to announce buying or selling intentions, which eventually match and may be settled. Today the institution market still does the same, but has occasionally been remodelled due to the evolution of media. However according to the review, owing to the evolution of modern information and communication technology, space and time restrictions have been weakened and cyberspace has become the new meeting point.
The review elaborates different electronic marketplaces requiring supply chain management by defining three types of informational-related relationships within the Electronic Marketplaces (EM). This meant that some information may be exchanged on a transactional basis, some on a collaborative basis and some in an informational basis. Beyond this, collaborative relationships require that the other two types have already been implemented.
The paper also categorise EMs in several ways discussing buyer supplier relationship. These can be distinguished by following classifications according to the author:
The more stake-holder focused way to divide EMs into buyer-oriented, neutral and seller-oriented.
The most straight forward categorisation is in horizontal and vertical Ems.
The more price-focused and economic classification divides EMs into markets with variable or fixed pricing mechanisms.
EMs can be classified regarding to the purchasing process "What" and "How" business purchase.
Article 3: Carlson School of Management (2004), How do Suppliers benefit from Information Technology use in Supply Chain Relationships?
The paper focused on the two types of intangible asset specificity created by supplier investments: Business process specificity and domain knowledge specificity. According to the author, "Business process specificity arises from the development of relationship-specific routines or standard operating procedures for efficient task execution. Domain-knowledge specificity arises from the development of a context-sensitive understanding of cause-effect relationships that facilitate effective action and resolution of ambiguities in task planning and execution".
In the review, the author also focuses various points regarding the use of IT in SCM. According to the author:
The higher the levels of Supply Chain Management Systems (SCMS) use for exploitation, the greater the level of business-process specificity in the exchange.
The higher the levels of SCMS use for exploration, the greater the level of domain-knowledge specificity in the exchange.
The association of IT Exploit with business-process specificity is stronger than the association of IT Explore with business-process specificity.
The association of IT Explore with domain-knowledge specificity is stronger than the association of IT Exploit with domain-knowledge specificity.
The higher the level of SCMS use for exploitation, the higher the levels of operational and strategic benefits achieved through the leverage of relationship-specific business processes.
The higher the level of SCMS use for exploration, the higher the levels of operational and strategic benefits achieved through the leverage of relationship-specific domain knowledge.
Higher levels of operational benefits in the exchange are associated with higher levels of competitive performance.
Higher levels of strategic benefits in the exchange are associated with higher levels of competitive performance.
Research Paradigm is about the perception of the researcher and serves as his/her frame of reference. "Research Paradigm is basis for comprehension, for interpreting social reality" [Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 200:9]
My research hinges around the empirical study if Information Technology in Supply Chain Management. On the basis of this understanding a survey will be constructed to gain first hand insights of the issues.
Technical nature of the topic makes it difficult to go for Positivist approach in which data is quantitatively analyzed to draw the conclusion because it is not possible to assign number without adding your own judgement. Interpretive research philosophy is more suitable for this kind of study and hence been chosen for my research.
At the same time my research is Exploratory in nature because I am trying to gain more understanding and deep insights of the research topic using both primary and secondary data collection methods. Again exploratory research is supported much better by adopting interpretive approach for research.
A. Research Strategy and Methods of Data Collection
The Primary research method used for data collection will be a combination of Questionnaires and in-depth interviews. Self administered Questionnaires will contain a mix of close ended and open ended questions. In-depth interview will only have open ended questions.
Questionnaires will be vital to the entire study because it will form the foundation of the research. Close ended questions will make sure that I am getting all the specific information required to draw important conclusions. At the same time Open Ended questions will make sure respondent is able to give his or her insights on the research issues, which is of paramount importance in my research. Findings of Questionnaires will be supplemented with in-depth interviews which again are imperative looking at the technical nature of the topic. In-Depth interviews will be conducted for respondents who are higher up in the hierarchy to understanding and learn from their understanding of the whole picture. Their huge experience and vision will help in drawing important conclusions.
B. Sources of Data
Looking at the exploratory nature of the research huge amount of secondary data will be thoroughly studied. It will include studying of white papers and research papers on Supply Chain in General and integration of Information Technology in Supply Chain Management in specific by various companies and authors. This study would enable me to understand the underlying concepts of SCM. Few companies from different sectors will also be analyzed in order to relate with the bigger picture. Websites of these companies will be used to find out the product/services offerings, positioning and annual reports will be used to gather more information.
At the same time Primary research will be used to further hone the understanding on the entire research topic. It forms the integral part of the whole study.
C. Access and Research Ethics
For secondary research there is a lot of material in public domain on this topic. Big companies like Infosys and Dell and big management colleges like Howard and Warwick have white papers and research papers published which are available on the websites. Emerald Insight is a very good source to find more published research papers on this article.
When it comes to the Primary data collection it will be made sure that the topic of research is clearly conveyed to the respondents and their responses and identity will be kept confidential in all regards. In case of questionnaire ample time will be provided to the respondents to fill out the responses. Also option of not answering the question will be kept for some questions seeking some sensitive information. Also, with the help of my contacts in the industry I am sure that I will be able to access suitable people for my research.
D. Techniques for Analyzing and Interpreting Data
Both in depth interviews with open ended questions and Questionnaires with both open and close ended questions will be used to collect data.
The entire Interviews will be tape recorded and will then be converted into a written document. Important details about the respondent like Name, Designation, Major Job Responsibilities, Age, and Location will be recorded for internal use. To make sure information collected is specific questions will be kept specific with a clear aim to achieve desired objective. Coding technique will be used to analyse this qualitative data as it is effective technique of qualitative content analysis.
For the self administered questionnaire, close ended questions will be analyzed using basic statistical methods. Open ended questions will again be analyzed using coding technique.
"Researchers can develop codes only after some initial exploration of the data has taken place, using an immersion/ crystallisation or editing organising style. A common intermediate approach is when some initial codes are refined and modified during the analysis process." (Miller and Crabtreee, 1999:167)
Based on the coding of questionnaire, a descriptive model relating to the key factors to the integration of Supply Chain Management will be developed. Based on this model, a hypothesis analysis will be undertaken and tested using data from questionnaire surveys in the selected companies in Singapore. Finally, findings on the Hypothesis will be done for three companies that are positively associated with the perception of integration of Supply Chain Management.
Population and sample
Executives based in Singapore and holding management related profiles with companies integrating in different sectors which have logistics and supply chain as one of their main function forms the population of my research. Focus on Singapore has been discussed in the very first part of the research proposal.
Non Probabilistic sampling will be followed to extract sample out of the population. Sample size would be around 50. Out of sample size 50, Questionnaire will be used for majority of population and in-depth interview will be used for some respondents. The profile of people will vary in order to get a holistic picture.
Potential Outcome of the Research
The research study will provide international business and managers with valuable insights and information's on the competitive landscape of Singapore industries within the value-added network system in integration of Supply Chain Management.
The high levels of economics success and growth of Singapore have captured international attention and this has positioned Singapore as appropriate settings for management research in areas such as strategy, operations and technology. Lastly, this research adds to the literature in the integration of supply chain and a basis for future research and study.
Time Lines and Cost of Research
The schedule of the entire research has been given below. Maximum amount of time will be spent on data collection as it is very important to find the right respondent for this kind of research which is technical in nature. Best Attempt will be made to make sure that these timelines are followed tightly so that there are no slip ups during end time.
Fine Tuning Research Objectives
Primary Data Collecting
Final Write Up
Major cost of the research will be incurred on making calls primarily for in-depth interviews and to find the right kind of respondents.